Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update


Country Report: Overview of the of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 18/04/24


Bulgarian Helsinki Committee Visit Website

The report was previously updated in March 2023.

National context

The year of 2023 was marked by two very distinctive phases for the national political situation. The first one extended from 3 February to 6 June 2023, when the pro-Russian, anti-EU and anti-refugee president Rumen Radev[1] appointed his second-in-the-row caretaker cabinet.[2] It took over from the previous caretaker cabinet, also appointed by Radev, which governed the country from 2 August 2022 to 2 February 2023. The caretaker cabinets were a result firstly of a vote of ‘no confidence’ in June 2022, and then of a failed attempt to form a regular government following the general elections held on 2 October 2022. This period, similar to the second half of 2022, was characterized not only by idleness to undertake whatever positive measures to support the national refugee system,[3] but by a strive to limit as much as possible the existing scarce reception conditions, especially vis-à-vis the refugees from the war in Ukraine.[4] Under national arrangements, instead of the national Asylum Agency, the government is responsible for granting and managing temporary protection.[5]

After general elections – the fifth since 2021 – held on 2 April 2023, a new regular government was formed.[6] However, it was designed as a rotational government by a broad coalition of otherwise opposing political entities, having as a main objective preventing the appointment of another caretaker cabinet by Radev. This made it difficult to adopt executive decisions, and resulted in strenuous bargaining, often reverted agreements and congested reforms as a whole.[7]  The national asylum system was particularly affected, as asylum policies fell outside the government’s agenda with continuously delayed adoption of LAR amendments and TP integration program, as well as lack of funding support to provide even the most basic reception conditions (see Reception Conditions).


Asylum procedure

  • Access to the territory: Bulgaria continued to apply different approaches to granting access to the territory for persons seeking asylum and people fleeing the war in Ukraine. While the displaced persons from Ukraine rightfully continued to have unimpeded access to the territory and to the available temporary protection, asylum seekers from the Global South arriving with the mixed migratory flows, continued to suffer lack of any sanctioned pathways to enter the territory. It resulted in growing pushbacks along the EU’s external border with Türkiye and the internal Schengen border with Greece. The national monitoring mechanism[8] established 9,897 alleged pushbacks affecting 174,588 persons, which was almost double the number registered in 2022.[9] Notwithstanding, the year of 2023 also marked a national record high of asylum applications since the establishment in 1993 of the national asylum system – with 22,518 registered applicants. This marked a 10% increase[10] in comparison with the previous year (see Access to the territory and push backs). Another 1,254,470 Ukrainians gained access to the territory of Bulgaria in 2023, of whom 24,441 individuals[11] registered under the temporary protection scheme. As of the end of the year 52,580 temporary protection holders were remaining in the country. Thus, in 2023 the national asylum system was engaged with 75,098 persons, seeking or enjoying some of the available types of protection in Bulgaria.
  • Access to the procedure: Overall, migrants apprehended did not enjoy direct access to the asylum procedure. Only 2% of them reportedly received direct access and accommodation in a SAR reception centre without first being sent and detained in a MOI deportation centre.[12] The improvement, first noticed in 2022, with respect to the access to procedure of the so called ‘self-reported’ asylum seekers continued. Asylum seekers considered ‘self-reported’ are those who managed to enter and reach SAR registration centres independently, without being apprehended by the police and detained. In the past, the asylum agency consistently refused to register them directly, instead alerting the police, which was arresting and detaining the self-reported asylum seekers in deportation centres of the Ministry of the Interior. In some cases, this malpractice was affecting families with minor children and pregnant women. This trend changed from 2022, when this practice affected a total of 94 persons (0.5%) out of 20,407 asylum seekers registered in the country. In 2023, only 48 asylum seekers (0.2%) out of 22,518 suffered from this practice.[13] Close to no unlawful asylum procedures were registered in MOI deportation centres, with just 1 asylum procedure implemented in violation of the law[14] in Lyubimets detention centre[15] (see Registration of the asylum application).
  • Absconding and secondary movements: The absconding rate remained high. 48% (16,211 persons) out of 33,703 asylum seekers with pending proceedings abandoned the asylum procedure in Bulgaria in 2023.[16] This represented a minor increase compared to 46% in 2022 on the background of 26% in 2021, 39% in 2020, and 83% in 2019. The usual reasons motivating asylum seekers to abandon their asylum procedures in Bulgaria and abscond were the congested procedures, low recognition rates for some nationalities, poor reception conditions as well as the lack of any integration support or programs (see Reception Conditions).
  • Length and quality of the procedure: In 2023, the SAR dealt with the biggest annual number of 16,139 asylum applicants pending determination at the same time[17] since its establishment in 1993, despite having issued the highest number of asylum decisions in a year, with a total of 24,949 decisions. Out of them, 106 decisions granting refugee status, 5,682 decisions granting humanitarian status, 2,950 refusals of international protection, of which 2,574 in accelerated procedure and 16,211 discontinuations of the procedure, mainly due to absconding. It represented 2,079 decisions monthly on average, issued by 32 case workers. The average length of the procedure decreased from 4 to 6 months[18]. Several improvements in the standards and quality of the asylum procedure were also observed,[19] which provided for better safeguards for asylum applicants pending the status determination (see Procedures).
  • Pilot project on accelerated procedure: After series of bilateral meetings held during the first quarter of 2023 between the Austrian Migration Service and Bulgarian MOI and SAR, a pilot project[20] was launched focusing on an increase in the application of accelerated procedures by the national asylum authority in the Pastrogor Transit centre (located near the Bulgarian-Turkish border). This procedure was set to target applicants from specific nationalities, which were increasingly reaching Austria and were included in its safe countries of origin list.[21] In practice it was observed that the procedure was applied in cases of nationals mainly from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The declared objective of the project was to enable the Bulgarian authorities to increase the pace of the asylum procedure for nationals from these countries, and if unsuccessful, to return them in an expedited manner to their countries of origin, thus preventing secondary movements. The initial implementation was set for the period March – September. On 20 March 2023, the European Commission (EC) took over from Austria with the project period fixed for 6 months, i.e. until 31 August 2023. In return, the Commission provided operational and technical support focused on initial screening and referral. During the pilot project’s implementation period, a total of 1,582 (58%)[22] of all asylum applicants from these nationalities were registered and processed in Pastrogor transit centre, with a total of 1,235 decisions issued, or 78% of applicants processed under the pilot project, representing 35% of all decisions taken with respect to these three nationalities in 2023.[23] Altogether, 1,014 decisions (82%) issued within the project were issued as of 31 August, the pilot project’s end date. The SAR reported that in over 90% of these cases the applicants in question had left the opened Pastrogor transit centre, and absconded before they could be referred to MOI for deportation, if refused. If assessed statistically vis-à-vis all the decision issued with respect to these nationalities in 2023 resulted, as follows – Algeria: 155 decisions in total in 2023, of which 0% recognition, 54% refused in accelerated procedure, 46% absconded; Morocco: 3,262 decisions in total in 2023, of which 0.06% recognition, 0.6% refused in general procedure, 60% refused in accelerated procedure, 39.8% absconded; and Tunisia: 70 decisions in total in 2023, of which 0% recognition, 1% refused in general procedure, 73% refused in accelerated procedure, 27% absconded. Other more indirect outcomes of the pilot project related to the EC stating to be willing to renew it in 2024, as well as to support the digitalization of the national asylum procedure database, with the official endorsement of the latter expected by the end of March 2024 (see Accelerated procedure).
  • Recognition and refusal rates: In 2023, the overall recognition rate decreased from 91% in 2022 to 66% of all decisions on the merits. Both refugee recognition and subsidiary protection rates continued to decrease. Refugee recognition decreased to 1%,[24] while subsidiary protection (humanitarian status) decreased more significantly to 65% in 2023.[25] The rejection rate reached 34%,[26] when considering only decisions issued on the substance of asylum claims. Among the top 5 countries of origin of asylum seekers entering Bulgaria in 2023 were Syria and Afghanistan. These two nationalities together represented 81% of the total arrivals, – 55% from Syria and 26% from Afghanistan. Except for Syrian nationals, over an extended period before 2022, recognition rates for other nationalities remained low. Applicants from Afghanistan and Türkiye were treated discriminatory and their cases overwhelmingly considered as manifestly unfounded, which resulted in extremely low recognition rates.[27] After more than a decade being considered as non-credible applicants, interrupted by a significant improvement in recognition rates in 2022, in 2023 Afghan nationals once more faced reduced recognition compared to the previous year, with 14% overall recognition rate (5% refugee recognition rate and 9% subsidiary protection rate) against 65% rejection rate[28]. The vast majority (97%) of Afghan applicants[29] continued to abscond before receiving a first instance decision, which was issued on the merits in just 3% of the caseload.[30] Applications from Turkish nationals were rejected in 100% of the cases.
  • Relocation and resettlement: Since 2015, Bulgaria accepted 86 individuals under the relocation scheme, of whom 76 from Greece and 10 from Italy. Since the EU-Türkiye deal, out of the agreed number of 110 individuals in total 94 Syrian refugees have been resettled so far. No relocations from Greece and Italy and 9 resettlements from Türkiye were implemented in 2023. Bulgaria has also been included in the Cyprus voluntary relocation mechanism, with 94 Syrian asylum seekers relocated until the end of 2023. Bulgaria was also included in the Cyprus voluntary relocation mechanism with 94 Syrian asylum seekers relocated until the end of 2023 (see Legal access to the territory).


Reception conditions

  • Reception centres: Since 2015, the conditions in all national reception centres have been gradually deteriorating, with support limited to accommodation, nutrition and rudimentary medical help without provision of psychological care or assistance.[31] They continued to experienced recurring problems regarding infrastructure and material conditions, and in some instances failed to provide even the most basic services, including adequate nutrition and sanitation of personal and communal spaces. In 2022 an SAR internal revision of the reception centres’ capacity revealed it[32] to be far below long-time stated 5,160 places, mainly because the designated premises were unfit for living. In 2023, SAR continued to report at its disposal only 3,592 places[33] in all of its reception centres. This was mainly due to the fact that the SAR did not received any of the finances requested for repairs or refurbishment[34] in its 2020, 2021, 2023 or 2024 annual budgets. Just BGN 120,000 including VAT were provided in 2022, and no funds were allocated in 2023, while the SAR estimate necessary for the most necessary refurbishment at the end of 2023 was at the amount of BGN 10,953,746.[35] Therefore, the reception conditions in the asylum agency’s facilities, where applicants are accommodated pending their asylum case, continued to be at minimum standards in terms of material conditions if not below, as in the case of Ovcha Kupel shelter discussed below. In 2023, the asylum agency SAR did not receive any funds for refurbishment or much needed partial repairs,[36] leaving some of reception centres, e.g. the oldest reception facility of Ovcha Kupel shelter in Sofia in a state of complete dilapidation.[37] Towards the end of the year the Vrazhdebna shelter, which was the only SAR reception facility to provide relatively adequate conditions, suffered a fire. It remained closed for a month to be cleaned and sanitized, but no proper repairs have been made due to the lack of funding, which led to a deterioration compared to its previous overall adequate condition. Regular water, hot water, repair of utilities and equipment in bathrooms, rooms and common areas remain problematic. Vermin infestation, such as bedbugs, lice, cockroaches and rats also remain among the most persisting problems in reception centres for many years. Occupants from all reception centres, except in Vrazhdebna, have complained about the poor sanitary conditions, especially regarding soiled mattresses infested with bedbugs which regularly cause health issues, i.e. constant skin inflammations and allergic reactions. This problem arose after 2013 and has been continuously neglected until 2023. As a result of the monthly disinfection, pest control and desacarization which began in May 2022[38] and continued in 2023[39] on the basis of contracted services, the situation with regard to bedbugs noticeably improved; similar measures were undertaken in both MOI detention centres in Busmantsi and Lyubimets. Only by September 2023 SAR received the first instalment of the next instalment of AMIF funding, and was as such able to re-appoint cleaning staff. Until then, SAR had to organise the cleaning of all reception centres with the assistance of the centre’s population. However, as mentioned above, crumbling buildings and poor sewage and bathroom conditions meant that, despite some improvements, sanitation levels in the centres barely reached the necessary minimum. Food in reception centres provided through catering arrangements with the value of three meals per day agreed to BGN 5.01, without VAT, or, BGN 6.02 equal to EUR 3.08, as per the lowest price condition within an already scarce budget, maintained at extremely low quality. Just in 2023 the rate of inflation reached +9.5% adding to +17% in 2022.[40] The individual monthly allowance provided for in the law is not translated into practice as it is not provided since 2015.[41] For this reason, in 2023 asylum seekers continued to complain not only about food quality, but also about its insufficient quantity. The main factor that helped avoiding a point of critical malnutrition for asylum seekers was the high rate of abandonment of the procedure by Afghan asylum seekers. The running costs for medicines and medical supplies, Bulgarian language courses as well as urgent maintenance and refurbishment were covered only to the extent of the remaining funds of a SAR within its already restricted 2023 budget. The only other assistance provided by SAR were sanitary packages. The costs of prescribed medicines, lab tests or other medical interventions which are not covered in the health care package, as well as for purchase of baby formula, diapers and personal hygiene products, are still not covered, thereby raising concerns despite the efforts of SAR to address them through different approaches. (see State of facilities). Due to the country’s fundamental shortage of general practitioners, the reduced staff and the lack of full-time medical specialists in the centres led to situations in 2023 when only 1 doctor was responsible for all three SAR reception centres in Sofia. During the year no nurses were available in any of these centres, as the last one left in the beginning of 2023. Even though asylum seekers were health insured, due to its budget restraints SAR failed to meet the urgent medical expenses, which were not covered by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). As a consequence, 20 such urgent interventions were paid for by the Red Cross. The medical care of asylum seekers was mainly carried out in the surgeries organised in Sofia and Harmanli reception centres with a total of 18,167 outpatient examinations until the end of the year.[42] The access of asylum seekers to repeated and specialized medical treatment remained impeded. The most serious concern remained the safety and security of asylum seekers accommodated in reception centres. These continue to be seriously compromised due to the presence of smugglers, drug dealers and sex workers who have access to reception centres during the night hours without any interference from the private security staff. Both in Sofia, but mainly in Harmanli SAR received many security or public disorder complaints during 2023, which especially in Harmanli escalated in public demonstrations and committees requesting the centre in this place to be made of a closed type facility.[43] In 2023, non-governmental organisations once more[44] raised concerns regarding safety of reception centres.[45] After that, the SAR again submitted several requests to the Ministry of Interior[46] to provide police guards in replacement of private security of reception centres, but it was not before the end of the year when MOI initiated a procedure,[47] to investigate the possibility for SAR reception centres to be guarded by the national gendarmerie. Currently, a police car is secured only in the largest Harmanli reception centre. However, even in this centre only one car is provided and is located at the central entrance, therefore proving insufficient to ensure the safety and security of nearly 4,000 individuals accommodated in the centre. Other reception centres in the country continue to be guarded by private security companies, which for the purposes of cost effectiveness usually mainly employ men of retirement age or above as guards. Therefore, security services result more performative than effective.[48]
  • Safe zone for unaccompanied children: The two safe zones for unaccompanied children at the Sofia reception centre continued to be maintained under an IOM project, funded by AMIF until the end of 2024. Overall, the conditions in the safe zones were better compared to all other SAR accommodation premises. However, in the common dormitories in “Voenna Rampa” and “Ovcha Kupel” shelters the safe zones were created only by assigning them separate floors, despite the abovementioned serious security problems existing in reception centres and their surroundings. This practice can thus indirectly affect the situation of unaccompanied children. In 2023, the number of unaccompanied children who sought protection in Bulgaria continued to grow,[49] and the capacity of the two safe zones (a total of 288 places) proved insufficient to shelter all newcomers. Many unaccompanied children continued to be accommodated outside the safe-zones in mixed premises with adults and without proper support and guaranteed personal safety, including in the largest reception centre in Harmanli, South-Central Bulgaria in the border area with Türkiye. In mid-2023 the construction of a third safe zone began in this biggest SAR reception centre with funding from Swiss Migration Board through UNICEF (see Reception of unaccompanied children).
  • Access to social benefits: Asylum seekers who decide to live outside reception centres at their own expenses are not entitled to any social benefits.[50] Asylum seekers who are not self-sufficient are entitled to accommodation in the available reception centres, three meals per day, basic medical assistance and psychological support,[51] even though the latter is not secured in practice. Monthly cash allowance is not provided since 2015.[52] Access to any other social benefits under the EU acquis is not guaranteed by law, nor provided in practice, still raising concerns about compliance with Articles 17, 18 and 25 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive (see Access and forms of reception conditions).
  • Access to the labour market: During the asylum procedure, asylum seekers have unconditional access to the labour market after a period of three months from their registration.[53] In 2023, the State Refugee Agency issued 579 work permits to asylum seekers who were looking to support themselves while their asylum claims were being processed.[54] Out of them, only 2 asylum seekers and 17 persons granted international protection were employed through employment programs, while the rest found work independently and on their own initiative.[55] At the same time a total of 1,484 persons with temporary protection were employed through employment programmes[56] (see Access to the labour market).


Detention of asylum seekers

  • Detention in pre-removal centres: The average detention duration in 2023 was of 5 working days or 7 calendar days,[57] in full conformity with the law,[58] despite the overall 10% increase[59] of asylum population compared to previous year. As a result, of all third-country nationals who applied for protection in a police detention centre, 82%[60] were released on average 1 day before the statutory deadline, and 0% were unlawfully detained for more than 6 months. First introduced in 2015, the SAR practice of registering asylum seekers in police pre-removal (detention) centres to meet the registration deadline,[61] as well as conducting proceedings and delivering decisions in these detention centres, was not sanctioned by national courts,[62] which in general perceived it as an insignificant infringement of the procedure. In 2022, the SAR almost completely abandoned this malpractice, with only 1 registration and only 1 determination conducted in a police pre-removal detention centre.[63] This positive approach was maintained in 2023 as well with just 1 procedure of a first applicant[64] held in general immigration facilities in contrast with national law (see Registration and determination of asylum seekers in immigration detention).
  • Detention in closed reception centres: National legislation allows detention pending the asylum procedure, although on limited conditions and for the shortest period possible.[65] Since the introduction of the provision,[66] in total 150 asylum seekers have been detained in closed reception centre[67] pending their status determination situation mainly based on national security grounds, of whom 32 asylum seekers in 2023.[68] The average duration of detention in closed reception centres increased, reaching 78 days on average in 2023[69] (see Asylum detention).


Content of international protection

  • Integration: In 2023, the Vitosha districts of the metropolitan municipality remained the only one to establish integration agreements with newly recognized refugees in Bulgaria. In 2023, 22 individuals signed integration agreements.[70] No other integration measures or activities were planned, funded or available to individuals granted international protection – refugee or humanitarian status. No program for the integration of displaced persons from Ukraine under temporary protection was not adopted throughout 2023. Thus, Bulgaria marked its 10th regrettable anniversary of the national “zero integration” policy (see Content of International Protection).
  • Cash support: In 2023, UNHCR’s cash-based interventions in Bulgaria evolved to address the persistent challenges faced by vulnerable households, particularly those with disabilities, women, children, and older persons at risk. Transitioning from one-off assistance to a multi-transfer approach, the UNHCR cash programme ensured regular basic needs support for periods of up to four months. Thus, against a background of scarce national social support and a lacking social system, UNHCR provided vital financial aid for over 13,600 individuals in 6,200 households, focusing on those with serious medical conditions, disabilities, elderly individuals without family support, and single parents with dependents. However, limited budget resources necessitated prioritization based on vulnerabilities, leaving some obvious needs unmet, particularly in healthcare support. UNHCR stated[71] it continue its targeting strategies in 2024 in order to sustain its funding, and it will enhance coordination to effectively support the most vulnerable among the individuals granted protection in Bulgaria.
  • Special measures for unaccompanied children: The asylum authority, SAR, continued to actively search opportunities to accommodate unaccompanied children in licensed family-type children’s centers (ЦНСТ). During the asylum procedure such efforts were undertaken mainly regarding minor asylum-seeking children,[72] children with special needs or such identified as being at increased risk of trafficking or harm. After recognition, these efforts targeted all unaccompanied children, excluding those in family reunification procedures, who were allowed to wait for the reunification with their parents or other family members in SAR reception centres.[73] As a result of this positive practice, a total of 43 unaccompanied children were accommodated during the course of the year in specialized childcare centres, of whom 2 were asylum seeking children and 41 children granted international protection. Altogether eleven licensed childcare centres have engaged in this practice in localities across the country, namely in Sofia, Burgas, Vidin, Ruse, Kardzhali, Novo Selo and Zvanichevo. At the same time the lack of specialized training of the childcare centre’s staff to work with unaccompanied children seeking or granted protection should be acknowledged and taken into account as well as the lack of secured interpretation at least for the initial period of accommodation and adjustment (see Reception of unaccompanied children).
  • Cessation and withdrawal: The national law envisaged an additional to the 1951 Refugee Convention cessation clause.[74] The law permitted cessation or revocation of the international protection if the status holders fail, in a period of thirty days, to renew their expired Bulgarian identity documents or to replace them if they have been lost, stolen or destroyed. The undue cessation of international protection has affected 4,405 status holders in total since then, respectively – 770 persons in 2018; 2,608 persons in 2019; 886 persons in 2020 and 100 persons in 2021 and 41 persons in 2022. In 2023 this malpractice this malpractice was fully abandoned by SAR with 0 cessations made on this additional ground (see Cessation and review of protection status and Withdrawal of protection status).


Temporary protection (see Temporary Protection Annex)

Temporary protection procedure

  • Legal framework: According to the national law,[75] the central agencies or administrations have the right to issue acts with an automatic legal effect, which create rights to an indefinite number of persons, defined by common circumstances or characteristic. Under the national asylum law,[76] the government (Council of Ministers) grants temporary protection with such an act, if it is activated by a decision of the EU Council, the latter also determining its duration. Therefore, the government’s act to grant temporary protection is group-based, collective and automatic by nature thus covering all individuals from the specified country with an immediate legal effect. On 10 March 2022 the Bulgarian government adopted Decision No.144,[77] granting temporary protection to displaced persons from Ukraine, which entered into force on the date of its publication on 14 March 2022. The decision was given explicitly a retroactive effect to cover all persons displaced from Ukraine from 24 February 2022 onward. Prior to it until 14 March 2022 all Ukrainian refugees who claimed asylum in Bulgaria were still registered as asylum seekers (applicants for international protection) with individual determination procedures and decisions. Hence, from 15 March 2022 onward and throughout 2023 any Ukrainian refugee who entered the country and stated before the authorities a request to seek protection was immediately issued a document,[78] certifying their legal status as a person granted a temporary protection in Bulgaria and valid for its duration.[79] The duration of the national temporary protection was extended twice[80] since its enactment in 2022, with the present deadline set on 4 March 2025.
  • Access to asylum: The national asylum law established the right of the TP holders to also submit an individual application for international protection.[81] However, an asylum procedure is not open and the application of the TP holder is not examined or decided prior the end of duration of the temporary protection.[82] In 2023, the SAR initiated draft amendments[83] of the national asylum law, which among other envisaged to introduce the right of temporary protection holders to be able to apply prior its expiration for international protection and granted a subsidiary protection as a minimum in an expedited determination procedure.


Content of temporary protection

  • Residence permit: In general, the Bulgarian asylum system does not require any additional residence permit to be issued by the immigration police for the beneficiary of the granted protection to be able to remain in the country on its account. Hence, the decision granting international protection issued by the asylum authority (SAR) is sufficient for the protection holder to be able to apply for an identity document that is issued automatically. This arrangement applies also to TP beneficiaries. The decision of the government to grant temporary protection is sufficient for them to be automatically issued the respective TP document, if and when they approach a registration office.[84]
  • Rights of temporary protection holders: The scope of rights to which the TP holders are entitled are outlined by the law and apply for the duration of the temporary protection.[85] Therefore, all displaced persons granted temporary protection have the right to:
    • remain in the country
    • work and have access to vocational trainings
    • appropriate accommodation or means of accommodation if necessary
    • social assistance
    • health insurance, medical assistance and services under the conditions and procedures applicable for the Bulgarian citizens,[86] with the exception of medical assistance provided under Regulation (EEC) No. 1408/71 on the application of social security schemes to employed persons, to self-employed persons and to members of their families moving within the EU.
    • return freely to their country of origin.




[1] Politico, Republic of Radev: Bulgaria’s impasse empowers its elusive president, 31 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3uPEir2

[2] БТА, Президентът Румен Радев назначи служебно правителство с министър-председател Гълъб Донев, 2 February 2023, availble in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/49yZtMX.

[3] SAR reg.№ЦУ-РД05-123/27.02.2024.

[4] AIDA 2022 Temporary Protection Bulgaria, Content of temporary protection, d. Housing, March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3TexLj2.

[5] Article 2(2) in conjunction with Articles 80-81 LAR.

[6] Lex.bg, Парламентът избра ротационното правителство Денков-Габриел, 6 June 2023, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3USL3mx.

[7] Balkan Insight, Bulgaria Coalition Cracks Widen Ahead of Govt Rotation, 8 February 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/3UXCwP2.

[8] Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among Border Police, UNHCR and Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, signed on 14 April 2010.

[9] Ibid., 5,268 alleged pushbacks affecting 87,647 persons in 2022.

[10] SAR statistics, 2022: 20,407 asylum applicants / 2023:22,518 asylum applicants, available at: https://bit.ly/3URtrYe.

[11] See: https://ukraine.gov.bg/.

[12] Monthly Situation Report for December 2023: 61 asylum seekers, of whom according to MOI statistics: 35 unaccompanied children referred to Agency for Social Assistance by the Border police, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/49x8Dd3.

[13] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2023 Annual Refugee Status Determination Monitoring Report, 31 January 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/4bU9INC.

[14] §5 Additional Clauses, LAR: SAR can implement asylum procedures outside its premises at places designated for this purpose by an order of the SAR Chairperson prior the establishment of its transit centers; the Pastrogor transit center was open on 3 May 2012. Source: Citybuild, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3IKJlMO.

[15] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2023 Annual Refugee Status Determination Monitoring Report, 31 January 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/4bU9INC.

[16] 22,518 asylum seekers who applied in 2023 and 11,185 asylum seekers pending determination from 2022, SAR, reg. №05-72 from 26 January 2023 and reg. №РД05-40 from 16 January 2023.

[17] SAR, Annual report on procedures for international protection in 2023, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3wDKXoU.

[18] SAR, reg. №05-72 from 26 January 2023. 

[19] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2023 Annual Refugee Status Determination Monitoring Report, 31 January 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/4bU9INC.

[20] Thereinafter in the paragraph, State Agency for Refugees, Asylum Procedure Quality Directorate, Annual report on national asylum procedures in 2023, published on 12 January 2024, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3wDKXoU.

[21] AIDA Update on Austria, 5 May 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3uTimLz.

[22] SAR statistics, 2740 applicants in 2023, of whom: Algeria – 131, Morocco – 2580 and Tunisia – 29 applicants.

[23] SAR statistics, Algeria: 155 decisions issued, of which 131 relating applications submitted in 2023 and 22 pending from 2022; Morocco: 3262 decisions issued, of which 2580 relating applications submitted in 2023 and 682 pending from 2022; Tunisia: 70 decisions issued, of which 29 relating applications submitted in 2023 and 41 pending from 2022.

[24] Previous refugee recognition rates: 2% in 2022; 4% in 2021; 13% in 2020; 13% in 2019; 15% in 2018; 14% in 2017; 25% in 2016; 76% in 2015; 69% in 2014.

[25] Previous subsidiary protection rates: 89% in 2022; 57% in 2021; 47% in 2020; 15% in 2019; 20% in 2018; 18% in 2017; 19% in 2016; 14% in 2015; 25% in 2014.

[26] Previous rejection rates: 9% in 2022; 39% in 2021; 39% in 2020; 71% in 2019; 65% in 2018; 68% in 2017; 56% in 2016; 10% in 2015; 6% in 2014.

[27] AIDA update on Bulgaria, 23 February 2022, Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure.

[28] 2022 AIDA update: 49% overall recognition with 14% refugee recognition rate and 35% subsidiary protection rate.

[29]  6,205 discontinued procedures out of all 6,399 decisions taken in 2023 with respect to Afghan nationals.

[30] See, Table Statistics, page 7 of this report: 194 Afghan decisions on the merits.

[31] See, AIDA Country Updates on Bulgaria: Forth Update from October 2015, 2016 Update from February 2017, 2017 Update from February 2018, 2018 Update from January 2019, 2019 Update from February 2020, 2020 Update from February 2021 and 2021 Update from February 2022.

[32] 118th Coordination meeting held on 22 December 2022.

[33] 127th Coordination Meeting held on 28 December 2023.

[34] SAR reg.№ЦУ-РД05-123/27.02.2024.

[35] SAR reg.№ЦУ-РД05-123/27.02.2024.

[36] SAR reg.№ЦУ-РД05-123/27.02.2024.

[37] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Legal Network reports to SAR for the period 1 February 31 October 2023, reg. №Б-108 from 10 November 2023.

[38] SAR, reg. No.РД05-72 from 26 February 2023.

[39] SAR reg.№ЦУ-РД05-123/27.02.2024.

[40] National Statistical Institute, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3KMYHT5.

[41] SAR, Order No 31-310, 31 March 2015, issued by the Chairperson Nikola Kazakov.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Haskovo.Live, Хармани излезе на протест с искане бежанският център да стане от затворен тип, published on 23 October 2023, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/48CQqJL.

[44] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, reg.No.Б-67 from 4 August 2022.

[45] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, reg.No.Б-88 from 18 September 2023.

[46] SAR, reg. No. №РД05-31 from 15 January 2024

[47] 127th Coordination meeting, held on 28 December 2023.

[48] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, reg.No.Б-88 from 18 September 2023

[49] 2023: 3,843 unaccompanied children / 2022: 3,348 unaccompanied children / 2021: 3,172 unaccompanied children.

[50] Article 29 (9) LAR.

[51] Article 29 (1) LAR.

[52] SAR, Order No 31-310, 31 March 2015, issued by the Chairperson Nikola Kazakov.

[53] Law on Asylum and Refugees (LAR), Article 29 (3).

[54] SAR, reg. No. №РД05-31 from 15 January 2024.

[55] Employment Agency, reg. No.РД08-2852 from 22 December 2023.

[56] Ibid.

[57] 2022: 6 calendar/4 working days; 2021: 7 calendar/5 working days; 2020: 8 calendar/6 working days; 2019: 11 calendar/9 working days; 2018: 9 calendar/7 working days; 2017: 19 calendar/15 working days; 2016: 9 calendar/7 working days; 2015: 10 calendar/8 working days; 2014: 11 calendar/9 working days; 2013: 45 days/32 working days.

[58] Article 58(4) LAR, Article 6(2) APD: 6 working days.

[59] 2022: 20,407 asylum seekers / 2023: 22,518 asylum seekers.

[60] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2023 Annual Refugee Status Determination Monitoring Report, 31 January 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/4bU9INC.

[61] 6 working or 8 calendar days as per Article 58(4) LAR in conjunction with Article 6(1) APD.

[62] See, AIDA updates on Bulgaria in 2019 to 2021.

[63] BHC 2022 Annual RSD Monitoring report, 1.1.2. Procedure at the police detention centers, available at: https://bit.ly/3Y3WzJJ, 6.

[64] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, 2023 Annual Refugee Status Determination Monitoring Report, 31 January 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/4bU9INC.

[65] Article 45b LAR.

[66] State Gazette No.80 from 16 October 2015, enforced on 1 January 2016.

[67] A special compartment allocated in Busmantsi detention centre’s premises.

[68] SAR, reg. No. №РД05-40 from 16 January 2023.

[69] 2022: 56 days; 2021: 86 days; 2020: 91 days; 2019: 252 days; 2018: 192 days, 2017: 202 days.

[70] Statistics provided by the Deputy Chair on Social Matter of the State Agency on 15 February 2024; 2022: 20 beneficiaries of international protection; 2021: 83 beneficiaries of international protection.

[71] UNHCR representation in Bulgaria, Communication from 11 April 2024.

[72] Articles 3 and 4 Law on Persons and Entities: 0-13 minors / 14-17 adolescents.

[73] SAR, Rules and procedures on the accommodation of unaccompanied children granted international protection in foster families, social or integrated socio-medical care facilities for children of a residential type, adopted in October 2022.

[74] Article 42(5) LAR, State Gazette No. 89 from 16 October 2020.

[75] Article 65 of Administrative Procedure Code.

[76] Article 2(2) LAR.

[77] COM №144 from 10 March 2022, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3rVTT33.

[78] Article 41(1), item 4 LAR, see at: https://bit.ly/3ghv4Mo.

[79] 4 March 2025.

[80] COM №95 from 1 February 2023 and COM №94 from 25 January 2024.

[81] Article 68(1), item 2 LAR.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Law on Asylum and Refugees draft amendments, published for public consultations on 5 January 2024, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/49yPqHK.

[84] COM №144 from 10 March 2022, available in Bulgarian at: https://bit.ly/3rVTT33.

[85] Article 39(1) LAR.

[86] Amended, State Gazette №32/2022 enforced on 26 April 2022.

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