11 April 2014
In a statement published this week, ECRE reiterated its call on States not to send asylum seekers back to Bulgaria under the Dublin procedure until the conditions for asylum seekers in the country improve substantially and the Bulgarian authorities are able to comply in practice with their obligations under EU and international law. EU Member States and other countries participating in the Dublin system must assume responsibility for examining the asylum application of the asylum seekers concerned, in accordance with Article 3(2) and Article 17 of the recast Dublin Regulation.
While acknowledging and welcoming the efforts made by all actors involved to improve the situation for asylum seekers in Bulgaria, ECRE considers that sufficient safeguards are still not in place to ensure that asylum seekers’ fundamental rights are respected and protected in practice. Moreover, according to ECRE, by not returning asylum seekers to Bulgaria at this time, Member States can show solidarity to allow Bulgaria to further strengthen and improve its asylum system.
On 31 March, Amnesty International also called on European countries not to send any asylum seekers back to Bulgaria until the country truly improves its reception conditions and addresses its asylum procedures.
During a visit to Bulgaria in March, Amnesty International found that, despite some progress, living conditions in some of the reception centres continue to be inadequate and asylum seekers in Bulgaria continue to be routinely detained.
“Bulgarian authorities have started fixing the reception facilities but they are still failing to tackle systemic deficiencies. These include detention of asylum seekers and overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate provision of food,” said Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director at Amnesty International.