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Bulgaria: What was the anti-Covid-19 measures impact on migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers

In Bulgaria the „state of emergency” ended on 13 May but it was replaced by „emergency epidemic situation” which will be in place until 14 June. What were the measures the state authorities implemented to prevent the outbreak of corona virus and how did it impact on situation ofmigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers?

UPDATE: According to the decision of the government  the state of emergency epidemic situation in Bulgaria is extended to 30 June

In aim to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Bulgarian authorities announced state of emergency which lasted between 13 March and 13 May 2020. The legal act was adopted - the Law on Measures and Actions under the State of Emergency Announced by a Decision of the National Assembly of 13 March 2020. The act suspended all open administrative procedures, including the ones which related to migrants and refugees. 
The authorities announced the extension of documents (such as ID cards, passports, driver’s licenses) but only for migrants with a long-term residence permit, family members of Bulgarian citizens and family members of EU citizens. There was no corresponding provision for beneficiaries of international protection, which left them in a legal vacuum.

Asylum application and reception 

Despite the temporary prohibition for entry to the country, asylum-seekers could apply for international protection. According to the State Agency for Refugee’ there were 415 applications submitted in the 1st quarter of 2020 and already 257 applications during the April. However, all procedural actions on applications for international protection, which required the direct participation (physical participation) of asylum seekers and/or their legal representatives, consultants, etc., were suspended. Newly arrived asylum seekers were quarantined for a period of 14 days with active monitoring of their health in facilities of the State Agency for Refugees’ (SAR) Reception Centers. As soon as SAR Reception Centres were put into quarantine and no external visitors were allowed, migrants faced difficulties in receiving assistance and counselling from human rights and social organizations. However, they continued to provide their services online. 


All deportations of irregular migrants were suspended. During the state of emergency these migrants remained locked at the Special Homes for Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners under the Ministry of Interior and were deprived from their access to justice and their right to appeal against the administrative measure. All new detainees were initially placed in quarantine for 14 days without access to a lawyer during this period. 
The State Agency for Refugees offered accommodation  

During the pandemic many refugees lost their jobs and faced a high risk of homelessness. The State Agency for Refugees (SAR) offered accommodation in its Reception Centres for people with granted protection who werenot entitled to live there anymore. The SAR also offered them food. According to unofficial information, about 1/3 of all people accommodated by SAR had lost their jobs.


During the pandemic classes and all extracurricular activities in schools, universities and other educational institutions and organizations were suspended. Although the form of distance learning was introduced for refugee and migrant children it was difficult to successfully continue education. Access to remote classes was challenging for many asylum-seeking and refugee children as many did not have technical means such as tablets or laptops. The State Agency for Refugees managed to organize a way to continue with their education in a non-digital format. There were efforts to provide tablets and laptops to support the children and prevent drop out.  
Adult language and orientation classes provided by NGOs such as Bulgarian Red Cross, Caritas Sofia, IOM were successfully organized online and had high attendance rates

Bistra Ivanova
Multi Kulti Collective

Kseniya Homel
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs

Covid-19 in Bulgaria: As State of Emergency ends, epidemic declared to June 14,
Bulgaria will not extend state of emergency, but some curbs stay: minister [04.04.2020].