Depending on your asylum procedure in Bulgaria, there are several possible scenarios that can happen to you if you are returned from another European Union member state to Bulgaria.
Here is advice from the Foundation for Access to Rights, a legal aid organization in Sofia.
1. If you left Bulgaria before the authorities made a decision on your asylum application
When you return to Bulgaria, the State Agency for Refugees (SAR) should complete the examination of your asylum application. By law, SAR must resume your asylum procedure. If that doesn't happen, you can consult a lawyer.
It is likely that during your absence from Bulgaria, your asylum procedure was "suspended" or "discontinued."
According to the law, if you are invited to attend an interview with SAR officials and you don't show up, or if you change your current address without notifying SAR, your asylum procedure is suspended. If you do not appear before SAR for 3 months from the date your procedure is suspended, your procedure is discontinued.
What you can do
If your asylum procedure is suspended and SAR does not resume it automatically, you can submit an application to SAR asking to resume it. You are strongly advised to get an attorney for help.
In case your asylum procedure is discontinued and SAR does not automatically resume it, you can submit an appeal in court within 14 days of receiving notification of the decision to discontinue it. FAR advises you to contact a lawyer for help submitting an appeal. Your appeal will be examined before the local administrative court. If the local court gives you a negative decision, you have the right to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court.
SAR might have sent the notification of its decision to discontinue your procedure to your address in Bulgaria when you were already in another EU country. In that case, upon your return, this decision is already in force and you cannotappeal it. If the decision is in force, the authorities will place you in immigration detention, for example in Busmantsi detention center. Instead, you can submit a new asylum application. This asylum application will be considered your first asylum application in Bulgaria. You are strongly advised to contact a lawyer who will assist you with the application.
If your procedure is resumed, SAR will treat you as an asylum-seeker. You will not be detained, but rather you will get accommodation at an open center.
If your procedure is discontinued and the decision is already in force, the authorities will place you in immigration detention, for example in Busmantsi detention center.
You will be accommodated in a reception center run by SAR. Upon your arrival in Bulgaria, the Border Police will give you an order stating which SAR center you should go to.
Read more about SAR centers:
If your asylum procedure is suspended or discontinued and SAR does not automatically resume it, you will not be accommodated at a SAR center immediately.
According to the law, when your asylum procedure is suspended or discontinued, you are no longer entitled to state accommodation. You should consult a lawyer who can assist you with resuming your asylum procedure and gaining access to SAR accommodation centers.
Once you are returned to Bulgaria, you are entitled to the following rights during the asylum procedure:
- To stay on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria
- To move within a certain zone, depending on which SAR reception center you are allocated to
Read more here.
- To get free food and accommodation from SAR
- To get social assistance - If you have trouble accessing this right, you can consult a lawyer.
- To get health insurance, access to medical assistance, and free health care under the same conditions as Bulgarian nationals
- To get psychological assistance
- To get a foreign language interpreter or sign language interpreter
- To get a registration card
- To work in Bulgaria 3 months after the date you submit an application for asylum
If your asylum procedure is suspended or discontinued and it is not automatically resumed, you will not have access to accommodation, food, social assistance, health insurance and free medical assistance. Consequently, you need to consult a lawyer who will assist you with resuming your asylum procedure and thus accessing these rights again.
2. If your asylum application has been rejected
In this case, you will be transferred to one of the migrant detention centers, either in Busmantsi (near Sofia) or in Lyubimets. The decision to reject your asylum application becomes final if you have not appealed it before court or when the court rejects your appeal.
In such a case, you are regarded as an illegally staying migrant, and you are detained for the purpose of your forced return to your country of origin or to another safe country.
What you can do
You can appeal the order for your detention within 14 days of being detained. You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible after being detained. If the court finds the detention order unlawful, you will be released.
You can ask for an alternative to detention. You should consult a lawyer.
You can submit a new asylum application, but this does not guarantee that you will be released soon. The authorities might see your subsequent asylum application simply as trying to avoid your forced return to your country of origin. They will not give you a registration card as an asylum-seeker immediately. You should present written evidence about new facts related to your personal situation or the situation in your country of origin. If you fail to do so, SAR may not admit your asylum application to examination in a new asylum procedure. If SAR issues a decision that you are not admitted to a new asylum procedure, you can submit an appeal in court within 7 days of receiving the notification of the decision.
The longest you can stay in immigration detention is 18 months total. After your first 6 months, authorities can issue an order that requires you to stay another 12 months. You have 14 days to appeal that order in court. The court will decide whether to release you or to prolong your detention. If you had already been in a detention center for a certain period of time before leaving Bulgaria, this period should be added in the calculation of your overall detention period
There is an option to voluntarily return to a safe country.
If you are released from detention and you are admitted to a new asylum procedure, you are entitled:
- To stay in Bulgaria
- To move within a certain designated zone
- To get healthcare insurance, access to medical assistance and free healthcare and medical aid
- To get psychological assistance
- To get a foreign language or sign interpreter
- To get a registration card
- To have the right to work in Bulgaria 3 months after the date on which you submitted an application for asylum
You are not entitled:
- To get food
- To get accommodation and social assistance unless you belong to a vulnerable group
In case you are released from detention and you are not admitted to a new asylum procedure, you will not have the rights that asylum seekers enjoy. For example:
- You will not get a registration card
- You will not get food and accommodation from SAR
- You will not have the right to work or to receive social assistance in Bulgaria
3. If you got asylum in Bulgaria before you left the country
In such a case:
- You will not be placed in SAR reception centers
- You should not be detained upon your return to Bulgaria
- You will be able to stay lawfully on the territory of Bulgaria
- You will be able to enjoy all the rights that people with refugee status or humanitarian protection have in Bulgaria
Read more on these rights: