Duration of detention


Country Report: Duration of detention Last updated: 10/07/24


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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 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] Short-term detention orders were frequently issued by the police until the summer of 2022 when, in attempt to give proof to EU institutions of the readiness of Bulgaria to join the Schengen zone, the caretaker cabinet’s MOI management instructed on direct application of long-term detention orders – with initial period of 6 months – without any prior consideration of personal circumstances or submitted asylum claim.

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, in observance with the registration deadline. In 2017, this trend was inverted, 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, 7 calendar days in 2021, and 6 calendar days in 2022 on average. In 2023 the average detention duration maintained minimal to 7 calendar days.

Average period of pre-removal detention pending registration (days)
Year 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Average detention period 9 19 9 12 8 7 6 7

Source: SAR, MOI, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.

Out of the 16,025 persons applying from pre-removal detention, no asylum seeker (0%) was detained for more than 6 months.

The average duration of detention of wrongly detained unaccompanied children decreased to 19 days in 2023. It should be noted, however, that 14-days of medical quarantine, if such is applied, 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 2023 increased again to 64 days on average, in comparison to 56 days in 2022. It remains far from the legal standard set in the law according to which detention should last for the “shortest period possible”, but it should be noted that it still constitutes an improvement compared to previous years (e.g. 252 days in 2019 and 192 days in 2018).




[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