Despite MENA crisis, asylum applications in Bulgaria remain low

The number of asylum-seekers applying for refugee status in Bulgaria remains low in spite of the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, going by figures released on June 19 2012 by Bulgaria’s State Agency for Refugees and European Union statistics office Eurostat.

In 2011, the largest groups among those granted protection status in Bulgaria were from Iraq (135 people, close to 64 per cent),Afghanistan(30 people, 13.5 per cent) and stateless people, 10, or 58 per cent.

An average 1000 people apply for asylum in Bulgaria annually. In the recent months there has not been migration pressure on Bulgaria, despite the flashpoints in the Middle East, Nikola Kazakov, chairman of the State Agency for Refugees at the Cabinet office, told journalists, according to a report by local news agency Focus.

This year Bulgaria is doing everything possible to enhance its efforts in the area of asylum, the report said.

The first transit centre, one of the most modern in Europe, has been opened close to the southern town of Svilengrad, Kazakov said. Applicants will await decisions there on whether they will be granted refugee status.

Samer Abdellatif, a refugee from Iraq who has been living in Bulgaria for four years, was quoted as saying: “The life of a refugee in Bulgaria depends on the person themselves, not on the state.

“If they want, they will live normally. They have to learn the language, find a job and they will live calmly and normally. Here the people do not have a bad attitude towards us. It does not matter whether you are an Arab or a Bulgarian. This is the important thing. I am very pleased with the people here and with the state. My family is very happy here. My children study English and Bulgarian at school and Arabic at home.”

Kazakov said that the Bulgarian Government had decided to accept a small group of 20 people under a pilot resettlement programme.

The profile and origin of the resettled people will be in line with the list of specific common priorities of the EU in the area of resettlement, Kazakov said.

Bulgaria will be one of the EU countries to carry out this role. The programme will last 12 months, he said. The State Agency for Refugees will be responsible for working out the programme.

“By doing this, Bulgaria is expressing its support for the EC’s statement that resettlement should become an inseparable part of the EU asylum policy,” Kazakov said.

“Despite our restricted financial means right now, Bulgaria is working out a policy for joining the European resettlement scheme, showing the government’s willingness to share the responsibility and demonstrate solidarity with both the other member states carrying out resettlement and people persecuted across the world,” he said.

Eurostat said on June 19 that the 27 EU member states granted protection to 84 100 asylum seekers in 2011 compared with 75 800 in 2010.

The largest groups of beneficiaries of protection status in the EU27 were citizens of Afghanistan (13 300 people or 16 per cent of the total number of people granted protection status), Iraq (9 000 or 11 per cent) and Somalia (8900 or 11 per cent).

The figures were released on the occasion of World Refugee Day, June 20 2012.

One quarter of EU27 asylum decisions at the first instance resulted in protection status.

In 2011, 365 600 decisions on asylum applications were made in the EU27, of which 237 400 were first instance decisions and 128 200 final decisions on appeal.

Decisions made at the first instance resulted in 59 500 people being granted protection status, while a further 24 600 received protection status on appeal. In total, of the 84 100 people who were granted protection status in 2011, 42 700 were granted refugee status, 29 400 subsidiary protection and 12 000 authorisation to stay for humanitarian reasons.

In addition, the EU27 member states received 4100 resettled refugees.

The rate of recognition of asylum applicants, meaning the share of positive decisions in the total number of decisions, was 25 per cent for first instance decisions, split between refugee and subsidiary protection status (21 per cent) and humanitarian status (four per cent).

For final decisions on appeal the recognition rate was 19 per cent, again split between refugee and subsidiary protection status (17 per cent) and humanitarian status (two per cent).

Eurostat said that it should be noted that, while both refugee and subsidiary protection status are defined by EU law, humanitarian status is granted on the basis of national legislation relating to international protection.

More than three quarters of grants of protection status in the EU27 were made in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Italy.

In 2011, the highest number of people granted protection status was registered in the UK (14 400), followed by Germany (13 000), France (10 700), Sweden (10 600), the Netherlands (8 400) and Italy (7 500). These EU member states accounted for more than three quarters of all those granted protection status in the EU27.

Afghans were the single largest group of persons granted protection status in the EU27. Of the 13 300 Afghans granted protection status in the EU27, 3100 were recorded in Germany, 2700 in Sweden, 1800 in Austria, 1400 in the Netherlands and 1000 in the UK.

Of the 9000 Iraqis granted protection, 3300 were registered in Germany, 1400 in he Netherlands and 1200 in Belgium, and of the 8900 Somalis, 2600 were in Sweden and 2400 in the Netherlands.

(Photo: John Jackson/



The Sofia Globe staff

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