Dublin

Bulgaria

Country Report: Dublin Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

General

Dublin statistics: 2019

Outgoing procedure

Incoming procedure

 

Requests

Transfers

 

Requests

Transfers

Total

80

30

Total

3,088

73

Take charge

53

29

Take charge

154

 

Germany

21

8

Czech Rep.

69

 

United Kingdom

11

3

France

24

 

Belgium

6

3

Germany

22

 

France

5

 

Netherlands

14

 

Italy

4

 

Ireland

7

 

Malta

3

14

 Austria

6

 

Netherlands

1

 

Romania

5

 

Finland

1

1

Croatia

3

 

Spain

1

 

Belgium

1

 

 

 

 

Denmark

1

 

 

 

 

Sweden

1

 

 

 

 

United Kingdom

1

 

Take back

27

1

Take back

2,934

73

 Austria

2

 

 Austria

291

15

Belgium

2

 

 Belgium

200

 

 Switzerland

2

 

Croatia

49

 

Germany

4

 

Czech Rep.

13

4

Denmark

2

 

Denmark

10

 

Spain

2

 

Finland

3

 

France

1

 

France

1140

7

Hungary

1

 

Germany

628

21

Italy

1

1

Greece

44

 

Netherlands

2

 

Hungary

58

 

Romania

3

 

Ireland

9

 

Sweden

2

 

Italy

95

 

Slovenia

1

 

Malta

2

 

United Kingdom

2

 

Netherland

25

8

 

 

 

Norway

1

 

 

 

 

Poland

18

8

 

 

 

Portugal

4

 

 

 

 

Romania

92

3

 

 

 

Slovakia

7

5

 

 

 

Slovenia

100

 

 

 

 

Sweden

19

1

 

 

 

Switzerland

19

1

 

 

 

United Kingdom

107

 

Source: SAR.

 

Outgoing Dublin requests by criterion: 2019

Dublin III Regulation criterion

Requests sent

Requests accepted

Take charge”: Articles 8-15:

49

:

 Article 8 (minors)

35

:

 Article 9 (family members granted protection)

6

:

 Article 10 (family members pending determination)

2

:

 Article 11 (family procedure)

0

:

 Article 12 (visas and residence permits)

6

:

 Article 13 (entry and/or remain)

0

:

 Article 14 (visa free entry)

0

:

“Take charge”: Article 16

4

:

“Take charge” humanitarian clause: Article 17(2)

0

:

“Take back”: Article 18

27

:

 Article 18 (1) (b)

23

:

 Article 18 (1) (c)

4

:

 Article 18 (1) (d)

0

:

 Article 20(5)

0

:

 

Incoming Dublin requests by criterion: 2019

Dublin III Regulation criterion

Requests received

Requests accepted

“Take charge”: Articles 8-15

150

:

 Article 8 (minors)

6

:

 Article 9 (family members granted protection)

1

:

 Article 10 (family members pending determination)

0

:

 Article 11 (family procedure)

8

:

 Article 12 (visas and residence permits)

110

:

 Article 13 (entry and/or remain)

19

:

 Article 14 (visa free entry)

6

:

“Take charge”: Article 16

0

:

“Take charge” humanitarian clause: Article 17(2)

4

:

Take back”: Articles 18 and 20(5)

2,934

:

 Article 18 (1) (b)

2,929

:

 Article 18 (1) (c)

1

:

 Article 18 (1) (d)

3

:

 Article 20(5)

1

:

Source: SAR

 

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 with relevant documents, some EU Member States (Germany, Austria) require DNA tests in cases of unaccompanied children in order 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 Turkey and Greece, therefore cases when the responsibility of another EU Member State can be engaged 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 2019, Bulgaria received 3,088 incoming requests and made 80 outgoing requests, compared to 3,448 incoming requests and 125 outgoing requests in 2018 and compared to 7,934 incoming requests and 162 outgoing requests in 2017.

 

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. Similarly to 2017 and 2018, Bulgaria did not apply the sovereignty clause in 2019.

During 2019, Bulgaria issued 0 “take charge” requests based on the humanitarian clause of Article 17(2) and received 4 requests based on the humanitarian clause, which were rejected.

 

Procedure

 

Dublin: Procedure

 

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.[2] The Dublin procedure is not applicable to Subsequent Applications.[3]

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 for the purpose of implementing 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), 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. 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.[4] This creates problems with respect to observation of the 3-month deadline under the Dublin Regulation for issuing a request, 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. The draft proposal of the LAR tabled at the end of 2019 aims to address this problem by removing the requirement of a formal decision at different phases of the Dublin procedure and rendering an automatic legal effect to the majority of acts.

 

Individualised guarantees

 

Bulgaria does not seek individualised guarantees ensuring that the asylum seekers will have adequate reception conditions upon transfer in practice. Outgoing transfers relating to vulnerable groups were only carried out with respect to unaccompanied children in the course of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. 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, Sweden, UK in 2019 are better in most aspects than those in Bulgaria.

 

Transfers

 

In cases where another Member State accepts the responsibility to examine the application of an asylum seeker who is in Bulgaria, the outgoing transfer is implemented within 3 months on average. If incoming transfer is being organised, however, the duration of actual implementation varies up to 15 months.

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 Regulation 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 applicant him or herself requested the transfer and/or provided due evidence in this respect.

In 2019, 33 outgoing transfers were carried out compared to 80 requests, indicating a 41% outgoing transfer rate.

 

Personal interview

 

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.[5] If an interview is conducted, it is not different from any other eligibility interviews in the Regular Procedure: Personal Interview, 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.[6]

 

Appeal

 

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.

 

Legal assistance

 

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, legal aid was only provided to vulnerable asylum seekers in 2019 (see section Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance). This concerned 13 unaccompanied minors who were reunified with their relatives or family members in other European countries under ad-hoc arrangements established jointly by BHC and SAR’s Dublin Unit since August 2019. This includes the establishment of an early identification mechanism for children, the provision of adequate and child-friendly information as well as a better management of their cases. These ad-hoc arrangements are funded by UNICEF.

 

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 favor 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.[7] 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 2019, Bulgaria has not ruled out or implemented any Dublin transfer to Greece in practice.

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 2019, Bulgaria received 3,097 incoming requests under the Dublin Regulation and 73 incoming transfers.[8] The number of Dublin returns actually implemented to Bulgaria decreased by 15% compared to 2018 (see table below). Overall, the percentage of actual transfers remains quite low (2.3%) compared to the number of incoming requests:

Incoming Dublin requests and transfers: 2014-2019

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Requests

6,884

8,131

10,377

7,934

3,448

3,097

Transfers

174

262

624

446

86

73

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 asylum procedure in Bulgaria upon their 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, he or she is transferred to a SAR reception centre because the SAR usually suspends an asylum procedure when an asylum seeker leaves Bulgaria before the procedure was completed;[9]

 

  • If the returnee’s asylum application was rejected in absentia, but not served to the asylum seeker before he or she left Bulgaria,[10] the returnee is transferred to a SAR reception centre;

 

  • If, however, the returnee’s asylum application was rejected with a final decision before he or she left Bulgaria, or the decision was served in absentia and therefore became final,[11] 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.[12] The SAR’s practice following this particular amendment is in line with the law so far and returnees do not face obstacles in principle to have their determination procedures reopened.  

In principle, no “take back” requests have been made so far to under the Dublin Regulation with regard to individuals with special needs. In the few cases where the return of two parents’ families with minor children and a family of three with their spouse and parent have been sought, the requesting states usually asked for assurances on the provision of accommodation and adequate reception conditions and services 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 state’s embassy in Bulgaria.

In 2019, 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 2019

Country

Judicial authority

Case

Date of decision

Switzerland

Federal Administrative Court

E-26/2016

16 Jan 2019

Germany

Administrative Court of Lüneburg

8 B 23/19

14 Feb 2019

Germany

Administrative Court of Lüneburg

8 A 123/18

22 Mar 2019

Greece

Piraeus Administrative Court of Appeal

69/2019

15 May 2019

Germany

Administrative Court of Kassel

7 L 1165/19.KS.A

24 May 2019

Germany

Administrative Court of Karlsruhe

A 13 K 6939/18

25 Jun 2019

Germany

Administrative Court of Lüneburg

8 A 6/18

10 Jul 2019

Germany

Administrative Court of Cologne

20 K 14819/17.A

26 Sep 2019

Czech Republic

Regional Court of Ostrov

72 A 41/2019 – 28

19 Nov 2019

 

Other countries’ jurisdictions have upheld Dublin transfers to Bulgaria in 2019, however.[13]

 


[1]         SAR, Exh. No. РД05-28/14.01.2020

[2] Article 67a(2)(1) LAR.

[3] Article 67a(3) LAR.

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

[5] Article 67b(2) LAR.

[6] Article 63a(3) LAR.

[7] Commission Recommendation on the resumption of transfers to Greece under Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013, C(2016) 8525, 8 December 2016.

[8] SAR, Exh. No. РД05-28/14.01.2020.

[9] Articles 18(1)(c) and (2) Dublin III Regulation.

[10] Articles 18(1)(d) and (2) Dublin III Regulation.

[11] Articles 18(1)(d) and (2) Dublin III Regulation.

[12] Article 18(2) Dublin III Regulation.

[13] See e.g (Austria) Federal Administrative Court, Decision W239 2217177-1, 26 April 2019; (Belgium), Council of Alien Law Litigation, Decision 215 675, 24 January 2019; (Germany) Administrative Court Cottbus, Decision 5 L 696/18.A, 22 January 2019; (Netherlands) Regional Court Middelburg, Decision NL19.2646, 18 March 2019; (Switzerland) Federal Administrative Court, Decision E-26/2016, 16 January 2019.

 

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