Duration of detention


Country Report: Duration of detention Last updated: 23/02/22


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Duration of pre-removal detention and short-term detention

The maximum immigration detention period is 18 months, including extensions. Initial detention order is in principle issued for a period of 6 months. Following an amendment to the LARB in 2017, extensions can be now ordered by the Immigration Police instead of the court after the expiry of the initial or consecutive detention order.[1] Each consecutive extension is also issued for a minimum of 6 months until the 18-month limit is reached.

Short-term detention can be ordered for a maximum of 30 days.[2]

The LAR safeguards the registration of asylum applications and the release of the asylum applicants from pre-removal detention centres within 6 working days, in line with the recast Asylum Procedures Directive.[3] As a result, in 2016 the overall detention duration of first-time asylum applicants prior to their registration decreased to 9 days on average, thereby observing the abovementioned registration deadline. In 2017 this practice was reverted as the average duration of detention rose to 19 days. After the Supreme Administrative Court acknowledged the illegality of pre-removal detention after the submission of an asylum application,[4] the average detention duration decreased back to 9 days in 2018 to increase again to 12 days in 2019 and decreased in 2020 to 8 calendar days on average. In 2021 the average detention duration continued to decrease to 7 calendar days. However, it has to be noted that 10-days of medical quarantine on account of COVID-19 (which was initially set at 14 days) are excluded from the detention duration’s calculation.

Average period of pre-removal detention pending registration (days)
Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Average detention period 10 9 19 9 12 8 7

Source: SAR, MOI, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee


Out of the 8,592 persons applying from pre-removal detention, 0 asylum seekers (0%) were detained for more than 6 months.

The average duration of detention of wrongly detained unaccompanied children decreased to 8 days in 2020. It has to be noted however that 14-days of medical quarantine are excluded from the detention duration.

Duration of asylum detention

Detention during the status determination procedure in closed reception facilities is limited by the law to the shortest period possible.[5] However, in practice the SAR kept asylum seekers in closed centres until the decision on their asylum applications became final, which for some of the detained asylum seekers extended to 6-7 months, and nearly 11 months in one case in 2018. The regular review of necessity as per the law is so far applied formally,[6] resulting in detained asylum seekers being released only following the engagement of legal assistance and representation.[7]

The average asylum detention duration in 2021 slightly increased to 50 days compared to 48 days in 2020, 109 days in 2019 and 196 days in 2018, but this remains far from the legal standard set in the law according to which detention should last for the “shortest period possible”.



[1] Article 46a(3) and (4) LARB, repealed by Law amending the LARB, State Gazette No 97, 5 December 2017.

[2] Article 44(13) LARB.

[3] Article 58(4) LAR.

[4] Supreme Administrative Court, Decision No 77, 4 January 2018, available in Bulgarian at: http://bit.ly/2rTKmO4. The Court refers to CJEU, Case C-537/11 M.A.

[5]Article 45e LAR.

[6]  Article 45d (2) LAR.

[7]  Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Monthly Situation Report: December 2017, 10 January 2018.

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