Following an agreement signed on 17 October, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will provide support to Bulgaria until September 2014 on a number of priority areas identified by both parties. The Operating Plan foresees the support and deployment of Joint Asylum Support teams made up of EASO experts, experts from other Member States and Bulgarian officials and the provision of technical and operational assistance.
The priority areas include the identification and pre-registration of asylum seekers, informing unaccompanied minors and vulnerable groups about the procedures, providing Country of Origin Information and core training in EASO Curriculum Modules for newly hired staff. EASO will also help to plan a strategy to increase the capacity of reception facilities and to improve the conditions of the existing ones.
The agreement follows a request by Bulgaria to receive assistance in coping with the increasing arrivals of asylum seekers, in particular from Syria, and with the impact on its reception system.
Reception conditions of Syrian asylum seekers had been heavily criticised by the Bulgarian Helssinki Committee in September, which demanded the resignation of the State Agency for Refugees. Weeks later, the Bulgarian Government dismissed the Head of the Agency for non-performance in face of the significant increase of refugees.