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26 August 2020 – Bulgaria

Busmantsi Detention Centre in Sofia, (Bordermonitoring Bulgaria,
Busmantsi Detention Centre in Sofia, (Bordermonitoring Bulgaria, "The Black Hole of EU-Asylum," 18 November 2017,

In a follow-up response to its 5 June GDP Covid-19 survey, the Interior Ministry provided additional information regarding removal procedures during the Covid-19 crisis. According to the ministry, removals were halted as there were practical difficulties in carrying out returns due to measures to protect the health of migrants and escort staff, as well as challenges stemming from flight delays and entry restrictions. The ministry stated that no return procedures were executed from April to June 2020. In July, some airlines resumed flights to and from Sofia, but as of late August there were still no transit flights to many key non-EU countries. Several countries of origin–including Afghanistan, Algeria, and Nigeria–are currently not accepting their citizens. However, the Bulgarian Border Police have continued to carry out returns to neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Serbia, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Kosovo, and Albania. In its previous survey response (see 5 June update on this platform), the Interior Ministry reported that the country had not established a moratorium on new immigration detention orders and that no immigration detainees had been released from the special homes for temporary accommodation of foreigners (SHTAFs) due to the Covid-19 crisis. The ministry also said that there had not been any cases of Covid-19 amongst the immigration detainee population. It is unclear if any new measures have been adopted since then to assist migrants or asylum seekers, including those in detention. As regards the country’s prisons, on 6 April, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights urged the country’s national assembly to temporarily release prisoners at risk. On 6 July, two staff members of the Plovdiv prison tested positive for Covid-19.