BHC for the people
What does the BHC do? Who are the people we help? We want to show you – through this campaign – who we are and what we fight for.
Every individual has the right to live in, leave, and return to the country where they hold citizenship. Each year, millions of people make the difficult decision to leave their country in search of a better, safer life. These people are collectively referred to as “migrants.”
A migrant is a person who leaves their country in order to permanently settle elsewhere. There are various reasons to immigrate to another country—work, education, establishing a family, etc. Regardless of their motivations, however, immigrants leave their homes and move to new countries not because they are forced to do so, but because they made the decision of their own free will. As a result, the conditions for their entry into the country and access to its laws are subject to the general rules and laws of that state.
Refugees, on the other hand, are people who are forced to flee their country. The reasons for this are varied: fear of persecution, the violation of basic human rights, or threats to their lives and safety as a result of war or natural disaster. In some countries, those in power violate or restrict human rights and freedoms on the basis of religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, and political beliefs, among other reasons.
Consequently, international law offers a special type of residence permit to individuals residing in foreign countries, referred to as “asylum.” In Europe, this special type of residency is called “international protection.” Individual asylum-seekers may claim either refugee status or humanitarian status, while in the case of war or other disasters, refugees are collectively granted temporary protection.
Those seeking asylum and protection have the right to announce their request to the Bulgarian state authorities, regardless of how they entered or currently reside in the country (legally or illegally). This right is granted by the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which states that refugees cannot be expected to fulfill the usual requirements for entry into a state, such as having a valid passport or visa or crossing the border only at official entry points.
BHC annually monitors the standards of the national asylum and international protection system, advocacy and lobbying for the improvement of national asylum and immigration legislation, and its accordance with European and international legal standards.
Monitoring and reports: We monitor the borders, administrative detention centers, and status proceedings before the State Agency for Refugees, which prevent the repatriation of refugees and protect their access to new territories and the protection process. We publish the results of this monitoring in specialized reports every year. The section on asylum rights from last year’s BHC report can be found here. Our special reports on the access to new territories and the efficacy of the refugee procedures can be found here.
Strategic litigation and legal aid: We provide legal aid to those applying for protection at the border, as well as assistance with legal proceedings, consultations, appeals against acts set by the state authorities, representation before the national and European courts, and other obstacles refugees may face. For the past twenty-six years we have been conducting educational trainings on refugee and immigration law for members of the administration—particularly those in the State Agency for Refugees and the Ministry of Interior—as well as judges, prosecutors, and legal representatives, including official lawyers from the National Office for Legal Assistance. We maintain legal help centers and a telephone line for consultations on individual cases related to refugee law and procedures, as well as a specialized website, asylum.bg.
Advocacy and campaigns: We organize campaigns for the protection of refugee rights, such as our campaign “Meet the refugees,” which aimed to inform the public about refugees residing in Bulgaria, and our campaign against the detention of asylum-seekers in police institutions. You can read more about myths surrounding refugees here.
In Bulgaria, the main problems faced by refugees are: