Accelerated procedure

Bulgaria

Country Report: Accelerated procedure Last updated: 11/04/24

Author

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

 General (scope, grounds for accelerated procedures, time limits)

The accelerated procedure is designed to examine the credibility of the asylum application, but also the likelihood of the application being fraudulent or manifestly unfounded.[1] The asylum application can also be found manifestly unfounded if the applicant did not state any reasons for applying for asylum related to grounds of persecution at all, or, if his or her statements were unspecified, implausible or highly unlikely. In the upcoming amendment of the national asylum law[2] following recommendations by the Commission, provided during the negotiations and implementation[3] of the EC-Bulgaria pilot project on accelerated procedure, both admissibility and accelerated procedure’s grounds were re-worded[4] and reorganized in the text of the relevant national law to fully correspond to the respective provisions of the APD.

In accordance with the transposition of Article 31(8) and 39 of the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, the asylum application can be found manifestly unfounded, if:

  1. The applicant raised issues that are not relevant to the examination of whether he or she qualifies as a beneficiary of international protection;[5]
  2. The applicant has made clearly inconsistent and contradictory, clearly false or obviously improbable representations which contradict country-of-origin information, thus making his or her claim clearly unconvincing;[6]
  3. The applicant has misled the authorities by presenting false information or documents or by withholding relevant information or documents or destroying documents with respect to his or her identity and/or nationality;[7]
  4. The applicant refuses to comply with an obligation to have his or her fingerprints taken;[8]
  5. The applicant entered or resides the territory or stays lawfully and, without good reason, has not presented himself or herself within a reasonable time to the authorities to submit an application for international protection;[9]
  6. The applicant entered the territory or stays unlawfully and, without good reason, has not presented himself or herself immediately to the authorities to submit an application for international protection as soon as possible;[10]
  7. The applicant comes from a safe country of origin;[11]
  8. The applicant arrives from a safe third country, provided that s/he will be accepted back to its territory[12]; which cannot be used as a sole ground for considering the application manifestly unfounded unless:
    1. there is a connection between the applicant and the third country concerned on the basis of which it would be reasonable for that person to go to that country and, a case-by-case consideration is implemented of the safety of the country for a particular applicant; and,
    2. the applicant is provided with a document informing the authorities of the third country, in the language of that country, that the application has not been examined in substance, or
  9. The applicant is making an application merely in order to delay or frustrate the enforcement of an earlier or imminent decision which would result in his or her removal.[13]

The authority responsible for taking decisions at first instance on asylum applications in the accelerated procedure is the SAR, through caseworkers specially appointed for taking decisions in this procedure. The accelerated procedure is a non-mandatory phase of the status determination, applied only by a decision of the respective caseworker, if and when information or indications are available to consider the asylum application as manifestly unfounded.[14]

This decision should be taken within 14 working days from applicants’ formal registration by the SAR. If the decision is not taken within this deadline the application has to be examined fully following the rules and criteria of the Regular Procedure, with all respective safeguards and deadlines applied.

The law provides that, upon receiving the asylum application, caseworkers are obliged to request a written opinion from the State Agency for National Security (SANS) which, however, is to be taken into consideration if and when a decision on the substance of the claim is taken within the regular (“general”) procedure.[15] The law explicitly provides that such an opinion should not be requested in the accelerated procedure.

All grounds are applied in practice. In 2022, 246 asylum applicants have been rejected under the accelerated procedure. Of those, 74 came from Morocco, 74 from Pakistan, 28 from the Russian Federation, 17 from Algeria, 14 from Afghanistan, 7 from Tunisia, 6 from Türkiye, 5 were stateless and 21 individuals held other nationalities. Nationalities from certain countries such as Algeria, Morocco Tunisia and Pakistan thus continue to be systematically treated as manifestly unfounded applicants. However, in 2022 none of these nationalities registered zero recognition rates (i.e. a 100% rejection rate) In 2023, 2 Moroccan and 5 Pakistani asylum seekers were granted international protection, however Algerian and Tunisian ones again faced 100% rejection.

In the past, Turkish and Afghan nationals were subjected to unfair and discriminatory treatment[16] with very low recognition rates with their applications overwhelmingly determined in accelerated procedure. In 2022 their situation, especially concerning Afghan applicants, improved. Out of all 69 Afghan cases decided on their substance just 20% were dealt in accelerated procedure as manifestly unfounded, while in 2022 these were 20% of the decided cases; 86% in 2021, and 95% in 2020. However, in 2023, out of all 194 Afghan cases decided on their substance nearly 66% were again dealt in accelerated procedure as manifestly unfounded. The improvement in the treatment of Turkish applicants also was neither steady nor significant, as 37% of cases were dealt as manifestly unfounded in accelerated procedure, while in 2022 these were 33% of the decided cases; against the backdrop of 83% in 2021, and 58% in 2020.

Since the beginning of 2023 a pilot project, initially funded by Austria and subsequently by the European Commission,[17] is implemented at SAR Pastrogor Transit center near Bulgarian-Turkish border. Applicants from countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, among others, were accommodated in this transit centre as their applications for international protection were deemed manifestly unfounded by presumption and the accelerated procedure was applied in 100% of their cases under the pilot project. Less than 1% are admitted to the regular procedure and the data is to be used for justifying the potential introduction of a border procedure in Bulgaria. For more information, see Overview of the main changes since the previous report update, The pilot project on accelerated procedure).

 

Personal interview

The questions asked during interviews in the accelerated procedure aim at establishing facts relating to the individual story of the applicant, although in less detail in comparison with the interviews conducted during the regular procedure. Facts such as travel routes, identity and nationality are in principle exhaustively addressed prior to the accelerated procedure at the stages of registration and/or the Dublin procedure.

 

Appeal

Appeals in the accelerated procedure have to be submitted within 7 calendar days (excluding public holidays) after notification of the negative decision, as opposed to the 14-calendar-day deadline in the Regular Procedure: Appeal.  Another major difference with the regular asylum procedure is related to the number of judicial appeal instances. In the accelerated procedure, there is only one judicial appeal possible, whereas in the regular procedure there are two appeal instances.

Lodging an appeal has automatic suspensive effect vis-à-vis the removal of the asylum seeker. The court competent to review first instance decisions in the accelerated procedure is the Regional Administrative Court of the county in which the appellant resides. The court has the obligation to ascertain whether the assessment of the credibility or the manifestly unfounded character of the claim is correct in view of the facts, evidence and legal provisions applicable. Asylum seekers have to be summoned for a public hearing and are asked to shortly present their reasons for fleeing their country of origin and seek protection elsewhere.

In general, asylum seekers do not face significant obstacles to lodging an appeal in the accelerated asylum procedure within the 7-day deadline. The obstacles referred to under the regular procedure appeal apply, e.g. lack of legal aid and interpretation issues.

 

Legal assistance

The same rules and guarantees apply as in the Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance.

 

 

 

[1] Article 13(1) LAR.

[2] Law on Asylum and Refugees draft amendments, published for public consultations on 5 January 2024, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3TbGP8m.

[3] SAR, Annual report on procedures for international protection in 2023, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3IgTCjm.

[4] Articles 13 and 4 LAR.

[5] Article 13(1)(1)-(2) LAR.

[6] Article 13(1)(3)-(4) LAR.

[7] Article 13(1)(6)-(9) LAR.

[8] Article 13(1)(10) LAR.

[9] Article 13(1)(11) LAR.         

[10] Article 13(1)(12) LAR.

[11] Article 13(1)(13) LAR.

[12] Article 13(1)(14) LAR.

[13] Article 13(1)(15) LAR.

[14] Article 70(1) LAR.

[15] Article 58(10) LAR.

[16] See, AIDA Updates on Bulgaria from 2019, 2020 and 2021.

[17] European Commission, Press corner, The European Commission launches a pilot project with Bulgaria, 20 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3x3sPER.

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