UNHCR has shared with Bulgaria’s Parliament its provisional comments on a draft bill amending the Law on Asylum and Refugees. According to the UN Refugee Agency, under the guise of transposing the 2013 recast of the EU Reception Conditions Directive, the draft bill introduces possibilities for widespread detention and profiling based on, for example, age and gender.

“The new law foresees a strict detention regime with few legal safeguards for people seeking international protection. If adopted, it will drag down Bulgaria’s refugee and asylum law well below compliance with international and EU norms and standards,” said Roland Weil UNHCR’s Representative in Bulgaria.

The draft bill establishes as a ground for detention the fact that the third country national applies for asylum from ‘pre-removal’ detention “and there are serious grounds to believe that the application has been lodged merely in order to delay or frustrate the enforcement of a return decision”. UNHCR argues that this would lead to the detention of almost all asylum seekers in Bulgaria due to the imposition of compulsory detention for persons that have apprehended crossing irregularly the border. According to UNHCR, this is not in conformity with the Recast Reception Conditions Directive that allows the detention of asylum seekers only if “the Member State concerned can substantiate on the basis of objective criteria, including that he or she already had the opportunity to access the asylum procedure, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that he or she is making the application for international protection merely in order to delay or frustrate the enforcement of the return decision”.

It is UNHCR’s view that the proposed amendments do not reflect appropriate safeguards regarding judicial review of the lawfulness of detention and recommends that the draft legislation is modified to ensure that judicial review of the lawfulness of detention takes place within 24-48 hours of the issuance of the decision.

UNHCR also recommends that the draft bill is amended to prohibit the detention of unaccompanied children.

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