After the Second World War which ended on 9 May 1945, many people who had fled their states during the war were either unable or unwilling to return there due to their experiences, destruction and the lack of security. Hence, the international community decided to solve this issue by adopting a number of legal provisions enabling such people to remain in the states where they had fled in order to live in peace and without fear for their life.

Thus in 1951 the Organisation of the United Nations (UN) adopted the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. As this Convention was signed in Geneva, Switzerland, it became to be known as the “1951 Geneva Convention”. Later on, in 1967, the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, known as the “New York Protocol” was signed in addition to the Convention. These two international legal instruments regulate the rights of individuals who have fled their country of origin to reach another state in order to seek asylum and protection. The most important right is the right to receive a “refugee status“.

All the states of the European Union observe the Geneva Convention and apply its provisions in a mandatory manner. In addition to the Convention, however, the European Union has introduced other common rules which provide for the possibility to receive not only refugee status, but yet another additional type of status on the territory of Europe, called “subsidiary protection”. In Bulgaria this subsidiary protection is referred to as “humanitarian status“. Therefore, a person seeking protection in the states of the European Union can receive either of the two types of status – refugee status or subsidiary protection (humanitarian status), which are both known as “international protection”.

Bulgarian acceded to and signed the Geneva Convention and the New York Protocol in 1992, and in 2007 it became one of the states of the European Union. Thus, Bulgaria is bound not only by the UN rules regarding refugees’ protection, but also by the EU rules for granting international protection – under the form of both refugee status and humanitarian status.