Alternatives to detention in Bulgaria

The content has been developed with the Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR), a legal aid organization in Sofia. All recommendations are from FAR.

By Bulgarian law, detaining people should be the last resort. Authorities should only be able to detain you if they’ve already used other less coercive punishments or if they cannot apply these measures to your specific case.

However, in practice, if the police stop you for a check and you don’t have the proper documents, they’re more likely to detain you before considering other options. You will probably not have the opportunity and time to apply for an alternative measure.

But there are few actions you can take before you are detained.

You can read about some of the reasons why you could be detained here.

What you can do before you are detained

You’ll need to talk to a lawyer if you receive a final negative decision on your asylum claim or you haven’t appealed on time. It’s at this point when authorities could decide to detain and remove you from Bulgaria.

With a lawyer’s help, you can prepare all the necessary documents to apply for an alternative to detention. Make sure you carry these documents with you at all times in case the police stop you for a check. If this happens, you can present your documents and explain you have the right to an alternative option.

Unfortunately, even if you have these documents and a lawyer, you cannot be sure that they will not detain you.

Please also note that before you are detained, it’s not advisable to go voluntarily to the police station and apply for alternative detention on your own. If you do this, authorities will likely detain you.

What documents do I need and how do I get them?

You will need to get documents through a person, or guarantor, who can provide you with accommodation and has sufficient financial means to support you. It’s important to be very careful regarding your guarantor. If you pay this person any money in advance, he or she might deceive you.

These are the documents you’ll need from your guarantor:

  • A standard declaration form that shows your guarantor is providing you with maintenance and accommodation in Bulgaria.
  • Evidence that your guarantor has stable and sufficient financial means to support you (for example, a work contract).
  • Rental contract or a legal document that shows your guarantor is the owner of the place where you will be accommodated.

You will need these documents to apply for the alternative option of weekly reporting (see below).

How to apply for alternative options

If the police detain you, you can apply for various alternative measures depending on whether you’re placed in immigration detention or asylum detention. You will need a lawyer for this process.

1. Alternatives to immigration detention

You can submit an application to the Director of the Migration Directorate at the Ministry of Interior or to the authority that issued your return order. You can apply for the following alternative options:

  • Weekly reporting to a designated police station
  • Financial guarantee between 500 and 5,000 leva
  • The surrender of your valid passport or another travel document to authorities until they issue a return decision.

In some cases, you can also appeal the Migration Directorate’s or relevant authority’s decision:

  • If you don't receive any answer within 14 days after submitting your application.
  • If you are not satisfied with the alternative measures imposed on you.
  • If the authorities refuse to impose an alternative to detention on you.

2. Alternative to asylum detention

If you’re in asylum detention, the director of the detention facility has to check every month whether the reasons why you’re detained still apply. The director reports it to the chairperson of the State Agency for Refugees (SAR), who can release you with or without imposing an alternative to detention if there are new circumstances or data in your case.

With a lawyer’s help, you can also submit an application asking SAR to review your detention. SAR could decide whether you get an alternative option and should issue a decision within 7 days. You have 14 days to appeal SAR's decision. The court's decision on your appeal is final.