Short overview of the reception system


Country Report: Short overview of the reception system Last updated: 18/04/24


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Short overview of the reception system

  • Access to reception: The national asylum agency SAR is the authority responsible for the reception of asylum seekers.[1] Their access to reception is guaranteed under the law, though not from the application’s submission, but from the moment of their registration as asylum applicants by the SAR.[2] The right to accommodation applies to asylum seekers subject to Dublin, accelerated and general procedures.[3] Asylum seekers who submitted a subsequent application, and which were admitted to the determination procedure, are excluded from access to reception centres, food, accommodation and social support unless they are considered to be vulnerable.[4]
  • Reception centres: SAR operates two types of collective reception facilities – transit centres and reception-and-registration centres.[5] Both types can be used for registration, accommodation, medical examination and implementation of asylum procedure. They can also both operate as open or closed type centres. Originally, the transit centres were designed to operate in border areas and to accommodate only the asylum seekers subject to the accelerated procedure, while the reception-and-registration centres had to accommodate those who have been admitted to a general procedure.[6] This difference was gradually erased with series of amendments from 2002 to 2015. Moreover, safe zones for unaccompanied children were recently opened, the first one in mid-2019, and then the second one in early-2020.[7] Both are located in the reception-and-registration centre (RRC) in Sofia at the Voenna Rampa and Ovcha Kupel shelters, where children were provided round-the-clock care and support tailored to their specific and individual needs. The safe-zones, with total capacity of 288 places, are operated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) – Bulgaria and funded by the EC’s financial instruments. However, none of the other reception centres, including the biggest one in Harmanli, provides a safe zone for unaccompanied children and capacity is thus insufficient. This becomes particularly problematic in situations of significant increase of the number of newly arriving unaccompanied children.[8] In such cases, children are accommodated in mixed dormitories without proper care, safety and security measures. Accommodation outside the reception centres in individual dwellings is permitted, but accessible only to asylum seekers who can financially afford to meet their rent/utilities costs and under the condition to have alleviated their right to receive any other material or social support during the procedure.[9] In July 2022 a report by the national Ombudsperson recommended to SAR to establish a new safe-zone in Harmanli reception center as well[10]. At the end of 2022, the new SAR management and UNICEF agreed on funding, provided by Swiss Federal Council[11] for a third safe-zone for unaccompanied children to be open in Harmanli reception centre,[12] which is expected to become operational in April 2024 after the completion of the necessary refurbishment and logistics.

In 2018 the UN Human Right Committee raised concerns relating the identified need to further improve conditions for persons seeking international protection by ensuring that reception centres provide basic services, protecting asylum seekers and migrants from attacks and abuse, and by ensuring adequate access to social, psychological, rehabilitation and health-care services and benefits in practice.[13] These concerns have not been entirely addressed as of the end of 2023.




[1] Article 47(2) in conjunction with Article 48(1)(11) LAR.

[2] Article 68(1)(1) LAR.

[3] Article 29(2) LAR.

[4] Article 29(7) LAR.

[5] Article 47(2) LAR.

[6] Law on Asylum and Refugee, as adopted St.G. №54 from 31 May 2002.

[7] IOM, ‘Official opening of the first Safety Zone for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Bulgaria’, 29 May 2019, available at:

[8] See, 1.1. Screening of vulnerability.

[9]  Article 29(9) LAR.

[10] Ombudsperson of the Republic of Bulgaria, Доклад на Националния превантивен механизъм за извършени проверки в структури на Дирекция „Миграция“ към Министерство на вътрешните работи и Държавна агенция за бежанците към Министерски съвет, available at:

[11] Swiss Federal Council, State Secretariat for Migration SEM, Second contribution – Migration Framework credit, published on 12 January 2023, available at:

[12] The SAR leadership was replaced in March-April 2022.

[13] Human Right Committee, Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Bulgaria, CCPR/C/BGR/CO/4, 15 November 2018, available at:

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