No detention centre mapping data


Bulgaria Immigration Detention

Although the number of irregular non-citizens apprehended in Bulgaria has plummeted in recent years, detention remains a key tool in the country’s response to migration and asylum flows. It has also spent some 85 million EUR to construct a fence along its border with Turkey. Bulgaria’s detention centres reportedly lack appropriate health care services, have substandard conditions, and fail to provide adequate access to procedural guarantees, spurring criticism from civil society organisations and international watchdogs.

Quick Facts


Immigration detainees (2017): 2,989
Detained asylum seekers (2017): 37
Detained minors (2017): 736
Immigration detention capacity (2017): 700
Persons expelled (2018): 710
International migrants (2017): 153,800
New asylum applications (2017): 3,700

Profile Updated: April 2019

Bulgaria Immigration Detention Profile

 

 

KEY FINDINGS

·      Despite a 91 percent drop in irregular arrivals since 2015, detention remains a key feature in the country’s response to migration flows.

·      Conditions in detention are generally substandard and marred by allegations of abuse and poor access to procedural standards.

·      Asylum seekers are sometimes held in “pre-removal” detention while their claims are processed.

·      Depending on their nationality, asylum seekers can face severe discrimination, which observers argue is intended to serve as a method of deterrence.

·      While migration law prohibits the detention of unaccompanied children, it is permitted under asylum law.

                                                                               

1.    INTRODUCTION

Bulgaria is often viewed as a transit country into the European Union. While it received an important number of arrivals during the refugee “crisis,” the number of irregular non-citizens apprehended in the country has decreased dramatically, including a 90 percent drop between 2015 and 2017.[1] Despite this decrease, immigration detention has remained a key tool in Bulgaria’s response to migration and asylum flows, in addition to other measures such as the construction of a border fence.

A 2019 report on the treatment of asylum seekers in four frontline European Union (EU) countries, which was produced by several European NGOs—including the Global Detention Project (GDP), the Bulgarian Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR), and the Hungarian Helsinki Society (HHC)—found that “Exceptional measures of a temporary character” like mass detention have become “normalised” in Bulgarian public discourse. The report noted the contradictory rationales used to characterise these measures, which are presented as a “humanitarian” response even as officials describe the actions as protecting the public from national security threats.”[2] 

In 2018, Bulgaria was one of several central and eastern EU countries that refused to endorse the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM).[3] Although the country held the EU presidency for the first time while the GCM was being drafted, the government argued that the non-binding document, which was signed by more than 150 countries, would weaken its ability to control migration.[4]

Bulgaria, which has the lowest gross domestic product per capita in the European Union, has experienced a steady emigration haemorrhage since 1990.[5] Nevertheless, it has spent some 85 million EUR on a razor-wire fence along its south-eastern border to prevent irregular crossings. Construction began in 2014, at the height of the “refugee crisis” when the country was experiencing an influx of Syrian refugees, and was completed in October 2017. Described as a “temporary fence facility” by the government, it stretches for over 236 km along the country’s border with Turkey.[6]

Many migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees have experienced pushbacks back into Turkey, a practice that numerous NGOs have denounced. According to Save the Children, “the largest number of violent pushbacks (involving children in 2018) was reported at the borders between Bulgaria and Turkey (154).”[7] UNHCR has also raised the issue of pushbacks with Bulgarian authorities.[8]  

The massive costs associated with building the border fence have also been a source of controversy. In 2017, the Supreme Cassation Court “ordered the State Agency for National Security and the State Financial Inspection Agency to investigate allegations of corruption amongst senior state officials” in relation to the project.[9]

Bulgarian border control has been bolstered by the deployment of the European Border and Coast Guard (formerly Frontex) along its land borders with Turkey and Serbia. In 2017, this was comprised of “126 officers (including crew members of the deployed assets) supported by 6 thermo-vision vehicles, 38 patrol cars, 1 CO2 detector, 39 smartdeck cameras and 3 mobile offices.”[10]

According to reports, certain nationalities of asylum applicants face discrimination in the treatment of their claims in Bulgaria, which observers say is used as a deterrence measure.[11] This would likely amount to a violation of both domestic and international laws. Often held in detention for more than three months while their applications are assessed, asylum seekers from countries like Pakistan, Ukraine, Algeria, and Turkey have reportedly had their claims systematically rejected, resulting in a zero percent recognition rate for those nationalities. The recognition rate for Afghan asylum seekers was just 1.5 percent in 2017,[12] compared to the 46 percent overall EU average.[13]

 

2. LAWS, POLICIES, PRACTICES                                         

2.1 Key norms. The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria sets out safeguards against arbitrary detention (Article 30). Two laws regulate entry, residence, detention, and removal of migrants and asylum seekers: The 1998 Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria[14] (LFRB) (Закон За Чужденците В Република България), as amended as of April 2019,[15] and the Law on Asylum and Refugees[16] (LARB) (Закон за убежището и бежанците), as amended as of April 2019.

Bulgarian law employs euphemistic language in characterising the administrative detention of migrants and asylum seekers, referring to “compulsory accommodation” in “special homes for temporary accommodation of foreigners” (LFRB Article 44(6)). Regulations for the Application of the Law on the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria (2011), which were last amended in June 2018, clarify the implementation of the LFRB.[17]

2.2 Grounds for detention. Article 44(6) of the LFRB includes the following grounds for administrative immigration-related detention: 1) to effect removal; 2) to prevent absconding; 3) when non-citizens obstruct the execution of their removal; and 4) when non-citizens do not fulfil conditions for non-custodial measures. In addition, Article 45(b) of the LARB includes grounds for detention during the asylum process (see: 2.3 Asylum seekers).

In 2016, Bulgaria introduced new provisions concerning establishing or verifying a person’s identity. The provision allows relevant authorities[18] to issue short-term “accommodation” (detention) orders for up to 30 days to establish identity and to assess the subsequent measures that should be taken. This type of detention is to take place in “special units” within the Migration Directorate’s detention centres.[19] The introduction of short-term detention, according to observers, legalised the existing practice of detaining non-citizens at the border in the Elhovo “distribution centre,” which previously had occurred in the absence of specific detention orders.[20]

2.3 Asylum seekers. Article 45b(1-4) of the LARB provides grounds for asylum seekers to be “accommodated in a closed centre” (i.e. placed in detention) temporarily and for the shortest possible period of time. Detention is allowed in order to 1) establish and verify the non-citizen’s identity or nationality; 2) establish the facts and circumstances on which the application for international protection is based where this cannot be done in any other way and there is a risk that the non-citizen may abscond; 3) where it is necessary to protect national security or public order; 4) to establish the state responsible for examining the asylum application and to transfer the foreigner to the competent state and where there is also a risk of absconding. However, according to Article 54b(2), foreigners cannot be placed in detention solely because they have applied for asylum, while Article 45c(2) provides that the decision to detain an asylum seeker should take into consideration whether they belong to a vulnerable group.

Asylum seekers are, however, most commonly placed in immigration detention under LFRB Article 44(13).[21] (See: 2.2 Grounds for detention.)

In 2017, 3,700 persons applied for asylum in Bulgaria,[22] a sharp decrease compared to the 19,336 applications received in 2016 and 11,081 in 2014, the year that work started on the fence at the Bulgarian-Turkish border. Prior to the 2014-2016 surge, applications were substantially lower: 1,387 applications were lodged in 2012 and 893 in 2011.[23] According to the Ministry of Interior, the main countries of origin for asylum seekers in 2017 were Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Iran.[24] During that year, 1,459 persons applying for asylum did so from an immigration detention centre.[25]

The detention of asylum seekers, however, appears to contravene Article 31 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.[26] In 2017, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) urged Bulgaria to end the practice of mandatory detention for undocumented asylum seekers.[27] During the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Bulgaria in 2015, Brazil recommended that Bulgaria reform its legislation authorising the detention of asylum seekers on the basis of illegal entry,[28] echoing a 2011 recommendation by the Committee against Torture (CAT).[29] More recently, in November 2018, the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) recommended that Bulgaria “avoid placing asylum seekers in detention except as a last resort and for the shortest period possible, establish a mechanism for the identification of vulnerable applicants, (and) provide effective alternatives to detention.”[30]

In 2018, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) also recalled its position that asylum seekers should only be deprived of liberty as an exceptional measure, and that they should be held separately from foreign nationals who have not lodged an application for international protection.[31] The CPT’s general stance is that asylum seekers should enjoy broader safeguards than “irregular migrants.”[32]

As quoted by the Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR), the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court ruled in January 2018 that “the submission of an application for international protection is a statutory fact that puts an end to immigration detention. … The reasoning of the court has been that the return procedure is suspended and therefore removal detention of asylum seekers does not serve a lawful purpose.”[33]

There is a history of discriminatory treatment against certain nationalities of asylum seekers in Bulgaria. In 2017, single young Afghan adults, as well as applicants from Turkey, Algeria, Indonesia, and China, were screened while in detention as a method of deterrence.[34] According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, these nationalities spent an average of 3.8 months in detention—significantly longer than the 19-day average detention period for other immigration detainees in 2017. According to NGO reports, short-term detention to determine identity was mostly applied to Syrians in Lyubimets Detention Centre in the first six months of 2018 and to Iraqis in the Sofia Busmantsi Detention Centre. Advocates have observed that the introduction of short-term detention legalised the existing practice of detaining non-citizens at the border in the Elhovo “distribution centre,” which used to take place without a detention order.[35]

2.4 Children. According to Article 44(9) of the LFRB, accompanied minors can be “forcibly accommodated” (i.e. detained) for up to three months. In its response to the CPT’s 2017 report following its visit to the Lyubimets centre, the Bulgarian government stated: “The placement of migrant minors accompanied by a parent or other adult is regulated by the Law ... as an exceptional option. … Forced accommodation does not apply to minors. … The measure applies if necessary due to the principle of family reunification and the lack of a developed system of resident social services for families of illegally staying migrants.”[36]

In practice, 736 children were detained in 2017, a marked decrease from 2016 (6,068) and 2015 (7,647).[37] Children are particularly at risk as they may share dormitories with unrelated men (see: 3.3 Conditions in detention).

LFRB Article 44(9) provides that “forced accommodation” does not apply to unaccompanied minors. However, Article 45e(2) appears to allow the detention of “minor aliens seeking international protection.” This paradoxical situation is the result of the transposition of the recast Reception Conditions Directive 2013/33/EU that introduced the detention of asylum seekers for the first time in January 2016.[38]

According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, “in practice, both asylum-seeking and other migrant unaccompanied children continue to be detained in pre-removal detention centres. Unaccompanied children arrested by the Border Police upon entry or, if arrested during their attempt to exit Bulgaria irregularly, are assigned (“attached”) to any of the adults present in the group with which the children travelled, which has been a steady practice ongoing for last couple of years.”[39] 

According to the Annual Border Monitoring Report under the Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) (see: 2.11 Domestic monitoring) there were 198 cases of unaccompanied children being “attached” to unrelated adults by police authorities in 2016, and 141 in 2017.[40] In November 2018, the Human Rights Committee highlighted the practice when it stated “While noting that national law prohibits detention of unaccompanied children, the Committee is concerned that this rule is reportedly circumvented in practice by “attaching” unaccompanied children to unrelated adults or registering such children as adults (art. 9 and 24).”[41] The issue was similarly raised in 2015 during the UPR of Bulgaria by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), when Sweden and Belgium recommended that children should not be detained with unrelated adults.[42]

The detention of children in general has also been a subject of focus for human rights monitoring bodies. In 2018, the CPT recommended that the detention of minors and their parents “should only occur as a last resort, and if, in exceptional circumstances, such placement cannot be avoided, its duration should be as short as possible.” The CPT found no unaccompanied children in detention in Lyubimets centre during its visit in October 2017. However, it did find 43 accompanied children (including infants) and observed that there were “no adapted food and clothes, no toys, and it was difficult to obtain nappies for infants and sanitary materials for women.” [43] Previously, in 2016, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recommended that Bulgaria avoid detaining asylum seekers under 18 as well as families with children,[44] and during the 2015 UPR, Brazil recommended that “detention of asylum seekers, particularly children, be applied only in exceptional circumstances after due diligence.”[45]

In December 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Bulgaria had violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) in its detention of an Iraqi family in a border police-operated short-term detention facility in Vidin.[46] Intercepted at the Bulgarian/Serbian border, three Iraqi minors, accompanied by their parents, were detained for 32 to 41 hours in conditions that the ECtHR stated were the worst that had been presented to the court. The cell that they were held in was dirty, with litter and damp cardboard on the floor, detainees had no option but to urinate on the floor of the cell, and authorities did not give them food or drink for more than 24 hours. Moreover, “the mother had only been given access to the baby bottle and the milk of the youngest applicant, who was one-and-a-half years old, about nineteen hours after they had been taken into custody.”[47] As the ECtHR concluded, “The combination of the above-mentioned factors must have considerably affected the applicants, both physically and psychologically, and must have had particularly nefarious effects on the youngest applicant in view of his very young age.”[48]

2.5 Other vulnerable groups. Article 17 (new - SG 80/2005, in force from 16.10.2015) of the LARB includes a definition of vulnerable persons: Persons from a vulnerable group “shall be minors, unaccompanied minors, persons with disabilities, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with juveniles, victims of trafficking in human beings, people with severe health problems, people with mental disorders and those who have suffered torture, rape or other serious forms of mental, physical or sexual violence.”

Although the number of persons placed in immigration detention drastically decreased between 2015 and 2017 (due to a 91 percent drop in irregular arrivals to Bulgaria), the proportion of women placed in immigration detention doubled from 10.7 percent in 2015 to 22 percent in 2017.[49]

LFRB Article 14(2), which regulates places of immigration detention, provides that non-citizens of different genders, families, and minors should be accommodated in “separate parts of the bed sector.”[50] Furthermore, LARB Article 45e(4) provides that female asylum seekers should be separated from males, unless they are relatives and the women have given their consent.

In practice, the CPT reported that in October 2017, accommodation at Lyubimets Detention Centre was “particularly dangerous for women and minors (including infants), who had to share the same dormitories with often unrelated adult men (the latter accommodated together with their respective families), locked at night in total darkness (electricity being switched off between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.).” In July 2018, NGOs also reported detainees' complaints that dormitories in Busmantsi and Lyubimets were locked at night, meaning that they could not go to the toilet.[51]

The CPT thus recommended that women and minors should not share dormitories with unrelated adult male detainees.[52] In its response to the CPT in October 2018, the Government of Bulgaria announced that a new regime would be introduced, and that dormitories housing families and children would no longer be locked at night.[53]

2.6 Length of detention. According to LFRB Articles 44(6) and (8), non-citizens can be “imposed a compulsory administrative measure” (i.e. detained) for up to six months, with monthly reviews of their detention. This initial period can exceptionally be extended for an additional 12 months, and the subsequent 18-month immigration detention limit reflects provisions in the EU Returns Directive.[54] According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, some nationalities spend longer in detention than others: specifically, in 2017 non-citizens from Afghanistan, Turkey, Algeria, Indonesia, and China spent an average of 3.8 months in detention, which was considerably longer than the 19-day average detention period for other nationalities (see section 2.3 Asylum seekers).

In practice, the average detention time in Busmantsi and Lyubimets rose from 25 and 24 days to 59 and 52 days between 2015 and 2017.[55] After their first visit to the Lyubimets centre in 2017, the CPT noted “the average detention period was 2 to 3 months, but the delegation spoke with several foreign nationals (mostly single adult males) who claimed having been at the establishment for much longer periods (more than a year).”[56] In November 2018, the Human Rights Committee recommended that Bulgaria “reduce the length and practice of detaining migrants.”[57]

2.7 Procedural guarantees. According to NGO research, an amendment to the LFRB in 2017 significantly reduced the legal avenues available to non-citizens wishing to challenge the prolongation of detention. LFRB Article 46a provides that detention can be challenged within 14 days after detention, but such an appeal is not suspensive. The court must make a decision within one month and the first instance decision may be appealed before the Supreme Administrative Court which has two months to deliver a decision. The legality of short-term placement in detention under LFRB Article 44(13) may be appealed under the Administrative Appeal Procedure Code.[58] The appeal is not suspensive and the court must rule on the appeal immediately.

In December 2017, the automatic review of detention every six months (and up to the 18 months limit) was repealed.[59] As a result, the only possibility to challenge a 12-month prolongation of detention after the initial six months is through an individual appeal no later than 14 days after the detention order is served.[60]

In November 2018, the Human Rights Committee recommended that Bulgaria “should ensure that any detention is justified as reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the light of the individual’s circumstances, that it is subject to periodic judicial review, and that asylum seekers and migrants have access to qualified legal aid when the interests of justice so require.”[61] In 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) also recommended that Bulgaria ensure due process and fair trial guarantees for detainees.[62] Meanwhile, in 2011 the CAT recommended that police officers should be instructed to ensure that all detainees are granted access to a lawyer from the outset of their detention, as is legally required.[63]

In 2017 the ECtHR found a violation of Article 5§4 of the ECHR (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention) in the case of a stateless man of Palestinian origin.[64]

Article 45c(3) of the LFRB provides that detention orders must be issued in writing and must indicate the detention ground and the time limit for appeal, as well as the possibility for receiving free legal assistance. Article 45e guarantees visits by persons providing legal assistance and legal counsel, as well as representatives from NGOs and international organisations.

According to NGOs however, these guidelines tend not be adhered to in practice. Instead, asylum seekers and other persons in detention are “informed orally by the detention staff of the reasons of their detention and the possibility to challenge it in court, but not about the possibility and the methods of applying for legal aid.” Moreover, as a principle, detainees are not informed in a language that they can understand.[65]

2.8 Detaining authorities and institutions. As per LFRB Article 44, “compulsory administrative measures” (i.e. detention) can be imposed by bodies under the Ministry of Interior including the Chairman of the State Agency for National Security, the Migration Directorate, the Directors of the Chief Directorates of the National Police, the border police and police fighting against organised crime, and regional directorates (as well as officials authorised by them).

2.9 Non-custodial measures. Article 44(5)(1-3) of the LFRB provides for non-custodial measures including weekly reporting to a local Ministry of Interior office; release on bail or provision of a guarantor; and deposit of a valid passport or travel documents. According to GDP sources, release on bail is not used in practice, and the deposit of documents and weekly reporting are used infrequently. In July 2018, a regulation was adopted concerning concrete procedures for release measures by means of a money bond of 500 to 5,000 BGN (approximately 255 to 2,555 EUR) or by handing over a travel document (passport).[66] Article 45(a) of the LARB also provides for the non-citizen’s “mandatory appearance” every two weeks during proceedings.

The CERD (2017) and the Human Rights Committee (2018) recommended that Bulgaria develop alternatives to detention, and the CRC has also emphasised the need for “unconditional release.”[67]

2.10 Regulation of detention conditions. Conditions are regulated through Ordinance № Iз-1201 of 1 June 2010 on the Provision of Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in the Special Houses for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners and their Staff and for their Organisation and their Activity (amended, as of 30 June 2017), issued by the Minister of the Interior.[68]

2.11 Domestic monitoring. Article 45e of the LARB guarantees visits by persons providing legal assistance and legal counsel, as well as NGO and IGO representatives. Various Bulgarian NGOs have access to detainees in places of detention, including lawyers from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC), the Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR), the Center for Legal Aid - Voice in Bulgaria (CLA), and Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights (BLHR).

A Tripartite MoU on Modalities of Mutual Cooperation and Coordination to Support the Access of Persons Seeking Protection to the Territory and the Procedure for Granting Protection was signed on 14 April 2010 by UNHCR, the BHC, and the General Directorate of Border Police (GDBP) with the Ministry of Interior.[69] The MoU “grants access to any national border and/or 24-hour detention facility at the land or air border, including transit halls at international airports, without limitation to the number of monitoring visits.” Access is granted without prior permission or the imposition of specific conditions.

2.12 International monitoring. In recent years, detention policies and practices in Bulgaria have received regular and in-depth scrutiny from regional and international human rights mechanisms and bodies.

Following its visit to Bulgaria in October-November 2017, the CPT issued an extensive list of detailed recommendations in 2018, such as that asylum seekers should only be deprived of liberty as an exceptional measure.[70] (For more of the CPT’s recommendations, see: 2.3 Asylum seekers, 2.4 Children, 2.5 Other vulnerable groups, and 3.3 Conditions in detention.)

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights visited Bulgaria in February 2015, and similarly challenged the detention of asylum seekers in urging Bulgaria not to adopt legislation providing for their systematic detention. The Commissioner also called on the country to immediately cease the detention of persons pending registration as asylum seekers, and to use detention for the purpose of removal only as a last resort, for the shortest possible period of time, and on the basis of individual assessment. He also reiterated that migrant children, both accompanied and non-accompanied, should never be detained as detention is not in their best interest.[71]

Following visits in 2016, OHCHR highlighted that “virtually all people entering Bulgaria in an irregular manner are detained as a matter of course.” Responding to the visits, the High Commissioner stated that criminalising migrants for entering and exiting Bulgaria irregularly raised concerns about the country's compliance with international law and warned against recent legislation allowing for the detention of asylum seekers. The monitoring team also found that “conditions in some migrant detention facilities were degrading, with the extremely dilapidated and insanitary Elhovo transit centre in eastern Bulgaria of particular concern.”[72]

In 2017 the CERD adopted a series of recommendations (see: 2.3 Asylum seekers, 2.7 Procedural guarantees, 2.9 Non-custodial measures, 2.12 Criminalisation, and 3.3 Conditions in detention).[73] Similarly, the CRC issued recommendations in 2016 (see: 2.4 Children, and 2.9 Non-custodial measures),[74] as did the Human Rights Committee in 2018 (see: 2.3 Asylum seekers, 2.4 Children, 2.6 Length of detention, 2.7 Procedural guarantees, and 2.9 Non-custodial measures). During the UPR of Bulgaria in 2015, UN members states such as Brazil and Sweden also made a number of recommendations (see: 2.4 Children, 2.3 Asylum seekers, and 3.3 Conditions in detention).[75]

2.13 Criminalisation. Under Article 279(1) and (2) of the Criminal Code of Bulgaria, failure to enter Bulgaria—or cross the Bulgarian border—without a permit is an offence punishable with imprisonment for up to five years (and six years for re-entry), as well as a fine of up to 300 BGN (approximately 153 EUR).[76] Article 31 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which prevents state authorities from imposing penalties upon asylum seekers on grounds of irregular entry or presence, has been transposed in Article 279(5) of the Criminal Code. However, in practice the non-penalisation clause has largely been respected since 2014: in 2015, there were no convictions, in 2016 there were 17, and in 2017 there were 15. However, there are reports that 3.5 percent of asylum seekers arriving at the border “were prevented to apply for asylum at the border, allegedly, in order to be convicted beforehand.”[77]

In 2017, the CERD recommended that Bulgaria investigate excessive use of force by law officials at the border and within detention facilities, refrain from engaging in pushbacks and refoulement, and decriminalise irregular border crossing.

2.14 Privatisation. The GDP does not have information regarding the extent to which private actors are involved in providing services in Bulgarian detention centres.

2.15 Cost of detention. The GDP does not have information concerning the cost of specific immigration detention-related activities in Bulgaria.

2.16 Externalisation, readmission, and third-country agreements. Bulgaria is bound by 14 EU multilateral readmission agreements, including with: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Georgia, Hong Kong, Macao, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine. In May 2016, Bulgaria signed the first bilateral protocol between Turkey and an EU state implementing the readmission agreement linked to the March 2016 EU-Turkey agreement.[78]

Bulgaria has also concluded bilateral readmission agreements with Armenia, Macedonia (FYROM), Kosovo, Lebanon, Serbia, Switzerland, and Uzbekistan.[79] In its 2014 report to the European Migration Network, the Bulgarian National Contact Point (EMN-NCP) wrote: “As Bulgaria applies readmissions mainly with neighbouring countries there is no ground to assess added value of the bilateral readmission agreements signed.”[80] In 2017, Bulgaria removed 405 non-citizens to other countries under readmission agreements, including 105 to Turkey (all Turkish citizens).

In 2017, Bulgaria received 446 persons returned from other EU states under the EU Dublin Regulation. According to joint monitoring reports under the Tripartite MoU (see: 2.11 Domestic monitoring), all transferees, except those served with a final rejection from the State Agency for Refugees, were released by the Border Police upon arrival due to a change in national regulations.[81]

2.17 Transparency and access to information. Immigration and asylum laws detail provisions and conditions for immigration detention. National civil society organisations are permitted access to places of immigration detention and are also provided with responses to freedom of information requests.[82] (See: 2.11 Domestic monitoring and 2.12 International monitoring.)

2.18 Trends and statistics. The numbers of irregular non-citizens apprehended in Bulgaria decreased from 34,056 in 2015 to 2,989 in 2017. However, during this same period the percentage of persons placed in immigration detention in relation to the number of apprehensions increased from 81 percent in 2015 (27,724 persons) to 111 percent in 2017 (3,332 persons).

Between 2015 and 2017, the average detention time in the Busmantsi and Lyubimets detention centres rose from 25 and 24 days to 59 and 52 days, respectively.[83] According to reports under the joint Tripartite MoU in 2017, 743 persons were apprehended that year upon irregular entry, and 2,413 upon irregular exit (445 of whom were deemed “new arrivals”). It marked the third year in a row that persons apprehended upon exit surpassed those apprehended upon entry, reflecting Bulgaria’s role as a country of transit for those en route to central and western Europe.[84]

2.19 External sources of funding or assistance. Acccording to EU documents published in the early 2000s, Bulgaria’s immigration detention estate was established with support from the EU and a European Commission (EC) PHARE twinning project supported by Sweden and Germany.[85]

While EU “neighbourhood” states such as Libya and Turkey have received multi-million EU grants for migration management and border control, the European Economic and Social Committee reported that “The EU has refused to finance any part of the fence's construction at the South Eastern border of Bulgaria.”[86] In 2016, however, the EC did respond to the Bulgarian authorities’ requests for assistance, announcing up to 108 million EUR in emergency funding to support border and migration management.[87]

According to the Bulgarian government, the staff at both Lyubimets and Busmantsi detention centres participated in five training sessions organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Held at both detention centres in September 2017, these sessions took place within the framework of the IOM’s project “Working with Vulnerable Migrants and Persons Seeking Protection and Protection of Human Rights.”[88]

 

3. DETENTION INFRASTRUCTURE

3.1 Summary. Bulgaria employs a range of facilities for the purposes of depriving migrants and asylum seekers of their liberty. These facilities are characterised in law using euphemistic language: non-citizens can be “accommodated in closed-type centres,” as per Article 45b of the Law on Asylum and Refugees (LARB); or they can be “issued an order for compulsory accommodation in a special home for temporary accommodation of foreigners,” as per Article 44(6)(7) of the Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria (LFRB).

3.2 Detention facilities. As of early 2019, there were two dedicated immigration detention centres in Bulgaria: in Busmantsi (close to the capital Sofia), and in Lyubimets (within the southern-central province of Haskovo, close to the Greek and Turkish borders). A third centre was opened in Elhovo in 2013, close to the Turkish border, which authorities dubbed a “distribution” or “allocation” centre for short-term detention. With no legal provisions for short-term detention facilities, Elhovo was established through an order by the Ministry of Interior.[89] In 2015, NGOs reported that persons applying for asylum at the border were sent to the centre without detention orders,[90] and in January 2017 the facility was closed for “reorganization and repair activities”—although authorities later indicated that it would be closed indefinitely, unless the country faced a surge in arrivals.[91]

According to reports by NGOs and the Bulgarian Ombudsman, in 2017 the State Agency for Refugees announced plans to transform Pastrogor Transit Centre (in the same area as the Lyubimets centre) and one block in Harmanly Registration and Admission Centre into closed-type centres for asylum seekers.[92] However, the GDP has found no information about the implementation of those plans. The ombudsman reported in 2017 that “Amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) with the Council of Ministers (promulgated SG no. 70 of 9 September 2016) regulate the powers of the SAR chairperson to designate specific closed-type centres with SAR Local branches.”

Reports indicate that immigration detention facilities in Bulgaria have prison-like settings. Busmantsi centre, which was opened in 2006 in a small town 13 kilometres from Sofia, was established in a former juvenile prison and is surrounded by a high spiked fence. The 400-bed facility was used to detain 1,102 people in 2017.[93] That year it was also reported that one derelict block was unused while three other blocks were “infrastructurally sound but hauntingly brutal: clothes hang from barred windows, and immigration police are stationed at every corner … it is a lifeless soul-sapping place.”[94]

Following a visit to the centre in 2017, the Bulgarian Ombudsman, acting as a National Preventive Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) reported the death of an asylum seeker.[95] The ombudsman team called for the creation of a medical office inside the centre and found the centre’s arrangement for a doctor to come twice a week to be insufficient.

The Lyubimets centre, which has a capacity of 300, was opened in 2011. 853 persons were detained in the centre in 2017.[96]

3.3 Conditions in detention. Conditions in so-called “special homes for accommodation of foreigners” are well below standards and have been denounced by national civil society and regional international human rights mechanisms. Premises are not only badly maintained but lack any form of recreation—either indoors or outdoors—and TVs and radios do not function. Following a visit to Lyubimets in 2017, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) stated that “the only positive features were an open-door policy during the day and the daily access (between 9 a.m. and noon and between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.) to a spacious (but bare) asphalted outdoor area.”[97]

In general, the chief Council of Europe anti-torture watchdog found conditions in Lyubimets to be “very poor, with large-capacity dormitories being dilapidated, filthy and crammed with bunk beds.” It detailed the need to reduce occupancy levels in dormitories; replace or repair broken furniture; clean sanitary facilities and ensure they are properly maintained; initiate de-infestation measures to eliminate the problem of bed bugs; provide lockable personal lockers; ensure detainees have access to a toilet at all times; and provide personal hygiene items (sanitary material for women, nappies for infants), clothing and shoes, and appropriate food arrangements (including baby food and suitable nutrition for those with specific dietary habits). In addition, the CPT requested that detainees are provided with information in a language they can understand so that they may request items from the centre's administration.

Concerned by the insufficient provision of healthcare at the centre, the CPT made further recommendations to strengthen support for detainees. These included ensuring that detainees have access to external specialists such as a dentist, gynaecologist, obstetrician, paediatrician, and psychiatrist; providing non-citizens with interpretation when necessary; and improving the quality of medical screening upon arrival. Noting that some custodial staff were equipped with truncheons, even within the accommodation area, the CPT also recommended that authorities cease this “intimidating and unjustified practice.” [98] 

In 2017, the CERD recommended that Bulgaria “continue improving the capacity and material conditions of reception centres, and ensure that all asylum seekers have access to basic services, including health care, psychological assistance and education.”[99] The CERD also called for investigations into the excessive use of force at borders and in places of detention.[100]

During the UPR of Bulgaria by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2015, Sweden recommended that detainees should be treated in a humane and dignified manner and that children should not be detained with unrelated adults.[101] In 2016, a Bulgarian court decided that provisions allowing for placement in isolation cells and body searches introduced in the Regulation for Detention Centres (Regulation on the Temporary Placement of Foreigners and the Organization and Activity of the Special Homes for the Temporary Placement of Foreigners) were unlawful as they were not included in the LFRB.[102] This lawsuit was initiated by the Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights (BLHR).

 


[1] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[2] Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[3] Austria, Italy, Latvia, and Romania also abstained. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland voted against the compact. Slovakia did not participate in the vote.

[4] UN News, “General Assembly Endorses First-Ever Global Compact on Migration, Urging Cooperation among Member States in Protecting Migrants,” 19 December 2018, https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/ga12113.doc.htm

[5] According to a consensus of local experts, Bulgaria’s population shrunk by 2 million to 7.1 million in the years following 1990 See: K. Hope, “Bulgaria Battles to Stop its Brain Drain,” Financial Times, 11 January 2018, https://on.ft.com/2NrgToQ

[6] European Migration Network, “Annual Report on Migration and Asylum 2017 – National report Part 2 – Bulgaria,” 2017, https://bit.ly/2xwA31M

[7] Save the Children, “Hundreds of Children Report Police Violence at EU Borders,” 24 December 2018, https://bit.ly/2T8wCrb

[8] UNHCR, “Desperate Journeys - Refugees and Migrants Arriving in Europe and at Europe’s Borders:  January-August 2018,” 2018, http://www.unhcr.org/desperatejourneys/

[9] C. Leviev-Sawyer, “Bulgarian Prosecution Orders Probe into Alleged Corruption in Turkish Border Fence Project,” IBNA, 8 June 2017, https://bit.ly/2MP9ryP; Bulgaria was ranked lowest among EU countries at 71/180 in the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index – see: Transparency International, “Corruption Perceptions Index - 2017,” https://www.transparency.org/country/BGR

[10] European Commission, “Fifth Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council on the Operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard,” 2 September 2017, https://bit.ly/2xwfm63

[11] I. Savova (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee), “Country Report: Bulgaria – 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria

[12] “Report of the Fact-Finding Mission by Ambassador Tomás Bocek, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees to Bulgaria, 13-17 November 2017, SG/Inf(2018)18,” Council of Europe, 19 April 2018, https://rm.coe.int/report-of-the-fact-finding-mission-by-ambassador-tomas-bocek-special-r/16807be041; I. Savova (Bulgarian Helsinki Committee), “Country Report: Bulgaria - 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria 

[13] Eurostat, “EU Member States Granted Protection to More than Half a Million Asylum Seekers in 2017,” 19 April 2018, https://bit.ly/2z8lNR4

[14] Закон За Чужденците В Република България

[15] Law on Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria, amended up to 2016 (in English), http://www.bulgarian-citizenship.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/FOREIGNERS-IN-THE-REPUBLIC-OF-BULGARIA-ACT.pdf  as amended as of April 2019, (in Bulgarian), https://lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2134455296

[16] Закон за убежището и бежанците

[17] The Sofia Globe, “Bulgarian Government Approves Changes to Foreigners Act Regulations,” 20 June 2018, https://bit.ly/2Kw8bnf

[18] As per LFRB Article 44.1: “the Chairman of the State Agency “National Security,” the Directors of the Chief Directorates “National Police,” “Border Police” and “Fighting Organised Crime,” the Directors of the Capital and Regional Directorates, the Director of the Migration Directorate, the Directors of the regional directorates “Border Police” at the Ministry of Interior and of officials authorized by them.”

[19] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[20] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[21] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[22] State Agency for Refugees, “Actual Information and Reports,” https://www.aref.government.bg/index.php/bg/aktualna-informacia-i-spravki

[23] UNHCR, “Statistical Yearbook 2016”; “Statistical Yearbook 2014”; “Statistical Yearbook 2012,” and “Statistical Yearbook 2011,” https://www.unhcr.org/statistical-yearbooks.html 

[24] UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2017 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 June 2018, https://bit.ly/2H2tlso

[25] UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2017 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 June 2018, https://bit.ly/2H2tlso

[26] Article 31 (1): “1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.” https://bit.ly/2RV8Q1H

[27] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Twentieth to Twenty-Second Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CERD/C/BGR/CO/20-22,” 31 May 2017, https://bit.ly/2IqepQk

[28] UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Bulgaria, A/HRC/30/10,” 8 July 2015, https://bit.ly/2MtlPoa

[29] UN Committee against Torture (CAT), “Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 19 of the Convention Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture, CAT/C/BGR/CO/4-5,” 14 December 2011, https://bit.ly/2tIgP7s

[30] UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR), “Concluding Observations on the Fourth Periodic Report of Bulgaria, CCPR/C/BGR/C/4,” 15 November 2018, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt

[31] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 September to 6 October 2017,” 4 May 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16807c4b74

[32] See: ““Detained irregular migrants” is the term used to denote persons who have been deprived of their liberty under aliens legislation either because they have entered a country illegally (or attempted to do so) or because they have overstayed their legal permission to be in the country in question. It should be noted that asylum seekers are not irregular migrants, although the persons concerned may become so should their asylum application be rejected and their leave to stay in a country rescinded. Whenever asylum seekers are deprived of their liberty pending the outcome of their application, they should be afforded a wide range of safeguards in line with their status, going beyond those applicable to irregular migrants.” In European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), “Extract from the 19th General Report of the CPT - Safeguards for Irregular Migrants Deprived of their Liberty,” October 2009, https://bit.ly/2A4ZQjB

[33] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[34] I. Savova, “Country Report: Bulgaria - 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria 

[35] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[36] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “Response of the Bulgarian Government to the Report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on its Visit to Bulgaria from 25 September to 6 October 2017, CPT/Inf (2018) 46,”  23 October 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16808e839e

[37] Ministry of the Interior, Decision to grant access to public information No.812104-158 of 29.06.2018, in V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM

[38] V. Ilareva, “Detention of Asylum Seekers: Interaction Between the Return and Reception Conditions Directives in Bulgaria,” eumigrationlawblog, 25 November 2015, https://bit.ly/2zZ0XBx

[39] I. Savova, “Country Report: Bulgaria - 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria 

[40] UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2017 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 June 2018, https://bit.ly/2H2tlso

[41] UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR), “Concluding Observations on the Fourth Periodic Report of Bulgaria, CCPR/C/BGR/C/4,” 15 November 2018, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt

[42] Human Rights Council (HRC), “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Bulgaria, A/HRC/30/10,” 8 July 2015, https://bit.ly/2MtlPoa

[43] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 September to 6 October 2017,” 4 May 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16807c4b74

[44] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Third to Fifth Periodic Reports of Bulgaria,CRC/C/BGR/CO/3-5,” 21 November 2016, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt

[45] UN Human Rights Council (HRC), “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Bulgaria, A/HRC/30/10,” 8 July 2015, https://bit.ly/2MtlPoa

[46] “S.F. and others v. Bulgaria (application no. 8138/16) [Article 3 ECHR],” 7 December 2017, https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{“itemid”:[“002-11765”]}

[47] European Court of Human Rights, “Information Note on the Court’s Case-Law 213, S.F. and Others v. Bulgaria - 8138/16,” December 2017,  https://bit.ly/2lP0FWg

[48] European Court of Human Rights, “Information Note on the Court’s Case-Law 213, S.F. and Others v. Bulgaria - 8138/16,” December 2017,  https://bit.ly/2lP0FWg

[49] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[50] Ordinance No. Із-1201 of 1 June 2010 on the Procedure for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in the Special Homes for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners and Their Units and for the Organization of Their Activity (in Bulgarian:) Наредба № Із-1201 От 1 Юни 2010 Г. За Реда За Временно Настаняване На Чужденци В Специалните Домове За Временно Настаняване На Чужденци И В Техните Звена И За Организацията И Дейността Им (Загл. Изм. - Дв, Бр. 52 От 2017 Г., В Сила От 30.06.2017 Г.), https://lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2135684112

[51] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[52] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 September to 6 October 2017,” 4 May 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16807c4b74

[53] Council of Europe, “Response of the Bulgarian Government to the Report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on its Visit to Bulgaria from 25 September to 6 October 2017, CPT/Inf (2018) 46,” 23 October 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16808e839e

[54] Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, https://bit.ly/2RxG9Yx

[55] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[56] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 September to 6 October 2017,” 4 May 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16807c4b74

[57] UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), “Concluding Observations on the Fourth Periodic Report of Bulgaria, CCPR/C/BGR/C/4,” 15 November 2018, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt

[58] Administrative Procedure Code (Административнопроцесуален Кодекс), https://www.lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2135521015

[59] Article 46a(3)-(4) LARB, repealed by Law amending the LARB, State Gazette No 97, 5 December 2017, see: I. Savova, “Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Country Report: Bulgaria - 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria 

[60] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; Voice in Bulgaria, “Know your Rights: Changes in Bulgaria’s Immigration Detention Rules,” 23 July 2018, https://bit.ly/2AE61eN

[61] UN Human Rights Committee, “Concluding Observations on the Fourth Periodic Report of Bulgaria, CCPR/C/BGR/C/4,” 15 November 2018, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt

[62] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Twentieth to Twenty-Second Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CERD/C/BGR/CO/20-22,” 31 May 2017, https://bit.ly/2IqepQk

[63] UN Committee against Torture (CAT),” Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 19 of the Convention Concluding Observations of the Committee against Torture, CAT/C/BGR/CO/4-5,” 14 December 2011, https://bit.ly/2tIgP7s

[64] European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), “8M.M. v. Bulgaria, (no. 75832/13),” June 2017, https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-174116%22]}

[65] I. Savova, “Country Report: Bulgaria - 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria 

[66] Voice in Bulgaria, “Know Your Rights: Changes in Bulgaria’s Immigration Detention Rules,” 23 July 2018, https://bit.ly/2AE61eN

[67] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Twentieth to Twenty-Second Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CERD/C/BGR/CO/20-22,” 31 May 2017, https://bit.ly/2IqepQk; UN Human Rights Committee, “Concluding Observations on the Fourth Periodic Report of Bulgaria, CCPR/C/BGR/C/4,” 15 November 2018, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt;  UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Third to Fifth Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CRC/C/BGR/CO/3-5,” 21 November 2016, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt

[68] Ordinance No. Із-1201 of 1 June 2010 on the Procedure for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in the Special Homes for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners and Their Units and for the Organization of Their Activity (in Bulgarian:) Наредба Із-1201 От 1 Юни 2010 Г. За Реда За Временно Настаняване На Чужденци В Специалните Домове За Временно Настаняване На Чужденци И В Техните Звена И За Организацията И Дейността Им (Загл. Изм. - Дв, Бр. 52 От 2017 Г., В Сила От 30.06.2017 Г.), https://lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2135684112

[69] UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2017 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 June 2018, https://bit.ly/2H2tlso

[70] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 September to 6 October 2017,” 4 May 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16807c4b74

[71] Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report by Nils Muizniek Following his Visit to Bulgaria from 9 to 11 February 2015,” Council of Europe, https://rm.coe.int/ref/CommDH(2015)12

[72] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Jailing Migrants is not the Solution to Bulgaria’s Migration Challenges – Zeid,” United Nations, 11 August 2016, https://bit.ly/2POR3Yn

[73] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Twentieth to Twenty-Second Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CERD/C/BGR/CO/20-22,” 31 May 2017, https://bit.ly/2IqepQk

[74] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Third to Fifth Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CRC/C/BGR/CO/3-5,” 21 November 2016, https://bit.ly/2N1M8Tt

[75] Universal Periodic Review (UPR), “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, A/HRC/30/10,” Human Rights Council, 8 July 2015, https://bit.ly/2Sc4dR3

[76] Criminal Code of the Republic of Bulgaria (1968, amended 2017) (English version), https://bit.ly/2Fieck7

[77] UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2017 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 June 2018, http://www.bghelsinki.org/media/uploads/special/2017_annual_report_access_to_territory_and_asylum_procedure_en.pdf 

[78] TRT World, “Turkey, Bulgaria Sign Readmission Deal to Take Back Refugees,” 5 May 2016, https://bit.ly/2BuNyRH

[79] J.P. Cassarino, “Inventory of the Bilateral Agreements Linked to Readmission,” http://www.jeanpierrecassarino.com/datasets/ra/; Migration and Home Affairs, “Return & Readmission,” European Commission, 20 December 2018, https://bit.ly/2thDUfe; European Migration Network, “Good Practices in the Return and Reintegration of Irregular Migrants: Member States’ Entry Bans Policy & Use of Readmission Agreements between Member States and Third Countries,” 5 March 2014, https://bit.ly/2rLyAlE

[80] European Migration Network, “Good Practices in the Return and Reintegration of Irregular Migrants: Member States’ Entry Bans Policy & Use of Readmission Agreements Between Member States and Third Countries,” 5 March 2014, https://bit.ly/2rLyAlE

[81] UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2017 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 June 2018, https://bit.ly/2H2tlso

[82] Ministry of the Interior, Decision to grant access to information No.812104-158 of 29.06.2018, in V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM

[83] V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; see also: Hungarian Helsinki Committee et al, “Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers Upon Entry,” February 2019, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/crossing-red-line

[84] UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2017 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 June 2018, https://bit.ly/2Fg9PWQ

[85] European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, “Standard Summary Project Fiche, CRIS Number: BG2003/004-937.08.05,” https://bit.ly/2TGs8sl; and  Global Detention Project, “Bulgaria Immigration Detention Profile,” August 2011, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/bulgaria

[86] European Economic and Social Committee, “EESC Fact-Finding Missions on the Situation of Refugees, as Seen by Civil Society Organisations – Mission Report – Bulgaria, 25 and 26 January 2016,” https://www.eesc.europa.eu/en/documents/mission-report-bulgaria

[87] European Commission (EC), “European Commission Announces up to €108 Million in Emergency Funding to Bulgaria to Improve Border and Migration Management,” 16 September 2016, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-3088_en.htm

[88] Council of Europe, “Response of the Bulgarian Government to the Report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on its Visit to Bulgaria from 25 September to 6 October 2017, CPT/Inf (2018) 46,” 23 October 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16808e839e

[89] Ministry of Interior, REF. No 1887/07.10.2014, in UNHCR, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, and General Directorate of Border Police, “Bulgaria, 2014 Annual Border Monitoring Report – Access to Territory and International Protection,” 25 May 2015, https://bit.ly/2RoT1EA

[90] Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, “AIDA Report on Bulgaria, Fourth Update,” October 2015, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria; Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR), “An Alarming “Legalization” of the “Distribution Center” in Elhovo is Being Prepared,” April 2016, http://www.farbg.eu/bg/elhovo/  quoted in V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM

[91] Ministry of the Interior, Decision to grant access to information No.812104-158 of 29.06.2018, in V. Ilareva, “Advocacy Report on the “Red Line” Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry in Bulgaria,” Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR) / European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), July 2018, https://bit.ly/2PJlfZM; I. Savova, “Country Report: Bulgaria - 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria 

[92] I. Savova, “Country Report: Bulgaria - 2017 Update,” Asylum Information Database, February 2018, http://www.asylumineurope.org/reports/country/bulgaria; Bulgarian Ombudsman, “2017 Annual Report of the Ombudsman Acting as National Preventive Mechanism,” https://bit.ly/2LZqFuy 

[93] Ministry of Interior, Bulgaria, “Decision No 812104 – 158 of 29 June 2018 to Provide Access to Public Information,” 29 June 2018.

[94] I. Steel, “Observations from a Bulgarian Refugee Camp,” International Development Journal, 12 May 2017, https://idjournal.co.uk/2017/05/12/refugee-camps-in-bulgaria/

[95] Bulgarian Ombudsman, “2017 Annual Report of the Ombudsman Acting as National Preventive Mechanism,” https://bit.ly/2LZqFuy 

[96] Ministry of Interior, Bulgaria, “Decision No 812104 – 158 of 29 June 2018 to provide access to public information,” 29 June 2018.

[97] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 September to 6 October 2017,” 4 May 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16807c4b74

[98] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, Report to the Bulgarian Government on the Visit to Bulgaria Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 25 September to 6 October 2017,” 4 May 2018, https://rm.coe.int/16807c4b74

[99] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Twentieth to Twenty-Second Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CERD/C/BGR/CO/20-22,” 31 May 2017, https://bit.ly/2IqepQk

[100] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), “Concluding Observations on the Combined Twentieth to Twenty-Second Periodic Reports of Bulgaria, CERD/C/BGR/CO/20-22,” 31 May 2017, https://bit.ly/2IqepQk

[101] UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Bulgaria, A/HRC/30/10,” 8 July 2015, https://bit.ly/2MtlPoa

[102] R. Pavlov, “A Legal Victory: Detained Migrants in Bulgaria Can No Longer Be Subjected to Body Searches or Solitary Confinement,” DETAINED, 16 March 2016, https://bit.ly/2IwGUvH

Centres List

No detention centres data available

Statistics Expand all



2,989

Total number of immigration detainees by year

2017

  • Total number of immigration detainees by year
NumberObservation Date
2,9892017
3,3322017
18,3912016
11,3142016
27,7242015
11,9022015
5,9922014
2,7002013
6,3032013
5,4642013
2,0162012
2,0472012
1,0742011
1,0482011
9732010
8322009


Afghanistan

Top nationalities of detainees

2017

  • Top nationalities of detainees
Countries ordered by rankObservation Date
Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq2017


14

Number of persons granted alternatives to immigration detention

2017

  • Number of persons granted alternatives to immigration detention
NumberObservation Date
142017


37

Number of detained asylum seekers

2017

  • Number of detained asylum seekers
NumberObservation Date
372017
11,3142016


736

Total number of detained minors

2017

  • Total number of detained minors
NumberObservation Date
7362017
6672013
2472012


Not Available

Number of detained unaccompanied minors

2017

  • Number of detained unaccompanied minors
NumberObservation Date
Not Available2017


736

Number of detained accompanied minors

2017

  • Number of detained accompanied minors
NumberObservation Date
7362017


3

Number of detained stateless persons

2017

  • Number of detained stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
32017


1,305

Number of apprehensions of non-citizens

2018

  • Number of apprehensions of non-citizens
NumberObservation Date
1,3052018
2,5952017
14,1252016
20,8102015
12,8702014
5,2602013
2,0502012


8.71

Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population

2017

  • Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population
PercentageObservation Date
8.712017
9.332015
6.52013
1.282010


700

Estimated total immigration detention capacity

2017

  • Estimated total immigration detention capacity
NumberObservation Date
7002017


2

Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2017

  • Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
22017
32015


700

Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2017

  • Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
7002017
1,0402016
9402015


2

Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres

2017

  • Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
22017


710

Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)

2018

  • Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)
NumberObservation Date
7102018
1,7552017
1,2152016
7352015
1,1552014
1,1002013
8352012


330

Number of deportations/forced returns only

2018

  • Number of deportations/forced returns only
NumberObservation Date
3302018
4852017
3452016
5552015
6652014


52.67

Percentage of persons removed in relation to total number of people placed in removal procedures

2017

  • Percentage of persons removed in relation to total number of people placed in removal procedures
PercentageObservation Date
52.672017
682017
92016
42015
92014


7,345

Criminal prison population

2016

  • Criminal prison population
NumberObservation Date
7,3452016
9,0282014
10,0062013


2.93

Percentage of foreign prisoners

2016

  • Percentage of foreign prisoners
PercentageObservation Date
2.932016
22012
22012


103

Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)

2016

  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
NumberObservation Date
1032016
1252014
1382013



7,100,000

Population

2017

  • Population
NumberObservation Date
7,100,0002017
7,150,0002015
7,400,0002012


153,800

International migrants

2017

  • International migrants
NumberObservation Date
153,8002017
102,1002015
84,1002013
76,0002010


2.2

International migrants as a percentage of the population

2017

  • International migrants as a percentage of the population
PercentageObservation Date
2.22017
1.42015
1.22013


2,595

Estimated number of undocumented migrants

2017

  • Estimated number of undocumented migrants
NumberObservation Date
2,5952017


804

Refugees

2017

  • Refugees
NumberObservation Date
8042017
17,7742016
16,5572015
4,3202014


1.53

Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

2014

  • Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
NumberObservation Date
1.532014
0.312012


3,700

Total number of new asylum applications

2017

  • Total number of new asylum applications
NumberObservation Date
3,7002017
19,2652016
11,0812014
1,3872012


68.8

Refugee recognition rate

2014

  • Refugee recognition rate
NumberObservation Date
68.82014


73

Stateless persons

2017

  • Stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
732017
672016
672015
02014

Domestic Law Expand all

Legal tradition Show sources
NameObservation Date
Civil law2019

Constitutional guarantees? Show sources
Yes/NoConstitution and ArticlesYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
YesConstitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, Article 30.19911991
YesConstitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, Article 30.19912015
Core pieces of national legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria (LFRB) Act. No. 153/23.12.1998. Last Amendment, SG No. 53/27.06.201419982014
Law on Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria, Last Amendment SG. No. 56 of 6 July 201819982018
Law on Asylum and Refugees (Закон за убежището и бежанците)20022016
Additional legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Administrative Procedure Code (APC)20062014
Law on Legal Aid20062017
Law on Legal Aid20052018
Criminal Code 19682017
Regulations, standards, guidelines Show sources
NameYear Published
Regulation for the Application of the Law on the Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria [2011] State Gazette 51 of 05.07.2011, last amended State Gazette 57 of 28.07.2015 2011
Regulation on the Application of the Law on Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Bulgaria2011
Ordinance No. Із-1201 of 1 June 2010 on the Procedure for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in the Special Homes for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners and Their Units and for the Organization of Their Activity2010
Ordinance on the Responsibility and Coordination of the State Bodies Implementing the Dublin Regulation and the Eurodac Regulation2008

Immigration-status-related grounds Show sources
NameObservation Date
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality2019
Detention to effect removal2019
Detention to prevent absconding2019
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality2019
Detention to effect removal2019
Detention for failing to respect non-custodial measures2019
Detention during the asylum process2018
Non-immigration-status-related grounds providing for administrative detention in immigration legislation. Show sources
NameObservation Date
Detention on public order, threats or security grounds2019

Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations? Show sources
FinesIncarcerationObservation Date
YesYes2019
YesYes1968
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration Show sources
Grounds for IncarcerationMaximum Number of Days of IncarcerationObservation Date
Unauthorized re-entry21902019
Unauthorized entry18252019
Unauthorized exit18252019
Unauthorized entry18251968
Unauthorized exit18251968
Has the country decriminalized immigration-related violations? Show sources
Has the country decriminalized immigration-related violations?Observation Date
Yes2019

Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law. Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
5402019
5402009
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
12019
Average length of detention Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
252017
212013
Maximum length of detention for asylum-seekers Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
No Limit2019
No Limit2015

Provision of basic procedural standards Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Right to legal counselYesYes2019
Information to detaineesYesNo2019
Access to free interpretation servicesYesinfrequently2019
Access to consular assistanceYesYes2019
Access to asylum proceduresYesinfrequently2019
Independent review of detentionYesinfrequently2019
Right to appeal the lawfulness of detentionYesinfrequently2019
Complaints mechanism regarding detention conditionsYesNo2019
Compensation for unlawful detentionYesNo2019

Types of non-custodial measures Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Registration (deposit of documents)Yesinfrequently2018
Release on bailYesNo2018
Provision of a guarantorYesYes2018
Unconditional releaseYesYes2017
Registration (deposit of documents)2017
Designated regional residenceYesYes2017
Designated non-secure housingNoNo2017
Release on bailNoNo2017
Electronic monitoringNoNo2017
Supervised release and/or reportingYesinfrequently2017
Supervised release and/or reportingYesinfrequently2014
Supervised release and/or reportingYesYes2001

Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice? Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Stateless personsNot mentionedYes2019
WomenNot mentionedYes2019
Accompanied minorsProvidedYes2019
Asylum seekersProvidedYes2019
ElderlyProvidedYes2019
Pregnant womenProvidedYes2019
Persons with disabilitiesProvidedYes2019
RefugeesNot mentionedYes2019
Survivors of tortureProvidedYes2019
Unaccompanied minorsProhibitedYes2019
Victims of traffickingProvidedYes2019
Unaccompanied minorsProhibitedYes2016
Accompanied minorsProvidedYes2016
Asylum seekersProvidedYes2016
Unaccompanied minorsProhibitedYes2014

Mandatory detention Show sources
FilterNameObservation Date
No2017

Expedited/fast track removal Show sources
NameObservation Date
Yes2019
Re-entry ban Show sources
NameObservation Date
Yes2013

International Law Expand all

International treaties Show sources
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
  14/19
Individual complaints procedure Show sources
NameAcceptance Year
CAT, declaration under article 22 of the Convention1993
CEDAW, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 19992006
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19661992
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted Show sources
NumberObservation Date
32019
32019
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation Year
Committee against Torture“The State party should: (a) Ensure that persons in need of international protection are not subjected to arbitrary detention, provide for judicial review of detention, envisage alternatives to detention and prohibit the detention of children; (b) Avoid registering unaccompanied children apprehended upon irregular entry as being “accompanied” by adults they are not related to and establish a single body for coordinating the child protection policy;” “(i) Reduce the level of overcrowding in migrant detention facilities, in particular in Busmantsi and Lyubimets”.2017
Committee against Torture§ 14 [...] (a) Amend article 16 of the Ordinance for the Responsibilities and Coordination between the State Agency for Refugees, the Directorate of Migration and the Border Police – in order to formally remove the rule that allows for the detention of asylum-seekers on the basis of illegal entry and ensure that asylum-seekers enjoy accommodation, documentation, access to health care, social assistance, education and language training, as provided in articles 29 and 30 (a) of the Law on Asylum and Refugees;
(b) Ensure that the detention of asylum-seekers is only used as a last resort, when necessary, for as short a period as possible and that safeguards against refoulement are fully implemented;

2011
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination222017
Committee on the Rights of the Child512016

Regional judicial decisions on individual complaints Show sources
NameDecision DetailsObservation Date
Court of Justice of European Union (CJEU)Kadzoev, C‑357/09 PPU, 30 November 20092019
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)Djalti v. Bulgaria (application no. 31206/05), 12 March 20132019
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)S.F. and Others v. Bulgaria, Application No. 8138/16, violation of Article 3 of the ECHR with respect of the children Y.F, S.F2 and A.F., 7 December 20172019
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)Al- Nashif v Bulgaria, Applciation no. 50963/99, violation of Article 5(4), Article 8 and Article 13 of the Convention, 20 June 20022019
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)Auad v. Bulgaria, Application No. 46390/10, violation of Article 5.1 and Article 13 of the Convention, 11 January 20122019
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)Amie and Others v. Bulgaria, Application No. 58149/08, Violation of Articles 5 § 1, 5 § 4 and 8, 12 February 20132019
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)M. and Others v. Bulgaria, Application No. 41416/08, Violations of Article 5(1) and (4), Article 8, and Article 13, 26 July 20112019
Court of Justice of European Union (CJEU)C-146/14 PPU - Mahdi, Directive 2008/115/EC — Return of illegally staying third-country nationals — Article 15 — Detention — Extension of detention — Obligations of the administrative or judicial authority — Review by a judicial authority — Third-country national without identity documents — Obstacles to implementation of a removal decision — Refusal of the embassy of the third country concerned to issue an identity document enabling the third-country national to be returned — Risk of absconding — Reasonable prospect of removal — Lack of cooperation — Whether the Member State concerned is under an obligation to issue a temporary document relating to the status of the person concerned, 5 June 20142019
European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)Raza v. Bulgaria, Application no. 31465/08, 11 February 2010, Violation of Articles 5 § 1, 5 § 4, 8 and 13, 11 February 20102019
Recommendations issued by regional human rights mechanisms Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation YearObservation Date
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)“The CPT recommends that the management of the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets deliver a clear message to all staff members that the ill-treatment of detained foreign nationals (whether of a physical or verbal nature) is not acceptable and will be the subject of severe sanctions. The Committee also recommends that steps be taken to increase ongoing staff presence inside the accommodation areas, and that serious efforts be made to improve staff’s training in languages and inter-cultural communication.” “the CPT recommends that the management and staff of the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets exercise increased vigilance and make use of all the means at their disposal to prevent inter-detainee violence and intimidation, paying particular attention to ensuring the safety of women and minors who should not share dormitories with unrelated male adult detainees. The Committee would also like to receive information on the outcome of the investigation into the incident referred to above. “ “the CPT recommends that following steps be taken in respect of the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets: - reduce occupancy levels in the dormitories and remove spare beds; - refurbish the detainee accommodation areas, replace or repair the broken furniture (and provide lockable space for personal belongings) and sanitary facilities (toilets, washrooms and showers) and make sure all these premises and installations are properly maintained and kept clean; carry out thorough and repeated disinfestation measures and replace all mattresses with new, insulated and washable ones, so as to eliminate the problem of infestation with bed bugs; - ensure that detained foreign nationals have ready access to a toilet at all times, including at night; - ensure the provision of personal hygiene items, sanitary materials for women, nappies for infants, appropriate clothing and shoes; - provide detained foreign nationals with clear information, in languages they understand, about the procedures to be followed to obtain the above-mentioned items from the Home’s administration. 53 Further, the Committee invites the Bulgarian authorities to review the food arrangements (including as regards baby food) in the Home in order to ensure that the dietary habits and needs of detained foreign nationals are being adequately catered for. Close attention should also be paid to the prices of items sold in the establishment’s shop.” “The CPT calls upon the Bulgarian authorities to offer a range of constructive activities to foreign nationals detained at the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets, taking into consideration the fact that persons may – and often do – spend lengthy periods of time at the establishment. As a first step, TV sets must be repaired (and foreign nationals enabled to watch foreign TV channels), and radio sets, books, magazines, newspapers (in an appropriate range of languages) provided. Further, detained foreign nationals must be offered the possibility to engage in sports and play board games, andminors should have a playground (with toys) at their disposal. As regards the large outdoor area, it should be equipped with a suitable number of shelters against inclement weather.” “The Committee recommends that steps be taken to strengthen the provision of health care to foreign nationals detained at the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets, and in particular to: - ensure that detained foreign nationals have reasonably rapid and free-of-charge access to the doctor and outside specialists, including to dental care and to a gynaecologist, an obstetrician, a paediatrician and a psychiatrist; efforts should also be made to offer to female detainees the possibility to see a female doctor; - ensure appropriate supplies of free-of-charge medication; - provide qualified interpretation in cases when detained foreigners and medical staff cannot communicate with each other; - improve the quality of medical screening upon arrival (include the screening for TB, other transmissible diseases and mental disorders including signs of PTSD), and the quality of the recording of injuries; in this respect, reference is made to the recommendations in paragraph 27 above which apply mutatis mutandis.| “The Committee recommends that the Bulgarian authorities strive to improve the level of psychological assistance to foreign nationals detained at the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets, including the provision of interpretation.” “The CPT recommends that steps be taken to ensure that all detained foreign nationals at the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets are provided with adequate written information in languages they understand. Further, it would be desirable for foreign nationals to receive a written translation in a language they understand of decisions regarding their detention/removal, as well as written and oral information on the modalities and deadlines for appealing against such decisions.” “the Committee reiterates its recommendation that the Bulgarian authorities take steps to extend the system of legal aid to detained foreign nationals, in all phases of the procedure. For indigent foreign nationals, these services should be provided free of charge.” “The CPT recommends that steps be taken to ensure that foreign nationals detained at the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets receive, when necessary, the assistance of qualified interpreters. The use of fellow detainees as interpreters should, in principle, be avoided.” “The Committee recommends that the Bulgarian authorities allow foreign nationals detained at the Special Home for Accommodation of Foreigners in Lyubimets to use the VoIP technologies on a free-of-charge basis to communicate with the outside world.”20172019
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights“138. Any excessive use of force by law enforcement officials in the context of migration at the border or in detention facilities must be fully and effectively investigated and those found responsible must be adequately sanctioned. 139. Concerning detention, the Commissioner calls on the Bulgarian authorities to give up plans to adopt a law providing for the systematic detention of asylum seekers. Practices such as 22 June 2015 REPORT BY NILS MUIŽNIEKS COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE, FOLLOWING HIS VISIT TO BULGARIA FROM 9 TO 11 FEBRUARY 2015, https://rm.coe.int/ref/ CommDH(2015)12 the detention of persons pending the registration of their asylum claims with the SAR should cease immediately. In addition, the Commissioner stresses that asylum seekers in particularly vulnerable situations should not be kept in immigration detention. The Commissioner draws the authorities’ attention to the recently adopted UNHCR Global Strategy on Detention75 . 140. As to detention for the purpose of removal, the Commissioner calls on the Bulgarian authorities to ensure that detention is only used as a last resort, for the shortest possible period of time and on the basis of individual assessments. Alternatives to detention should be considered first. 141. The Commissioner reiterates that migrant children, including those accompanied by their parents, should not be detained under any circumstances as detention is not in their best interests. 142. The Commissioner calls on the Bulgarian authorities to decriminalise irregular crossing of the Bulgarian border by repealing Article 279 of the Criminal Code. Punishing those who are seeking safety in Europe is not acceptable: the Commissioner recalls that these persons are not criminals and should not be treated as such”20152019
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)

§35 [...] The CPT must stress once again that deprivation of asylum seekers of their liberty should be resorted to only exceptionally, after a careful examination of each individual case, and should be applied for the shortest possible time; further, the lawfulness of such a measure should be open to challenge before a judicial authority[11]. When asylum seekers are deprived of their liberty as an exceptional measure, they should be kept separately from foreign nationals who have not lodged an application for international protection. The Committee calls upon the Bulgarian authorities to act in accordance with these precepts. In those instances where there are exceptional reasons for depriving an asylum seeker of his/her liberty while awaiting the outcome of his/her application, such reasons should be fully documented.

In this connection, the delegation learned that a new establishment for the temporary placement of foreign nationals was expected to open in 2011 in Lyubimets, near the border with Turkey, and that persons who had applied for asylum might be detained there. The CPT would like to receive detailed information on the new facility (e.g. capacity, structure, categories of persons held, etc.).

39.       The CPT recommends that the management of the Special Home for Temporary Placement of Foreign Nationals in Busmantsi continue to deliver a clear message to all staff members that the ill-treatment of detained persons (whether of a physical or verbal nature) is not acceptable and will be the subject of sanctions.  Further, the Committee recommends that the management and staff exercise increased vigilance and make use of all the means at their disposal to prevent inter-detainee violence and intimidation.

43.       The CPT reiterates the recommendations made in the report on the 2008 visit that steps be taken at the Busmantsi Home to:- ensure occupancy levels in the dormitories which guarantee a minimum of 4 m² per detained person; - restore the broken furniture and sanitary facilities to a good state of repair and provide sufficient funding for running repairs; -  ensure that detained persons have ready access to a toilet at all times, including at night; - review the provision of personal hygiene products and appropriate clothing and footwear to detainees. Further, the Committee invites the Bulgarian authorities to review the food arrangements in the Busmantsi Home in order to ensure that the dietary habits and needs of detained persons are being adequately catered for. It would be useful to involve detainees in the setting up of food menus, to reflect better the range of different dietary habits.

§47  The CPT recommends that steps be taken to strengthen the provision of health care to foreign nationals detained at the Busmantsi Home, and in particular to: reinforce the health-care team by appointing at least one more nurse; ensure that detained persons have unrestricted and reasonably rapid access to the doctor and outside specialists, including to dental care; provide interpretation in cases when medical staff cannot communicate with detained foreign nationals; ensure that detained foreign nationals are fully informed of their treatment.

§48 [...] The Committee recommends that the Bulgarian authorities reinforce the provision of psychological care to foreign nationals detained at the Busmantsi Home.

§ 51 [...] The CPT recommends the Bulgarian authorities seek ways to improve channels of communication between SAR and the Busmantsi Home with a view to better informing detainees of their situation.

§53 [...] The CPT reiterates its recommendation that the Bulgarian authorities take steps to ensure that foreign nationals detained at the Busmantsi Home receive, when necessary, the assistance of qualified interpreters. The use of fellow detainees as interpreters should, in principle, be avoided.

§54 [...] The CPT recommends that the Bulgarian authorities take effective steps to ensure that foreign nationals subject to coercive administrative measures (including those facing expulsion on grounds of national security) benefit from an effective legal remedy enabling them to have the lawfulness of their detention decided speedily before a judicial body. This judicial review should entail an oral hearing with legal assistance, if necessary provided free of charge to the person concerned, and interpretation. Moreover, detained foreign nationals should be expressly informed of this legal remedy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

20122019

Bilateral/multilateral agreements linked to readmission Show sources
NameYear in ForceObservation Date
Lebanon20032018
Armenia20082018
Georgia20032018
Uzbekistan20042018
Kosovo20122018
Hungary19992018
Finland19992018
Hong Kong (EU agreement)20072018
Macao (EU agreement)20072018
Sri Lanka (EU agreement)20072018
Albania (EU agreement)2018
Russia (EU agreement)20072018
Ukraine (EU agreement)20082018
Macedonia (EU agreement)20082018
Bosnia-Herzegovina (EU agreement)2018
Montenegro (EU agreement)20082018
Serbia (EU agreement)20082018
Moldova (EU agreement)20082018
Pakistan (EU agreement)20102018
Georgia (EU agreement)20112018
Cape Verde (EU agreement)20142018
Germany19952017
Germany20062017
Austria19982017
Belgium20052017
Spain19972017
Spain19992017
Estonia20032017
Finland20042017
France19972017
Greece19982017
Ireland20032017
Italy19982017
Latvia20022017
Luxembourg20052017
Netherlands20052017
Poland19942017
Portugal19982017
Romania20002017
Czech Republic19982017
Czech Republic20052017
United Kingdom20042017
Slovakia20072017
Slovenia20002017
Sweden19992017
Norway19992017
Switzerland20092017
Albania20032017
Bosnia and Herzegovina20082017
Croatia20032017
Macedonia20022017
Serbia20102017
Russian Federation20122017
Ukraine20022017

Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review Show sources
Recomendation IssuedYear IssuedObservation Date
No20112019
Yes20152019

Institutions Expand all

Federal or centralized governing system Show sources
Federal or centralized governing systemObservation Date
Centralized system2019
Centralized or decentralized immigration authority Show sources
Centralized or decentralized immigration authorityObservation Date
Centralized immigration authority2019

Custodial authority Show sources
AgencyMinistryMinistry TypologyObservation Date
Migration DirectorateMinistry of the InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2019
State Agency for RefugeesCouncil of MinistersExecutive2016
Migration DirectorateMinistry of the InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2015
Migration DirectorateMinistry of the InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2014
Migration DirectorateMinistry of the InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2013
National Service Border PoliceMinistry of Interior2011
National Service Border PoliceMinistry of InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2011
National Service Border PoliceMinistry of Interior2010
National Service Border PoliceMinistry of InteriorInterior or Home Affairs2010
Detention Facility Management Show sources
Entity NameEntity TypeObservation Date
Migration Directorate. Ministry of Interior.Governmental2013
Formally designated detention estate? Show sources
Formally designated immigration detention estate?Types of officially designated detention centresObservation Date
YesDedicated immigration detention facilities2016
Types of detention facilities used in practice Show sources
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)Immigration field office (Administrative)Transit centre (Administrative)Reception centre (Administrative)Offshore detention centre (Administrative)Hospital (Administrative)Border guard (Administrative)Police station (Criminal)National penitentiary (Criminal)Local prison (Criminal)Juvenile detention centre (Criminal)Informal camp (Ad hoc)Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)Surge facility (Ad hoc)Observation Date
YesYes2017
Yes2016
2016

Authorized monitoring institutions Show sources
InstitutionInstitution TypeObservation Date
Bulgarian OmbudsmanNational Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI)2019
Commission for Protection against DiscriminationNational Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI)2019
Ombudsman of the Republic of BulgariaOPCAT National Preventive Mechanism (NPM)2019
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee,Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO)2019
Bulgarian Red CrossNon-Governmental Organizations (NGO)2019
ACET Centre for Torture VictimsNon-Governmental Organizations (NGO)2019
Is the national human rights institution (NHRI) recognized as independent? Show sources
Is the NHRI recognized as independent by the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions?Observation Date
No2017
No2016
Does NHRI carry out visits? Show sources
Does NHRI carry out visits in practice?Observation Date
Yes2017
Yes2016
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints? Show sources
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints?Observation Date
Yes2017
Yes2016
Does NHRI publicly release reports on immigration detention? Show sources
Does NHRI publicly release reports on immigration detention?Observation Date
Yes2017
Yes2016
Does national preventive mechanism (NPM) carry out visits? Show sources
Does NPM carry out visits in practice?Observation Date
Yes2017
Does NPM have capacity to receive complaints? Show sources
Does NPM have capacity to receive complaints?Observation Date
Yes2017
Yes2016
Does NPM publicly release reports on immigration detention? Show sources
Does NPM publicly release reports on immigration detention?Observation Date
Yes2017
Yes2016
Do NGOs carry out visits? Show sources
Do NGOs regularly carry our visits?Observation Date
Yes2017
Yes2016
NGO capacity to receive complaints? Show sources
NGO capacity to receive complaints?Observation Date
No2017
Do NGOs publish reports on immigration detention? Show sources
Do NGOs publish reports on immigration detention?Observation Date
Yes2017
Yes2016
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRBs) visit immigration-related detention facilities? Show sources
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRB) regularly visit immigration-related detention facilities?Observation Date
infrequently2017
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from inspections? Show sources
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from detention inspections?Observation Date
Yes2017

Types of privatisation/outsourcing Show sources
Types of Privatisation/OutsourcingObservation Date
Food services2017
Facility maintenance2017
Other detention facility or detainee services2017
Detention contractors and other non-state entities Show sources
Name of entityType of entityDetainee transportFood servicesHealth careSocial servicesLaundry servicesLegal counsellingManagementOwner of detention facilityRecreationSecurityTelephone serviceTranslation servicesObservation Date
Aeroklima Bulgaria EOOD (Аероклима Бул ЕООД)For profitYes2017
Ronos OOD (Ронос ООД)For profitYes2017
Perun KKB EOOD (Перун ККБ ЕООД)For profitYes2017
ATC Bulgaria OOD (АТС България ООД)For profitYes2017
Yunis OOD (Юнис ООД)For profitYes2017
Yunis OOD (Юнис ООД)For profitYes2017
Klimatronik EOOD (Климатроник ЕООД)For profitYes2017
Elma Engineering OOD (Елма Инжинеринг ООД)Yes2017
Sektron OOD (Сектрон ООД)Yes2017
S and T Bulgaria EOOD (С & Т България ЕООД)Yes2017
Right Cleaning EOOD (Райт Клийнинг ЕООД)Yes2017
Nove Engineering EOOD (Нове Инжинеринг ЕООД)For profitYes2017
Kukuda group OOD (Кукуда груп ООД)For profitYes2017
SBI Trade EOOD (Си Би Ай Трейд ЕООД)For profitYes2017

Estimated annual budgets for particular detention-related activities Show sources
Individual detention-related activitiesEstimated annual budget (in USD)Observation Date
Not available2017

Does the country receive external sources of funding? Show sources
Benefitted from non-state funding sources?Observation Date
Yes2017
Description of foreign assistance Show sources
Description of non-state assistanceObservation Date
In 2017, 54 039 006, 67 BGN were assigned to the Ministry of Interior by the EU to cope with “the increased migratory pressure”. Currently the Migration Directorate implements the project "Implementation of Coercive Administrative Measures on Third-Country Nationals and Provision of Translation" under the National Program of Bulgaria under the AMIF. The deadline for the contract is October 14, 2018. Funding from the European Union amounts to € 750,000.2017

Socio Economic Data Expand all

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD) Show sources
Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)Observation Date
7,8512014
7,2962013
Remittances to the country Show sources
Remittances to the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
1,7192014
1,5102011
Remittances from the country Show sources
Remittances from the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
252010
Unemployment Rate Show sources
Unemployment RateObservation Date
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP) Show sources
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)UNDP four-tiered rankingObservation Date
59High2015
58High2014

Pew Global Attitudes Poll on Immigration Show sources
% who agree with the statement “We should restrict and control entry of people into our country more than we do now.”Observation Date
532007

Country Links


Additional Resources


Rights Abuses in Turkey and Italy: October 2019 Newsletter

OUR LATEST PUBLICATIONS Immigration Detention in Turkey: A Serial Human Rights Abuser and Europe’s Refugee Gatekeeper Turkey has long served as Europe’s reluctant—if opportunistic—gatekeeper for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from across the Near East and Asia. This role was dramatically put on display in the wake of the refugee “crisis” in 2015 and remains an […]

Joint Submission to the Universal Periodic Review: Bulgaria

Bulgaria has served as a transit country into the European Union (EU). While it received an important number of arrivals during the refugee “crisis,” the number of irregular non-citizens apprehended in the country has decreased dramatically, including a 90 percent drop between 2015 and 2017. Despite this decrease, immigration detention has remained a key tool in Bulgaria’s response to migration and asylum flows, in addition to other measures such as the construction of a border fence.

Immigration Detention in the European Union: In the Shadow of the “Crisis”

This book offers a unique comparative assessment of the evolution of immigration detention systems in European Union member states since the onset of the “refugee crisis.” By applying an analytical framework premised on international human rights law in assessing domestic detention regimes, the book reveals the extent to which EU legislation has led to the adoption of laws and practices that may disregard fundamental rights and standards.

World Refugee Day: Refugees and asylum seekers are increasingly punished—not protected!

In the last two months, the number of suicide attempts on Manus Island—home to Australia’s notorious offshore migrant facility where more than 800 refugees and asylum seekers are stranded after spending years in detention—has skyrocketed. According to @Shamindan, an asylum seeker documenting life inside the facility, there have been some 90 suicide attempts and self-harm incidents […]

Submission to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

The Global Detention Project (GDP) welcomes the opportunity to provide this input to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants ahead of his forthcoming report to the 74th session of the General Assembly on “good practices or initiatives of gender-responsive migration legislation, policies and practices.”

Immigration Detention in Bulgaria: Fewer Migrants and Refugees, More Fences

Immigration Detention in Bulgaria (2019 Report): Although the number of irregular non-citizens apprehended in Bulgaria has plummeted in recent years, detention remains a key tool in the country’s response to migration and asylum flows. It has also spent some 85 million EUR to construct a fence along its border with Turkey. Bulgaria’s detention centres reportedly lack […]

April 2019 Newsletter

✅Shrinking space for independent monitoring in Croatia
✅Bulgaria’s reliance upon detention
✅The year in review – the GDP Annual Report
✅ Objective 21 of the Global Compact for Migration

International Women’s Day: Focusing Attention on the Abuses Women Suffer in Immigration Detention

Last week, reports emerged concerning a 24-year-old Honduran woman’s premature labour and subsequent delivery of a stillborn baby while in custody at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre in Texas. While officials were quick to offer the awkward qualification that “for investigative and reporting purposes, a stillbirth is not considered an in-custody death,” the incident nevertheless added fuel to the growing criticism of the Trump administration’s treatment of vulnerable individuals in detention.

February 2019 Newsletter

✅ Detention conditions in #Slovakia
✅ The rise in detention of asylum seekers at the #EU’s external borders
✅ Putting the “Global Compacts” to Work

Crossing a Red Line: How EU Countries Undermine the Right to Liberty by Expanding the Use of Detention of Asylum Seekers upon Entry

Documenting the shift from “reception” to “detention” of asylum seekers at EU borders and the erosion of a fundamental right at the heart of European democracy, the right to liberty. The Red Line Project is a collaborative initiative led by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and including the Global Detention Project, the Bulgarian Foundation for Access to Rights, the Greek Council for Refugees, and the Italian Council for Refugees.

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