The application for asylum, protection and status in Bulgaria can be lodged before any state authority.
Such applications are most often lodged before the police authorities of Border Police or the Migration Directorate. The reason is that most foreigners enter Bulgaria not via the border points for legal entry, without visas or with irregular documents, as a result of which they are detained by the border or immigration police.
The borders in Bulgaria are guarded by Border Police.
Border police officers wear green police uniforms with the insignia in Bulgarian: “Гранична Полиция” and in English: “Border Police”.
In Bulgaria any entry of a foreigner into the national territory without documents, a visa and via the border strip is illegal and is punished as a crime. When, however, the foreigner is an asylum-seeker, the law exempts him from liability and prosecution. This is why it is important for such a foreigner to declare, immediately after crossing the border, that he seeks asylum before the first state officer whom he encounters – in most cases this is a border police officer.
The border police officers conduct an interview with all the foreigners whom they have detained. The interview is recorded in a written transcript. The transcript will be read out to you by the interpreter and will be signed by you, the interpreter and the police office conducting the interview.
If you did not state that you seek asylum during this interview, you may be taken to court for illegal entry; however, you can still declare your application later on before the prosecutor or before the court.
If, however, after being detained at the border you did not declare that you seek asylum in Bulgaria before the Border Police, the prosecutor or the court, you will be treated by the Bulgarian authorities as an illegal immigrant who must be returned either to the state from which you entered Bulgaria (readmission procedure) or directly to the country of origin (deportation procedure).
In Bulgaria these procedures are carried out by the immigration police called Migration Directorate.
Immigration police officers wear grey police uniforms with an insignia in Bulgarian: “Миграция” and in English: “Migration”.
The immigration police have the right to detain foreigners who do not have regular documents and a residence permit in the special detention centres for irregular immigrants while their readmission or deportation is being organized.
Bulgaria has two detention centres for irregular immigrants – Lyubimetz (near the town of Svilengrad at the Bulgarian-Turkish border), and Busmantzi (near the capital city of Sofia).
Such detention can last up to 6 months, but, in individual cases, it can be extended up to a maximum of 18 months based on permission from the court. After the 18-month term expires, the foreigner will be released, if during his detention the Bulgarian authorities have not made the necessary arrangements for deportation back to the country of origin. While being in detention, you may also be interviewed by the Bulgarian security services called the State Agency for National Security.
If you seek asylum, but you did not manage to declare your asylum application at the border before being transferred to the detention centre, you have the right to file an application before the staff of the immigration police at the detention centre where you are accommodated.
As the immigration police, however, do not have interpreters available on the spot, in most cases assistance for writing the application is provided by the free-of charge lawyers of the Helsinki Committee who also ensure interpreters. The lawyers of the Helsinki Committee work for the United Nations, and regularly visit the police detention facilities at Busmantzi and Lyubimetz, usually on Monday.
After you lodge your application for asylum before the border or immigration police, you will be released within 6 working days.
If your release is delayed, you have the right to file a complaint before the court. You can seek assistance from the free-of-charge lawyers of the Helsinki Committee in relation to the filing of the complaint.
If, however, everything goes well and there is no delay, you will be transferred to an open-type refugee camp.
The STATE AGENCY FOR REFUGEES is the Bulgarian state authority which is competent to examine your case and make a decision on whether you will be granted asylum and status in order to stay in Bulgaria and Europe.
If you entered Bulgaria leally or you entered illegally but were not detained by the police, you can lodge an application directly at any of the refugee camps with this Agency.