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Over the past year, the legal guarantees and practical possibilities for exercising the right to asylum and international protection in Bulgaria experienced a significant regress. The government utterly failed to achieve its declared goals of reforming and restructuring the legal and institutional setting and of improving the situation of asylum seekers, refugees and foreigners who have been granted humanitarian status in Bulgaria. In many aspects, access by foreigners in need of international protection to a series of fundamental procedural and social rights recognised by the law worsened instead of improving. This includes the right to legal assistance during the administrative proceedings on status granting, the right to immediate accommodation in a registration and admission centre, social assistance and health insurance after the registration of the application for protection, etc.
The opening of the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) transit centre in the village of Pastrogor, in the vicinity of Bulgarian-Turkish-Greek border, has been delayed for ten years. Since 2010, the projected further delay has become indefinite.
There have been a number of disturbing cases throughout the year, whereby border police and investigative bodies have required that the foreigners themselves pay for interpretation and translation services, sometimes even for the purposes of criminal proceedings and indictment under Art. 279 of the Criminal Code. Thus, foreigners seeking protection can only exercise their right and obligation to apply for protection at the border only with the assistance of lawyers and interpreters provided by third parties.
Even those who manage to register their protection application at the border cannot exercise their rights to accommodation, social assistance and health insurance, as most of them are transferred to the special home for temporary accommodation of foreigners (SHTAF) in Sofia’s Busmantsi neighbourhood, instead of to a SAR transit or registration and admission centre.
You can read more on the refugee and asylum seeker problematic in BHC’s annual report and in the sections below.