Bulgaria Moves to Amend Detention System for Asylum Seekers

Bulgaria in EU | April 18, 2012, Wednesday // 12:59|  views

Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

The Bulgarian state has vowed that it will. At least to a certain degree, stop accommodating refugees and asylum seekers in closed, prison-like centers set up for temporary accommodation of illegal immigrants.

Under a decision adopted at a Wednesday regular session of the government, the ordinance on the coordination between the state bodies in charge of illegal migration and the granting of refugee status will be amended.

According to the amendment, as cited by news portal dnevnik.bg, foreign nationals detained while attempting to illegally cross Bulgarian borders, who state their wish to seek asylum at the border, will be accommodated in Registration and Reception Centres (RRCs) at the State Agency for Refugees (SAR).

Under the existing regime, asylum seekers are detained at a special facility for the temporary accommodation of foreigners (SPTAF) at the Interior Ministry's Migration Directorate.

The practice of detaining asylum seekers at closed regime centers contradicts both EU and Bulgarian legislation in the sphere.

Representatives of state bodies, however, claim that the limited institutional capacity of open regime centers necessitates asylum seekers to be temporarily accommodated at facilities for illegal immigrants.

Bulgaria currently has the capacity to accommodate as few as 400 asylum seekers in facilities compliant with EU legislation, following years of delays that obstructed the opening of a transit center near the village of Pastrogor, situated near the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

According to reports of dvenik.bg, this means that an estimated 1000 foreigners who seek refugee protection each year need to wait for months before a vacancy opens at the facilities of the SAR and they are released from the closed-regime centers.

The amendment provides, however, that foreigners who fail to state their wish to receive refugee protection at the border and do this after they have been taken to a facility for illegal immigrants will remain in the prison-like facilities, waiting for the SAR to announce a vacancy at the RRCs.

Sources close to the matter have voiced skepticism about the change, stressing that the SAR would shortly face the problem of limited institutional capacity.

The experts also point out that the percentage of foreign nationals who remember to make a refugee status claim at the border is very small.

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Tags: State Agency for Refugees, asylum seekers, refugee status, illegal immigrants, pastrogor


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