Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Bulgaria

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Bulgaria , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2003, Bulgaria hosted nearly 780 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 19 persons granted asylum and about 760 asylum seekers with pending claims.

During the year, more than 1,500 applied for asylum in Bulgaria, about half the 2,900 in 2002. The largest numbers came from Afghanistan (530), Iraq (210), Armenia (200), and Algeria (160).

The State Agency for Refugees (SAR), responsible for adjudicating asylum claims in the first instance, decided the cases of around 1,500 applicants. Of these, 19 received refugee status, an approval rate of just over 1 percent, down from 5 percent in 2002. Around 410 failed applicants received residence permits on humanitarian grounds for varying lengths of time, the majority from Iraq (230) and Afghanistan (100). The SAR denied over 1,000 asylum applicants, almost all under the accelerated procedure.

Some 2,700 Bulgarians, most of who were believed to be ethnic Roma, sought asylum in the United States (280) and European countries during 2003, down from 4,800 in 2002.

New Developments

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees concluded that while the Law on Asylum and Refugees implemented in 2002 produced some procedural improvements, "continued efforts are needed towards ensuring that expediting the procedure does not lower the quality of the refugee status determination procedure." According to the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) the government increased expulsions of foreigners and refoulement of asylum seekers and denied BHC access to the main entry point into the country, preventing it from monitoring the expulsions.

The police detained a family of Christian asylum seekers from Iran and took them to the Iranian Embassy who returned them to Iran. The SAR did not intervene, despite BHC's requests. Border police denied entry into Bulgaria to more than 6,900 people it deemed "inadequately documented or inadequately financed," mainly from Turkey (2,800), Greece (500), Russia (400), and Ukraine (380).

Bulgarian police reportedly harassed, abused, and arbitrarily arrested Roma street children, but the government also created an Institute for Roma Leaders for young people, as part of a Framework Program for Equal Integration of Roma in Bulgarian Society, signed in April 1999.

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