UNHCR Calls on Bulgaria To Ensure Access for Asylum-Seekers

One of the UN Refugee Agency’s top officials today expressed appreciation to the Bulgarian authorities for their efforts to improve reception conditions since 2014 and called on Bulgaria to ensure that people forced to flee war and persecution can enter the country, have their asylum claims processed fairly, and find the protection they need.

Sofia, 25 January, 2018 – One of the UN Refugee Agency’s top officials today expressed appreciation to the Bulgarian authorities for their efforts to improve reception conditions since 2014 and called on Bulgaria to ensure that people forced to flee war and persecution can enter the country, have their asylum claims processed fairly, and find the protection they need.

“UNHCR encourages Bulgarian authorities to maintain and expand these improvements to all the centres in the country, including enhanced investment in community engagement and empowerment. UNHCR also calls on Bulgaria to ensure continued access of asylum-seekers to territory and to asylum procedures that fully respect their rights,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. “Bulgaria will have a key role in following up on commitments that governments around the world made in the New York Declaration in September 2016, to protect the rights of all refugees and migrants, no matter what their status.”

He was speaking at an informal meeting of the EU’s justice and home affairs meeting being held in Sofia on 25-26 January to discuss reform of the Common European Asylum System after Bulgaria assumed the rotating EU presidency earlier this month. Türk presented recommendations by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, at a working lunch hosted by the EU Presidency in the margins of the Justice and Home Affairs Council

“Commitments to responsibility-sharing need to be translated within the EU,” he said. “This entails the development of an intra-EU solidarity mechanism to support EU member states facing disproportionate pressure on their asylum systems.”

UNHCR consistently encourages EU countries to continue expanding safe and legal pathways for people in need of international protection. These include allowing more refugees to come to Europe to re-unite with their families, to work and to study.

Türk highlighted the importance of establishing in Bulgaria a comprehensive integration programme that includes access to employment, language training, and housing assistance.

“UNHCR appreciates our co-operation with Bulgarian authorities in establishing the best interest determination procedure for children,” Türk added. “We also see a potential for strengthening identification mechanisms and referral mechanism for people with specific needs and unaccompanied and separated children.”

Türk said Bulgaria has made significant progress towards ending statelessness by introducing a statelessness determination procedure in 2016.