Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions

Bulgaria

Country Report: Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions Last updated: 11/04/24

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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. Circumstances such as specific needs and risk of destitution are assessed in each case. The criteria to assess whether a risk of destitution exists[2] 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. In practice, SAR provides for accommodation and access to the benefits provided therein, to all asylum seekers without a formal assessment procedure and applies such assessment only in the cases of Dublin returnees vis-à-vis their access to accommodation and nutrition at SAR reception centres (see 2.7. The situation of Dublin returnees).

The law provides that every applicant shall be entitled to receive a registration card in the course of the procedure.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

Nevertheless, this document is an absolute prerequisite for access to the rights enjoyed by asylum seekers during the asylum 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.[6] Despite the period of time which has passed since the CAT report, there have been only moderate improvements to limit the continued deterioration of reception centres’ infrastructure,[7] due to lack of budget to implement any refurbishment for the period 2019 to 2023. Therefore, all the findings remain valid to a great extent as of the end of 2023.  (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 they only enjoy limited rights, namely the right to remain in the country’s territory, 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,[8] 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.[9]

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 return to Bulgaria. This means that access to accommodation and medical assistance is unavailable, but also that the Dublin returnee faces a risk of being detained to secure their return. Only in 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 during their stay abroad, the asylum procedure is re-open and continues after they are transferred back to the country. In 2023, the number of new arrivals in Bulgaria increased by 10%. Although not high in itself, this percentage is adding to a previous 55% increase in 2022 and 212% in 2021. It increased their occupancy rate from 77% in 2022 to 94% on average in 2023.[10] 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 2023 was the high absconding rate of Afghan applicants, which was 68%[11], 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 14%, 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.[12] 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 2023, this affected a total of 64 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 (see section on Subsequent Applications).

 

 

 

[1] Article 29(1) and (7) LAR. 

[2] Article 29(4) LAR, assessed according the specific guidelines, issued by the SAR Chairperson.

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

[4] Article 40(3) LAR. 

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

[6] 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.

[7] See, Overview of the main changes since the previous report update, Reception conditions.

[8] Article 67a(2)(1) LAR.

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

[10] 127th Coordination meeting held on 28 December 2023.

[11] 6,205 terminated procedures out of all 9,156 Afghan applicants pending in 2023, of whom 5,906 applied in 2023 and 3,250 were pending from 2022.

[12] 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