Not all asylum seekers who apply at national borders are sent directly to a reception centre. When applied, the exception is usually related to cases where family members of the border applicants are already living either in reception centres or outside them or in cases with specific needs such as individuals with disabilities and families with infants.
The main reasons for this situation are the State Agency for National Security (SANS)’s concerns about transferring people to open reception centres before being screened by the security services, as well as the lack of a proper coordination mechanism between the police and the SAR to enable registration and accommodation of asylum seekers after 5pm or during the weekends. In September 2015, the SAR introduced new working times, shift schemes and on-call duty during the weekends in order to assist the reception of asylum seekers referred by the police. In practice, however, these new arrangements are not sufficient, therefore the police have no other options but to refer and detain asylum seekers in the pre-removal detention centres.
In 2016, out of 2,256 asylum seekers who submitted their claims at the borders on entry (62% of the total) had a direct access to asylum procedures without detention.1 The other 38% who applied at the borders were sent firstly to the Elhovo allocation centre or Ministry of Interior detention centres for deportation of irregular migrants.2
Therefore, detention of first time applicants is systematically applied in Bulgaria and the majority of asylum seekers apply from pre-removal detention centres for irregular migrants. In 2016, a total 11,314 detentions were ordered. This represents a slight decrease compared to 2015, when a total 11,902 persons were detained in Busmantsi and Lyubimets.3 A total 636 asylum seekers were in detention at the end of the year.
As of 1 January 2016, asylum seekers can be placed during determination in closed reception facilities i.e. detained under the jurisdiction of the SAR, in accordance with the recast Reception Conditions Directive.
In 2016, 400 individuals of Afghan origin were detained in closed reception facilities of the SAR, among whom were also many unaccompanied children, in violation of the law. All unaccompanied children have been released and transferred to open reception facilities as of the end of 2016. One of the two detention facilities for asylum seekers was closed in December 2016.