UNHCR ends call for general suspension on Dublin returns to Bulgaria due to improvements in asylum system, but issues warning regarding vulnerable persons

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In their April 2014 update of UNHCR Observations on the Current Situation of Asylum in Bulgaria, UNHCR concludes that ‘a general suspension of all Dublin transfers to Bulgaria is no longer justified’. However, ‘UNHCR notes that serious gaps in the system still remain, and that there may be reasons not to transfer certain groups or individuals, in particular those with specific needs or vulnerabilities’. UNHCR encourages states to conduct individual assessments in these cases.

To justify the lifting of the suspension on transfers to Bulgaria, UNHCR notes that ‘conditions in the centres have improved, particularly in the Harmanli centre a former military base located 50 kilometres from the Turkish border where asylum-seekers were living in tents just four months ago. Today asylum-seekers living in the centres receive daily hot meals, are accommodated in renovated buildings or accommodation in the process of being renovated, with heating, and have access to health care. In addition, with more staff, all asylum-seekers have been registered and progress is being made on asylum decisions’.

Improvements in the Bulgarian asylum system are qualified by remaining concerns about the accommodation and sanitary conditions in two Sofia centres in Vrazdebhna and Voenna Rampa. ‘UNHCR is also concerned about the lack of identification, referral and support to individuals with specific needs; the barriers children face in accessing formal education; and the lack of a sustainable integration programme. It is essential that these serious gaps are addressed and that improvements already made are sustained going forward’.

Concern is also reiterated over measures to restrict access to the territory along the Turkish border, citing a marked decrease in the number of arrivals since December 2013, and several reports of ‘push-backs’ of Syrians, Afghans, Sudanese, and Palestinians attempting to enter Bulgarian territory.

In view of the potentially large number of pending Dublin transfers to Bulgaria – as of 31 March 2014, 1,628 requests from other Dublin participating States were already pending before the Bulgarian authorities, with 614 under the “take back” and 819 under the “take charge” provisions of the Dublin Regulation as well as 195 requests for information under the Dublin Regulation – UNHCR ‘is concerned about the medium- to long- term sustainability of the improvements made so far’ and ‘will continue to monitor the situation closely’.

Read UNHCR’s full report and press release.

18 April 2014

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme and distributed by email. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE, the IRC or its partners.

Dublin Transfer
Reception conditions
Vulnerable person