Dublin statistics: 1 January – 31 December of 2022
|Outgoing procedure||Incoming procedure|
|Take charge||108||78||Take charge||423||12|
|Take back||67||1||Take back||19,570||189|
|Outgoing Dublin requests by criterion: 2022|
|Dublin III Regulation criterion||Requests sent||Requests accepted|
|“Take charge”: Articles 8-15:||108||60|
|Article 8 (minors)||87||52|
|Article 9 (family members granted protection)||6||3|
|Article 10 (family members pending determination)||0||0|
|Article 11 (family procedure)||0||0|
|Article 12 (visas and residence permits)||11||4|
|Article 13 (entry and/or remain)||0||0|
|Article 14 (visa free entry)||0||0|
|“Take charge”: Article 16||0||0|
|“Take charge” humanitarian clause: Article 17(2)||4||1|
|“Take back”: Article 18||67||3|
|Article 18 (1) (b)||67||3|
|Article 18 (1) (c)||0||0|
|Article 18 (1) (d)||0||0|
|Incoming Dublin requests by criterion: 2022|
|Dublin III Regulation criterion||Requests received||Requests accepted|
|“Take charge”: Articles 8-15||433||106|
|Article 8 (minors)||8||5|
|Article 9 (family members granted protection)||30||4|
|Article 10 (family members pending determination)||1||1|
|Article 11 (family procedure)||11||2|
|Article 12 (visas and residence permits)||78||64|
|Article 13 (entry and/or remain)||299||29|
|Article 14 (visa free entry)||2||1|
|“Take charge”: Article 16||1||0|
|“Take charge” humanitarian clause: Article 17(2)||3||0|
|“Take back”: Articles 18 and 20(5)||19,571||13,769|
|Article 18 (1) (b)||19,567||13,767|
|Article 18 (1) (c)||1||1|
|Article 18 (1) (d)||2||0|
The LAR does not establish criteria to determine the state responsible, but simply refers to the criteria listed in the Dublin Regulation.
Application of the Dublin criteria
Family unity criteria are applied fully, though in practice the prevailing type of cases relate to joining family members outside Bulgaria, not the opposite. If the family link cannot be established or substantiated through relevant documents, some EU Member States (Germany, Austria) require DNA tests in cases of unaccompanied children to prove their origin. In such cases the parent or parents are usually advised to travel to Bulgaria and provide blood samples to be matched, tested, and compared with the unaccompanied child or children’s DNA. It has to be noted that the vast majority of asylum seekers arrive in Bulgaria via Türkiye and Greece, therefore cases when the responsibility of another EU Member State can be established under any other of the Dublin criteria, except the family provisions, are scarce.
The most common criteria that continue to be applied in incoming cases are previously issued documents and first Member State of entry, as well as “take back” cases. Bulgaria accepts responsibility for the examination of asylum applications based on the humanitarian clause, and mostly vis-à-vis document and entry reasons. In 2022, Bulgaria received 20,014 incoming requests and made 175 outgoing requests, compared to 7,811 incoming and 190 outgoing requests in 2021; 1,904 incoming requests and 116 outgoing requests in 2020; and 3,088 incoming and 80 outgoing requests in 2019.
The dependent persons and discretionary clauses
In the past, the sovereignty clause under Article 17(1) of the Regulation was used in few cases, mainly for family or health condition reasons. The sovereignty clause has never been applied for reasons different from humanitarian ones. Since 2017 and including in 2021, Bulgaria did not apply the sovereignty clause. However, in 2022, Bulgaria applied the humanitarian clause of Article 17(2) in 1 case.
The LAR establishes the Dublin procedure as a non-mandatory stage, which is applied only by a decision of the respective caseworker, if and when there is information or indications to either engage the responsibility of another Member State to determine the asylum application in question. In June 2022 the government adopted amendments to the ordinance regulating the coordination between the asylum and police (border and immigration) administrations while implementing Dublin III Regulation. The amendments updated and clarified the division of responsibilities among these authorities.
Eurodac has been used as an instrument for checking the previous status records of all irregular migrants. Fingerprints taken by the Border or Immigration Police are uploaded automatically in the Schengen Information System (SIS) and can be used to implement the Dublin Regulation. Nonetheless, all asylum seekers are systematically fingerprinted again by the Dublin Unit of the SAR for technical reasons.
Following recommendations from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), now European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), information relevant to Dublin procedures is gathered during the initial registration interviews with asylum seekers in a separate checklist, which mainly focuses on eventual family members in other Member States. Amendments of the law in 2020 were introduced to optimise the decision-making in Dublin procedures by removing the requirement of a formal decision and rendering an automatic legal effect to the majority of acts. However, many problems are still created by the fact that the decision-making process remains multi-staged and centralised as far as the Dublin decisions are concerned, as such decisions can be issued only by the SAR’s Dublin Unit, which is located in the headquarters of the SAR in Sofia. This creates problems with respect to observation of the 3-month deadline under the Dublin Regulation for issuing a request to another Member State, as sometimes the congested communication between the Dublin Unit and the local reception centre where applicants are accommodated can consume time before all relevant documentation is prepared in order to make a proper Dublin request.
Bulgaria does not seek individualised guarantees ensuring that the asylum seekers will have adequate reception conditions upon transfer in practice. The overwhelming part of outgoing transfers relating to vulnerable groups were carried out with respect to unaccompanied children since 2016 and up until the end of 2022. Since all transfers were based on family reunification and consent from the children and family members, the Dublin Unit did not request guarantees from receiving countries.
It is also a general understanding within the national stakeholders that the reception conditions in the countries of transfer, e.g. such as Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, France, and Norway in 2022, are better in most aspects than those in Bulgaria.
In cases where another Member State accepts the responsibility to examine the application of an asylum seeker who is in Bulgaria, the outgoing transfer was usually implemented within 5 months on average in practice. However, in 2022 SAR reported to have shrunk the period up to 1 month. If incoming transfer is being organised, however, the duration of actual implementation varies, reaching in the past up to 15 months. In 2022, some reorganizations undertaken by SAR in its Internal Regulations decreased the implementation of incoming transfers up to 4 months on average.
Asylum seekers are usually not detained upon the notification of the transfer. However, in certain cases, transferred asylum seekers can be detained for up to 7 days before the transfer as a precautionary measure to ensure their timely boarding of the plane. In all cases the transfer is carried out without an escort. It should be noted that in practice asylum seekers sometimes agree to be detained for a couple of days before the flight to the responsible Member State as this is the only way for them to avoid any procedural problems that can delay their exit.
Asylum seekers to be transferred under the Dublin Regulation to another Member State are given a written decision stating the grounds for applying the Dublin III and the right to appeal the transfer to the other Member State before the court. However, asylum seekers are not informed of the fact that requests have been made for “take back” or “take charge” requests to the Member State deemed responsible, nor of any progress made with regard to such requests, unless the applicants actively require information on the progress. In distinction with many other national authorities SAR continue to provide such information to asylum seekers pending outgoing but also incoming transfers, including to their duly authorized representatives from Bulgaria or abroad.
In 2022, 79 outgoing transfers were carried out compared to 175 requests, indicating a 45% outgoing transfer rate. In the same time out of 20,014 incoming requests just 202 transfers were carried out in practice, thus marking 1% incoming transfer rate. The majority were Dublin transfers of unaccompanied children to members of their family in receiving Member States.
The law does not require the conduct of a personal interview in the Dublin procedure, rather it gives an opportunity to the interviewer to decide whether an interview is necessary or not in light of all other relevant circumstances and evidence. If an interview is conducted, it is not different from any other eligibility interviews in the Regular procedure, except relating to the type of questions asked in order to verify and apply the Dublin criteria. Similar to the regular procedure, an audio or audio-video recording is now mandatory and applied in the majority of the caseload.
Contrary to appeal against other decisions, appeals against decisions in the Dublin procedure are heard only before the Administrative Court of Sofia and only at one instance. Dublin appeals do not have automatic suspensive effect, but it can be awarded by the court upon an explicit request from the asylum seeker.
The time limit for lodging the appeal is 7 calendar days, which is equal to the time limit for appeal in the Accelerated Procedure: Appeal. Appeal procedures are held in an open hearing, and legal aid can also be awarded.
The court accepts in practice all kind of evidence in support of the appeal, including on the level of reception conditions and procedural guarantees to substantiate its decision. The court’s practice however is quite poor as very few Dublin decisions on transfers to other Member States are challenged. For this reason, no clear conclusions can be made as to whether the Administrative Court of Sofia takes into account the reception conditions, procedural guarantees and recognition rates in the responsible Member State when reviewing the Dublin decision.
The Law on Legal Aid provides for state-funded representation at first instance and appeal. As a result, legal aid financed by the state budget should have become available to asylum seekers during the Dublin procedure since 2013, in addition to the already available legal aid during an appeal procedure before the court. However, in practice in 2022, legal aid to initiate and undergo a Dublin procedure was only provided to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in order to assist their reunion with parents, relatives or family members in other European countries. This special legal aid was provided under the adopted 2020 amendment to the law, when the obligation to represent unaccompanied children was shifted from the municipalities to the National Legal Aid Bureau (see section Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance). The statutory legal aid lawyers who represented unaccompanied children were assisted with training, interpretation and support to make sure that they are able to provide adequate and child-friendly information, and to manage their Dublin cases in accordance with the ad-hoc arrangements established jointly by BHC and SAR’s Dublin Unit since August 2019. These ad-hoc arrangements are funded by UNICEF, which will continue to provide funding until 31 December 2023.
Suspension of transfers
Bulgaria had suspended all Dublin transfers to Greece in 2011, thereby assuming responsibility for examining the asylum applications of the asylum seekers concerned. On 8 December 2016, the European Commission issued a Fourth Recommendation in favour of the resumption of Dublin returns to Greece, starting from 15 March 2017, without retroactive effect and only regarding asylum applicants who have entered Greece from 15 March 2017 onwards or for whom Greece is responsible from 15 March 2017 onwards under other Dublin criteria. Persons belonging to vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors are to be excluded from Dublin transfers for the moment, according to the Recommendation. However, until the end of 2022, Bulgaria has not ruled out or implemented any Dublin transfer to Greece in practice despite the submission of 1 outgoing request.
Suspensions of transfers are not automatic, as there might be cases of “take charge” requests where applicants have family members in other EU Member States or other circumstances that engage the responsibility of another state. Due to the level of material reception conditions in Bulgaria, there have been no appeals against Dublin transfer decisions to any other EU Member State.
The situation of Dublin returnees
In 2022, Bulgaria received 20,014 incoming requests under the Dublin Regulation and 202 incoming transfers. In 2022, the number of Dublin returns actually implemented to Bulgaria increased by 158% compared to 2021 and by 1,342% compared to 2020 (see table below). Overall, the percentage of actual transfers remains quite low compared to the number of incoming requests:
|Incoming Dublin requests and transfers: 2014-2022|
Source: Eurostat, migr_dubro and migr_dubto; SAR.
Asylum seekers who are returned from other Member States in principle do not face any obstacles in accessing the territory of Bulgaria upon return. Prior to the arrival of Dublin returnees, the SAR informs the Border Police of the expected arrival and indicates whether the returnee should be transferred to a reception centre or to immigration pre-removal detention facility. This decision depends on the phase of the asylum procedure of the Dublin returnee as outlined below:
- If the returnee has a pending asylum application in Bulgaria, or the procedure was terminated because of the returnee’s absconding, he or she is transferred to a SAR reception centre. In the past the SAR usually suspended asylum procedures when asylum seekers had left Bulgaria before their procedures were completed. After the amendments of the law in 2020, the SAR obtained the right to directly terminate (discontinue) the asylum procedure in such cases without passing through a stage of suspension. In both cases, no decision on the merits is issued, therefore the procedure can be reopened.
- If, however, the returnee’s asylum application was rejected with a final decision on the merits before, or after, he or she left Bulgaria, and the decision was served in absentia and therefore became final, the returnee is transferred to one of the immigration detention facilities, usually to the Busmantsi detention centre in Sofia, or to the Lyubimets detention centre near the Turkish border. Parents are usually detained with their children. In exceptional cases children may be placed in child care social institutions while their parents are detained in immigration facilities, in cases when an expulsion order on account of threat to national security is issued to any of the parents.
Since 2015, the LAR explicitly provides for the mandatory reopening of an asylum procedure with respect to an applicant who is returned to Bulgaria under the Dublin Regulation, provided that he, or, she has not been issued a decision on merits while in absentia. The SAR’s practice following this particular amendment has been so far in line with the law, and returnees whose asylum procedures had been only terminated (discontinued) after their absconding do not face obstacles in principle to have their determination procedures reopened. However it does not secure their access to state provided food and accommodation in reception centres as these are guaranteed only to vulnerable applicants.
For any other Dublin returnees, who are not considered vulnerable, food and accommodation is contingent to the limited national reception capacity and availability. If there is no available place for accommodation in reception centres of the asylum agency SAR, Dublin returnees will have to secure accommodation and nutrition at their own expenses. In 2022, SAR reported a severe lack of capacity to accommodate in its reception centres any other Dublin returnees that were not identified as vulnerable, both due to the constantly increasing new arrivals (55% in 2022; 205% in 2021), and due to the reduced reception capacity, as in practice only 3,932 out of 5,160 official accommodation places were assessed as fit for living (see Overview of the main changes since the previous report update, Reception capacity).
Although the access to the national health care system is automatically reinstated after the Dublin return, the national health care package is generally scarce and does not provide for any tailored medical or psychological treatment or support, nor for the treatment of many chronic diseases or surgical interventions, prosthetics, implants or other necessary medications or supplies. Therefore the patients need to pay for them at their own expense.
Access to the labour market is guaranteed after a period of three months from their personal registration and for the duration of the procedure. However, the national economic situation remain challenging. Any improvements which finally started to occur after the end of COVID-19 pandemic were reverted in the beginning of the year by the war in Ukraine. It further complicated asylum seekers’ and refugees’ employment and self-sufficiency. In 2022, only 12 asylum seekers, 5 beneficiaries of international protection and 2,214 temporary protection holders were actually employed under different state programmes.
If, however, the Dublin returnee is among those, whose asylum procedures ended prior their return to Bulgaria with a refusal in absentia on the merits (substance), they are treated as irregular migrants.
In the vast majority of the cases these returnees are arrested upon return and detained in Busmantsi or Lyubimets pre-removal immigration centres to further enable their removal. In the few cases when the returnees are not detained after their arrival, usually – due to administrative or institutional entanglements, they may face homelessness and destitution because of their irregular status in Bulgaria and the lack of valid residence and/or identity documents. This means that even, if the returnees do have financial means, their access to the labour market and most of the basic public services (health care, social support, bank services, etc.) is nearly impossible.
In principle, no “take back” requests have been made so far under the Dublin Regulation regarding individuals with special needs. In the few cases in the past where the return of families with minor children, the requesting Member states usually asked the assurances of SAR for accommodation, adequate reception conditions as well as the nature of the services that will be provided. Usually, these individual guarantees are not made via DubliNet, but by using the available diplomatic channels, in most cases by the respective Member State’s embassy in Bulgaria.
In 2022, the courts in some Dublin States, as well as the European Court of Human Rights, have continued to rule suspension of Dublin transfers to Bulgaria with respect to certain categories of asylum seekers due to poor material conditions and lack of proper safeguards for the rights of the individuals concerned.
|Suspensions of Dublin transfers to Bulgaria in 2022|
|Country||Judicial authority||Case||Date of decision|
|Germany||Administrative Court of Freiburg||A 14 K 900/22||19 Sep 2022|
|Administrative Court of Ansbach||14 S 22.50126||31 Oct 2022|
|Administrative Court of Köln||20 K 3733/22.A||15 Nov 2022|
|Slovenia||Administrative Court||UP00059585||11 Mar 2022|
|UP00060224||25 Jul 2022|
|Switzerland||Federal Administrative Court||D-1569/2022||26 Jul 2022|
|D-3180/2022||19 Sep 2022|
|F-2707/2022||12 Oct 2022|
In Germany, the Administrative Court of Ansbach, considered that the conditions awaiting Dublin returnees in Bulgaria did not rise to the level of systemic weaknesses. However, the Court suspended the transfer upon concluding that the applicant, if they were to be afforded protection, would likely find themselves in extreme material distress as a beneficiary of protection in the country due to the difficulties in obtaining identity documents and the consequent difficulties in obtaining housing, and access to the labour market. The administrative Court of Köln found that risks of inhuman and degrading treatment existed for both for asylum seekers and BIPs in the country. Regarding asylum seekers, the Court pointed to systemic deficiencies across the entire asylum system, creating a real risk for all individuals of facing inhuman or degrading treatment. The Administrative Court of Freiburg cancelled transfers of Afghan nationals to Bulgaria due the fundamental deficiencies in the asylum procedure specifically relating to Afghan nationals (extremely low recognition rates, discrimination, and the use of Türkiye as a safe third country), and systemic deficiencies in general covering all aspects of the Bulgarian asylum system which entailed risk of violations of article 3 ECHR and 4 EU Charter for any individual.
In two cases in 2022, the Slovenian Administrative Court found the applicants had demonstrated a reasonable presumption of systemic deficiencies, given reception and detention conditions in the country, low protection rates for Afghans and Iraqis, discriminatory conduct of the asylum authorities, police violence. The Court notably highlighted the risk that the claim had been processed in absentia, so that the Dublin returnee would be considered as an irregular migrant that could be arrested, and/or left without access to food and accommodation
In Switzerland, the Federal Administrative Court sent back to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) the cases of two Afghan nationals who feared refoulement from Bulgaria to Afghanistan. Although, per its previous case law, it considered that the shortcomings in the Bulgarian asylum system did not amount to systemic deficiencies justifying a suspension of all transfers to the country, it found that, in the case of Afghan nationals, given the country’s asylum practice and the applicants’ statements about their treatment, it could not currently be ascertained whether the asylum application would be examined with sufficient guarantees against refoulement. The Court then requested the SEM clarify several points of law and fact as to the situation of the asylum seeker and the conditions in Bulgaria. In case F-2707/2022, the Court requested the SEM re-examine the case of a vulnerable asylum seeker with PTSD by inter alia obtaining positive assurances from the Bulgarian authorities with regard to access to medical assistance. The Court took into account the numerous problems encountered by vulnerable asylum seekers in accessing healthcare, the absence of a positive answer to the transfer request which made it impossible to assess future accommodation and access to pertinent treatment, and the risk of the healthcare system being overburdened by arrivals from Ukraine of in general highly traumatised persons. Lastly, the Court stated that the situation within the borders could not be considered in silo from the situation at the borders, which meant there were potential risks of detention and refoulement that the SEM should clarify.
Courts throughout European countries have, however, also often upheld Dublin transfers to Bulgaria in 2022.
Additional information on the access of Dublin returnees to reception and healthcare can be found under the sections on Access and forms of reception conditions and Health care.
 SAR, reg. №РД05-40 from 16 January 2023.
 Article 67a(2) LAR.
 State Gazette No.46 from 21 June 2022.
 COM No.332/2007: Наредба за отговорността и координацията на държавните органи, осъществяващи действия по административно сътрудничество при прилагането на регламент Дъблин и регламент Евродак.
 EASO, Stock taking report on the asylum situation in Bulgaria, March 2014, 3.2. Asylum Determination Procedure.
 SAR, reg. №РД05-40 from 16 January 2023.
 SAR, Internal Regulations for Implementation of the Procedure for Granting International Protection, Article 55.
 Article 67b(2) LAR.
 Article 63a(3) LAR.
 Article 25 LAR.
 Commission Recommendation on the resumption of transfers to Greece under Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013, C(2016) 8525, 8 December 2016.
 SAR, reg. №РД05-40 from 16 January 2023.
 Article 77(3) LAR.
 Articles 18(1)(d) and (2) Dublin III Regulation.
 Article 18(2) Dublin III Regulation.
 Article 29(7) LAR.
 SAR, reg. No.РД-05-72 from 26 February 2023.
 Article 29(8) LAR.
 Article 29 (3) LAR.
 SAR, reg. №РД05-40 from 16 January 2023; National Employment Agency, reg. No.РД-08-13 from 5 January 2023.
 See e.g. (Germany) Federal Administrative Court of Magdeburg, Decision 8B92/20, 24 March 2020. Other examples of cases in 2019 and 2018 are available in the previous updates of this report.
 Swiss Federal Administrative Court, Decisions D-1569/2022 and D-3180/2022.
 See e.g. (Austria) Federal Administrative Court, Decision W144 2256527-1, 4 July 2022; (Belgium) Council of Alien Law Litigation, Decision 274 962, 4 July 2022, (Denmark) Immigration Board of Appeals, Decision Dub-Bulg/2022/1/EDO, June 2022; (Germany) Administrative Court of Appeal of North Rhine Westphalia, Decision 11 A 1397/21.A, 16 December 2022; (Luxemburg) Administrative Court, decision 48230, 12 December 2022; (Netherlands) District Court of the Hague, Decision NL22.14416, 26 October 2022.