Bulgarian bill introduces systematic detention of Asylum seekers

In Bulgaria, a bill adopted by the Government on 13 November 2013 introduces the systematic detention of asylum seekers and allows for detention of asylum seeker children. Detention will take place in facilities deceptively called “centres of a closed type”. Civil society organisations and representatives of the EU and Council of Europe have expressed concerns that the bill’s provisions are in violation of international standards as well as EU law.

International standards clearly state that the detention of asylum seekers should be the exception rather than the rule. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has been unequivocal in calling for states to cease the immigration detention of children, stating that “the detention of a child because of their or their parent’s migration status constitutes a child rights violation and always contravenes the principle of the best interests of the child.”

Further concerns expressed about the bill include that:

–        It does not allow for timely judicial review of detention;

–        It does not obligate the authorities to provide information to asylum seekers on the reason for detention, the right to challenge detention; and

–        It was not published or submitted for consultation before its adoption.

Bulgarian civil society organisations have called on the government to organise wide consultations on the bill and for the national Assembly to ensure a bill is passed in line with international standards and EU law. The bill is expected to be discussed in committees before being tabled at parliament.

The Bulgarian government has recently come under fire for an inadequate response to the increasing number of refugees arriving in Bulgaria, mainly from Syria. There are also indications of a hardening attitude to foreigners in the country, with Amnesty international reporting that migrants were “living in fear” after a series of xenophobic attacks.

More information:

Valeria Ilareva, Draft bill adopted by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria proposes measures restricting freedom of movement of asylum seekers and provides for detention of asylum seekers, 13 November 2013:

ECRE, draft bill provides for systematic detention of asylum seekers in Bulgaria (22 November 2013) http://www.ecre.org/component/content/article/70-weekly-bulletin-articles/498-draft-bill-provides-for-systematic-detention-of-asylum-seekers-in-bulgaria.html

Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, http://www.bghelsinki.org/bg/novini/press/single/poziciya-na-bhk-otnosno-prietiya-ot-ms-zakonoproekt-za-izmenenie-i-doplnenie-na-zakona-za-ubezhisheto-i-bezhancite/?

Focus News Agency, EC vows against refugee prisons (15 November 2013) http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n318804&

Novinite, Bulgaria Deports 46 Iraqi Asylum Seekers (27 November 2013 http://www.novinite.com/articles/155919/Bulgaria+Deports+46+Iraqi+Asylum+Seekers