New Bulgarian government did not lead to positive changes for asylum seekers, so far

In November 2021 the parliament was be elected for the third time in 2021. Forming a government had failed twice previously, and an interim prime minister was put into office afterwards. The former government is embroiled in scandals and human rights violations. In the third election – which was by the same time accompanied by the presidential elections – a broad coalition government was appointed by the president Rumen Radev. During the presidential elections, the former president Radev was re-elected for another five years term. During his election campaign he made a general stand against refugees and their rights to access the territory and to seek asylum in Bulgaria.

For 2021 the the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) reported 2,513 alleged pushback incidents which affected a total of 44,988 individuals. In total 19,999 people asked for international protection in Bulgaria in 2021, which is an increase of 212% of asylum seekers to 2021, where it was only 3,525%. All first time applicants had to stay mandatorily 10 days in quarantine, due to the Covid-19 regulation, without any exclusion. During their quarantine time, the people are not able to receive legal advice or assistance to apply for asylum and in general the quarantine period is not included into the detention duration.

In 2021 the recognition rate was 61% at first instance. But the recognition rate of non-Syrian applicants remained below 8%. Turkish and Afghan nationals had very low recognition rates, (10% for Afghan nationals and 8% for Turkish nationals), which were described as unfair and discriminatory by the BHC. Since 2016, the biggest group of asylum seekers in Bulgaria are Afghan refugees. Bei the end of the year their recognition rates got a bit better, with the Taliban regaining power in Afghanistan, but in total the rejection rate was still 90%.

The situation in the reception centers of the State Ageny for Refugees is still very critical (except of Vrazhdebna). The infrastructure does often not provide the most basic services, such as hygiene or security. There is still a lack of interpreters and social workers in the centers. Furthermore in the whole year of 2021, only seven status holders and two asylum seekers were officially employed.

Already in 2020, a new and problematic law was introduced. It allows the termination or revocation of an international protection paper, if the status holder fails to renew expired Bulgarian identity documents within thirty days. Since then, a total of 4,364 status holders have been affected by the unjustified termination of international protection.

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