Not all asylum seekers who apply at national borders are sent directly to a detention centre, especially in cases where family members of the border applicants are already in Bulgaria, in cases where persons provide valid documentation, as well as cases which required specific needs such as individuals with disabilities and families with infants. As of July 2018, the exception is also applied to unaccompanied children below the age of 14.
The main reason for this situation results from the fact that the State Agency for National Security (Държавна агенция “Национална сигурност”, SANS) is concerned about transferring people to open reception centres before being screened by the security services, as well as the lack of a proper coordination mechanism between the police and the SAR to enable registration and accommodation of asylum seekers after 17:00 or during the weekends. Since September 2015, the SAR operates with shift schemes and on-call duty during the weekends in order to assist with the reception of asylum seekers referred by the police. In practice, however, these arrangements are not sufficient and the police has no other option but to refer and detain asylum seekers in pre-removal detention centres.
Out of a total of 3,525 applicants registered in 2020, 2,871 individuals applied for asylum at border and immigration detention facilities.
Detention of first-time applicants from the making of their application until their personal registration is systematically applied in Bulgaria and the majority of asylum seekers apply from pre-removal detention centres for irregular migrants. Nevertheless, in 2020 there has been an increase in the number of detentions ordered compared to previous years:
Immigration detention in Bulgaria: 2015-2020
Total detentions ordered
Out of the 337 persons being detained in immigration detention centers at the end of 2020, 33 were asylum seekers.
There are two pre-removal detention centres in operation: Busmantsi and Lyubimets. The Elhovo allocation centre ceased its regular operation in April 2018.
Asylum seekers can also be placed in closed reception centres i.e. detained under the jurisdiction of the SAR for the purposes of the asylum procedure. In 2020, 9 asylum seekers have been detained in the asylum closed facility, situated in the premises of the 3rd Block in the Busmantsi pre-removal centre, the only closed centre for that purpose. 4 asylum seekers were held there at the end of the year 2020.
 Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Monthly Monitoring Report: December 2019, 10 January 2020.
 Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2020 Performance Report, 31 January 2021.