Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions

Bulgaria

Author

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee

Asylum seekers are entitled to material reception conditions according to national legislation during all types of asylum procedures.1 Although there is no explicit provision in the law, asylum seekers without resources are accommodated with priority in the reception centres in case of restricted capacity to accommodate all new arrivals. Among all, circumstances such as specific needs and risk of destitution are assessed in each case. The destitution risk assessment criteria are set to take into account the individual situation of the asylum seeker of concern, such as resources and means of self-support, profession and employment opportunities if work is formally permitted, and the number and vulnerabilities of dependent family members. Nevertheless, asylum seekers have the right to withdraw from these benefits if their application is pending in the regular procedure and they declare that they are in possession of means and resources to support themselves and chose to live outside reception centres.

The law provides that every applicant shall be entitled to receive a registration card in the course of the procedure.2 In addition, the law implies a legal fiction, according to which the registration card does not certify the foreigner’s identity due to its temporary nature and the specific characteristics of establishing the facts and circumstances during the refugee status determination (RSD) procedures which are based, for the most part, on circumstantial evidence.3 Hence, the registration card serves the sole purpose of certifying the identity declared by the asylum seeker.

Nevertheless, this document is an absolute prerequisite for access to the rights enjoyed by asylum seekers during the RSD procedure, namely remaining on the territory, receiving shelter and subsistence, social assistance (under the same conditions as Bulgarian nationals and receiving the same amount), health insurance, access to health care, psychological support and education. Since the end of 2015 during the procedure asylum seekers enjoy only shelter, food and basic health care as none of the other entitlements is secured or provided by the government in practice.

Dublin procedure: Certain asylum seekers to whom an outgoing Dublin procedure is undertaken cannot necessarily enjoy any of the material reception conditions, as the only rights reserved for them are to stay in the territory of the country, to interpretation and to be issued a registration card. The LAR distinguishes between persons applying for asylum in Bulgaria, who have access to full reception conditions,4 and persons found irregularly on the territory in Bulgaria and who have not claimed asylum, but to whom the Dublin procedure might be applied following a request by the arresting police department or security services.5 These persons are stripped from the rights and entitlements prescribed in the law to asylum seekers during their Eurodac check or Dublin procedure, if such has followed.

Subsequent application: Subsequent applicants are also excluded not only from all material conditions, but also from the rights to receive a registration card, and only have a right to interpretation pending the fast-track processing of the admissibility assessment prior to their registration, documentation and determination on the substance.6 In cases where the first subsequent application is considered to be submitted merely in order to delay or frustrate the enforcement of a removal decision, or where it concerns another subsequent application following a final inadmissibility / unfounded decision considering a first subsequent application, the applicants are also stripped from the right to remain in the territory. The law has set a 14-day time limit for this admissibility determination. If the subsequent application is considered inadmissible the asylum administration should not open a determination procedure and the applicant is not registered and documented (see section on Subsequent Applications).

In 2017 the Committee against Torture raised concerns around substandard material conditions in reception centres, the absence of an adequate identification mechanism for persons in vulnerable situations, the removal of their monthly financial allowance, and insufficient procedural safeguards regarding the assessment of claims and the granting of international protection.7

  • 1. Article 29(1)(2)-(3) LAR.
  • 2. Article 29(1)(6) LAR.
  • 3. Article 40(3) LAR.
  • 4. Article 67a(2)(1) LAR.
  • 5. Article 67a(2)(2) LAR.
  • 6. Article 76b LAR.
  • 7. Committee against Torture, Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Bulgaria, CAT/C/BGR/CO/6, 15 December 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/2rV4mzR.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti