Provision of information on the procedure

Bulgaria

Country Report: Provision of information on the procedure Last updated: 21/04/21

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The law explicitly mentions the obligation of the SAR to provide information to asylum seekers within 15 days from the submission of the application.[1] The SAR must provide the information orally, if necessary, in cases where the applicant is illiterate.

The information should cover both rights and obligations of asylum seekers and the procedures that will follow in general. Information on existing organisations that provide social and legal assistance has to be given as well. The information has to be provided in a language the asylum seeker declared that he or she understands or, when it is impossible, in a language the asylum seeker may be reasonably supposed to understand.

In practice, the information is always provided to asylum seekers in writing, in the form of a leaflet translated in the languages spoken by the main nationalities seeking asylum in Bulgaria, such as Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Urdu, Pashto, Kurdish, English and French. Information by leaflets or, where needed, in other ways (UNHCR or NGO info boards) is usually provided from the initial application (e.g. at the border) until the registration process is finished.[2] Since end of 2017 information boards are placed in all reception centres, indicating the respective movement zones applicable for the asylum seekers accommodated in to reflect the needs following the 2015 reform of the LAR (see Freedom of Movement).[3] SAR centers also display information boards which indicate the place and time where applicants can obtain information from the agency’s staff about the development of their status determination procedures.

The written information, however, is complicated and not easy to understand. This opinion is shared by all NGO legal aid providers active in the field.[4] The common leaflet and the specific leaflet for unaccompanied children drafted by the Commission as part of the Dublin Implementing Regulation are not being used in Bulgaria or being provided to asylum seekers.[5] The same applies to the information provided on the SAR’s website, which is also available only in Bulgarian.

Since 2018 several animated videos provided by UNHCR are made available in the reception centres. This includes a video targeting children which provides information on their daily routine and the importance of school attendance. The video is 1 hour and 40 minutes long and is available in Urdu, Pashto and Dari. Another video of 7 minutes, available in English, Arabic, Dari, Pashto and Kurdish Kurmanji, provides introductory information relating to the asylum procedure as well as rights and obligations during the procedure. Four other videos are dedicated to information on human trafficking and sexual exploitation. They are available in English with Pashto subtitles and address targeted messages to unaccompanied children. However, practice indicates that these videos are not screened on a regular basis. This being said, the obligation to deliver written information is fulfilled in 86% of monitored cases.[6]

The applicants who are placed in closed centres should further receive information about the internal rules applicable to the respective centre as well as about their rights and obligations. Under national law, this information should be provided in a language that they understand.[7] This obligation was not met in 2020, either.

NGOs, in particular UNHCR’s implementing partners, develop and distribute other leaflets and information boards that are simpler and easier to read and some do operate reception desks where this kind of information is also provided orally to the asylum seekers by BHC or the Red Cross. In addition, in 2014 UNHCR funded the development of online accessible tool (asylum.bg) with information about the key institutions, procedures and rights before, during and after the status determination in several most spoken languages (Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Urdu, English and French). As far as the tool functions online, it aims to providing correct and comprehensive legal information to asylum seekers in a sustainable manner wherever they are present and accommodated, including outside the reception centres, at the borders, in detention centres and other remote locations. In 2018 the information on asylum.bg was revised and made available in audio version for illiterate users.

 

[1]   Article 58(8) LAR.

[2]  EASO, Stock taking report on the asylum situation in Bulgaria, March 2014, 3.2. Asylum Determination Procedure.

[3]  Article 29(1)(2) LAR.

[4] Information provided by the Protection Working Group, 29 November 2016.

[5] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 118/2014 of 30 January 2014 amending Regulation (EC) No 1560/2003 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national.

[6]  Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2020 Annual RSD Monitoring Report, 31 January 2021.

[7] Art. 45d (3) LAR.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation