Asylum seekers are never detained in prisons unless they have been convicted for committing a crime. Detention is implemented both in pre-removal immigration detention centres and, more recently, in “closed reception centres” where asylum seekers are detained for the purpose of the status determination procedure.
Pre-removal detention centres
There are 2 detention centres for irregular migrants in the country, totalling a capacity of 1,060 places. Due to the increased number of the new arrivals from 25 August to 19 November 2021 the Ministry of Interior reopened as auxiliary the former Elhovo Triage center with a capacity 240 places. However, during this short period of time from August to November, the detention capacity increased to 1,300 places:
|Pre-removal detention centres in Bulgaria|
|Detention centre||Location||Capacity||Occupancy end 2021|
Source: Ministry of Interior, Migration Statistics, December 2020.
Although designed for the return of irregular migrants as pre-removal centres, these are also used for the detention of undocumented asylum seekers who have crossed the border irregularly but were unable to apply for asylum before the Border Police officers and therefore apply for asylum only when they are already in the detention centres. The most common reason for these late asylum applications was the lack of 24-hour interpretation services for all languages at national borders.
Initially designated for the pre-registration of asylum seekers, Elhovo was thereupon used as an “allocation centre” or “triage center” to detain asylum seekers apprehended at the land borders outside the official border checkpoint until its closure in February 2017. Although initially temporarily closed for refurbishment in February 2017, it was later pronounced by the Ministry of Interior to be closed indefinitely, with an option to be reopened in case of increased influx. However due to the increased number of the new arrivals from the Ministry of Interior reopened as auxiliary the former Elhovo Triage center with capacity of 240 places from 25 August to 19 November 2021, after which the center was closed again. In 2021 the MOI continued working on the instalment of a new detention facility in the town of Elhovo, which will consist of 221 container compartments fit for 1,768 individuals. As of the date of this report no information about the possible date of opening of this new detention center was available.
As regards short-term detention, which entered into force on 6 June 2018, the LARB foresees separate detention facilities for the purpose of this form of detention. However, short-term detention orders in 2021 have been implemented in the pre-removal detention centres.
Asylum detention centres (“closed reception centres”)
The law foresees the asylum detention under the responsibility of the SAR (see Grounds for Detention). The only operational centre at the moment is a block in Busmantsi, with 30 places.
The Pastrogor transit centre, situated on the Bulgarian-Turkish border can also be used as a closed facility, if necessary. Presently, it operates as an open reception facility with a capacity of 320 places.
 360 containers installed in Lyubimets detention center.
 EASO, Stock taking report on the asylum situation in Bulgaria, March 2014, 3.2. Asylum Determination Procedure.
 Article 44(13) LARB.