In September 2016, Center for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria (CLA) published the final report from the project Who Gets Detained? Increasing the Transparency and Accountability of Bulgaria’s Detention Practices of Asylum Seekers and Migrants”, funded by European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), a collaborative initiative by the Network of European Foundations (NEF).


The main goal of the project was to contribute to the establishment of fair and transparent procedures of migrant detention, based on the European and international legal principles of proportionality and individual assessment.


Since 2013, Bulgaria, as an external border of the EU, has experienced an unprecedented for its history number of migrants passing through its territory, primarily asylum seekers and refugees. The majority of the arriving migrants are subjected to administrative detention, where the decisions made by the administrative bodies appear to be dictated by policy rather than by individual and objective assessment.


The yearlong research of the legal framework, statistics, practices, and jurisprudence pertaining to the detention of migrants, as well as the interviews with detainees and government officials, confirmed the initial hypothesis that the detention of migrants in Bulgaria is practiced on a routine basis. Most detention orders stem from policies for “dealing” with the increased migration flows, rather than an individual assessment in each case. Too often, foreigners are detained solely because they lack personal identity documents. The findings indicate that the officials view the practice more as an immigration or criminal detention – a measure imposed to punish and to exercise control over the foreigners’ movement. In addition, the improper use of administrative detention is often discriminatorily based on the detainee’s country of origin. Vulnerable persons, including unaccompanied minors – in spite of an explicit legal prohibition – are also detained, sometimes for long periods of time.


The Report puts forth a series of recommendations, which include adopting clear written guidelines for assessing the legal and factual bases for detention, providing regular legal aid and interpreters’ service to foreigners throughout their detention, creating open-type centres for unaccompanied minors who are subject to deportation, and advocating for legislative alternatives to detention and regularization measures.


An executive summary of the report and a link to the full text are available at the dedicated website DETAINED, created as part of the project,


To find out more contact:

Radostina Pavlova, [email protected]

Diana Radoslavova, [email protected]