Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions

Bulgaria

Country Report: Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions Last updated: 21/04/21

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Asylum seekers are entitled to material reception conditions according to national legislation during all types of asylum procedures, except in those implemented to admit or assess subsequent applications.[1] Although there is no explicit provision in the law, asylum seekers without resources are accommodated with priority in the reception centres in case of restricted capacity to accommodate all new arrivals. Among all, circumstances such as specific needs and risk of destitution are assessed in each case. The destitution risk assessment criteria are set to take into account the individual situation of the asylum seeker of concern, such as resources and means of self-support, profession and employment opportunities if work is formally permitted, and the number and vulnerabilities of dependent family members. Nevertheless, asylum seekers have the right to withdraw from these benefits if their application is pending in the regular procedure and they declare that they are in possession of means and resources to support themselves and chose to live outside reception centres.

The law provides that every applicant shall be entitled to receive a registration card in the course of the procedure.[2] In addition, the law implies a legal fiction, according to which the registration card does not certify the foreigner’s identity due to its temporary nature and the specific characteristics of establishing the facts and circumstances during the refugee status determination (RSD) procedures which are based, for the most part, on circumstantial evidence.[3] Hence, the registration card serves the sole purpose of certifying the identity declared by the asylum seeker and the right to remain in the territory of the country during the procedure. This legal arrangement continues to create obstacles for asylum seekers to open and maintain personal bank accounts thus creating additional difficulties for their access to employment, although in 2020 the national regulator issued instructions recognising the right of asylum seekers for access to bank services.[4]

Nevertheless, this document is an absolute prerequisite for access to the rights enjoyed by asylum seekers during the RSD procedure, namely remaining on the territory, receiving shelter and subsistence, social assistance (under the same conditions as Bulgarian nationals and receiving the same amount), health insurance, access to health care, psychological support and education. Since the end of 2015 during the procedure asylum seekers enjoy only shelter, food and basic health care as none of the other entitlements is secured or provided by the government in practice.

In 2017 the Committee against Torture raised concerns around substandard material conditions in reception centres, the absence of an adequate identification mechanism for persons in vulnerable situations, the removal of their monthly financial allowance, and insufficient procedural safeguards regarding the assessment of claims and the granting of international protection.[5]

Dublin procedure: Certain asylum seekers to whom an outgoing Dublin procedure is undertaken cannot necessarily enjoy any of the material reception conditions, as the only rights granted to them are the right to stay in the territory of the country, the right to interpretation and the right to be issued a registration card. The LAR distinguishes between persons applying for asylum in Bulgaria, who have access to full reception conditions,[6] and persons found irregularly on the territory in Bulgaria and who have not claimed asylum, but to whom the Dublin procedure might be applied following a request by the arresting police department or security services.[7]

With regard to Dublin returnees, the treatment depends on how their individual case has developed in Bulgaria while they were away:

  • If cases where the asylum claim under the Dublin procedure has been rejected in absentia, the applicant is treated as any other rejected asylum seeker upon his/her return to Bulgaria. This means that access to accommodation and medical assistance is unavailable, but also that the Dublin returnee faces a risk of immigration detention in order to secure his/her deportation. In very few cases, applicants manage to restore their appeal deadlines and to bring the negative decisions before the court, but in such cases the chances of success remain extremely limited given the low recognition rates in Bulgaria (except for Syrian nationals).

  • In cases where the Dublin returnees’ procedure in Bulgaria has only been suspended or terminated while he or she was abroad, the asylum procedure continues upon his/her return. In 2020 due to the manageable number of new arrivals in Bulgaria, the reception centers were occupied below their capacity. Dublin returnees for whom the procedure continued were therefore usually accommodated in an asylum reception center, if so requested.

Subsequent applications: Subsequent applicants pending an admissibility assessment are excluded not only from all material conditions, but also from the right to receive a registration card. They only have a right to interpretation during the fast-track processing of the admissibility assessment prior to their registration, documentation and determination on the substance.[8] In cases where the first subsequent application is considered to be submitted merely in order to delay or complicate the enforcement of a removal decision, or where it concerns another subsequent application following a final inadmissibility / unfounded decision considering a first subsequent application, the applicants are also stripped from the right to remain on the territory. The law has set a 14-day time limit for the admissibility determination. If the subsequent application is considered inadmissible, the determining authority should not open a determination procedure and the applicant is not registered and documented (see section on Subsequent Applications).

 

 

[1] Article 29(1) and (7) LAR.

[2] Article 29(1)(7) LAR.

[3] Article 40(3) LAR.

[4] National Commission for Consumers Protection, Payment Disputes Committee, Ref. №Ц-03-5033 from 1 September 2020.

[5] Committee against Torture, Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Bulgaria, CAT/C/BGR/CO/6, 15 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2rV4mzR.

[6]  Article 67a(2)(1) LAR.

[7] Article 67a(2)(2) LAR.

[8] Article 76b LAR.

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