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. 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. 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. 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.
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. Despite the period of time which has passed since the CAT report, there have been only moderate improvements in 2022 and all the findings remain valid to a great extent as of the end of 2022. (see Conditions in reception facilities)
Dublin procedure: Certain asylum seekers channelled in an outgoing Dublin procedure are not automatically entitled to 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, 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 formal request submitted by the arresting police department or security services.
Regarding Dublin returnees, the treatment depends on how their individual case has developed in Bulgaria while they were not present in the country:
- In cases where the asylum claim under the Dublin procedure has been rejected in absentia, the applicant is treated as an irregular migrant 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 returnee’s procedure in Bulgaria has only been discontinued while he or she was abroad, the asylum procedure is re-open and continues after his/her return. In 2021 the number of new arrivals in Bulgaria increased significantly by 55% adding to a previous increase by 212% in 2021. It increased their occupancy rate from 47% in 2021 to 77% on average in 2022. Dublin returnees for whom the procedure can be reopened and continued are usually accommodated in an asylum reception centre upon request, although this depends on the occupancy in reception centres. The sole reason to avoid overcrowded reception centres in 2022 was the high absconding rate of Afghan applicants, which reached 95%, while they represented the second largest country of origin after Syria. The main reason for Afghan absconding laid in almost ten-year period of low recognition rates varied from 0.1% to 1%, which demotivated them to remain in Bulgaria (see Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure).
For more information on Dublin returnees’ accommodation – see 2.7.The situation of Dublin returnees.
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. 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. In 2022, this affected a total of 48 subsequent applicants who received an inadmissibility decision. 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.
 Article 29(1) and (7) LAR.
 Article 29(1)(7) LAR.
 Article 40(3) LAR.
 National Commission for Consumers Protection, Payment Disputes Committee, Ref. №Ц-03-5033 from 1 September 2020.
 Article 67a(2)(1) LAR.
 Article 67a(2)(2) LAR.
 118th Coordination meeting held on 22 December 2022.
 9,895 discontinued Afghan procedures out of all 10414 Afghan applicants pending in 2022 (7,164 applicants in 2022 and 3,250 applicants pending from 2021 as of 31 December 2021)
 Article 76b LAR.