After the foreigner has been registered as an applicant for protection in Bulgaria by the staff of the Agency for Refugees, the procedure for the examination of his/her application starts with the first stage – the Dublin procedure.
The purpose of the Dublin procedure is taking the decision on whether the remaining part of the procedure for international protection with the relevant applicant will be conducted in Bulgaria or in another state of the European Union.
Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union and is obliged to observe all its common laws applicable to all the states of this Union. One of these laws is called the Dublin Regulation, which requires conducting the Dublin procedure. The Dublin Regulation stipulates that foreigners may lodge an application for international protection only in one state of the European Union. This means that if the foreigner has lodged an application in one state of the European Union (for example: Bulgaria), this foreigner does not have the right to lodge an application in another state (for example: Germany) later on and ask for protection in that state.
This is the reason why the first action that the Bulgarian state is obliged to perform is taking the fingerprints of any foreigner applying for international protection in Bulgaria.
After fingerprints have been taken, an interview may be conducted; the purpose is for the Agency staff to interview the applicant for protection by asking questions about the states in which he/she was and which he/she passed through before entering Bulgaria, and whether he/she has family members or relatives in other states of the European Union. However, a decision may be made in the Dublin procedure without such an interview – only on the basis of the fingerprints and the data provided by the applicant upon registration.
The fingerprints taken are immediately checked in the common information system, called EURODAC.
If the results from the check show that no other state has previously taken the applicant’s fingerprints, the procedure for the examination of the application is to be conducted in Bulgaria which will make the decision on either granting the applicant a status in the European Union or refusing him/her such a status. All the states of the European Union are obliged to apply this procedure and take a decision in it.
This procedure is called “Dublin procedure”. Whether the applicant entered Bulgaria illegally or with a valid passport or visa, the procedure is obligatory for everybody, except for children aged under 14.
If the applicant has relatives in another state of the European Union who had already been there before he/she entered Bulgaria, the applicant can ask to be transferred to that country and have his/her application for international protection examined there. In order for this to take place, however, one of the following conditions must be met:
- The applicant is a minor aged under 18 who is unmarried, and has a parent or parents (mother and father) or one of the following family members – a grandmother, a grandfather, an aunt, an uncle or an adult brother or sister – who is residing in another state;
- The applicant is an adult (aged over 18), and has a husband or a wife who is residing in another state;
- The applicant is an adult and has a minor child (or children) who is residing in another state, unmarried and is alone, unaccompanied by the other parent (the applicant’s husband/wife) or is accompanied by a grandmother, a grandfather, an uncle, an aunt or an adult brother or sister;
- The applicant’s family has been separated – the applicant is in Bulgaria, while family members (husband/wife, children, brother and sisters) are residing in another European state whose territory they entered before the applicant’s arrival in Bulgaria and who are either in the procedure or have received a status: (a). the majority of the family members are in that state; or (b). the oldest relative or family member is in that state.
In the above cases, the applicant must, right upon registration, declare these circumstances to the employee of the Agency for Refugees interviewing him/her, and must submit documents (original or copies) certifying the marriage, the birth of the children, the family relationship, as well as documents certifying the type of residence of that relative/family member in the other state. Furthermore, the applicant must sign a declaration declaring his/her consent to be transferred to that other state, as well as ask his/her relatives/family members to send him/her such a declaration (by mail, fax or e-mail) on their consent to the applicant’s transfer into the state where they are residing.
The permission for the applicant’s transfer is not issued by Bulgaria but by the other state. The time limit for the other state to respond to the Bulgarian authorities informing them about the acceptance is 2 months from the day on which the official request and the accompanying documents and declarations are sent. If the applicant receives permission for the transfer into another state, the Agency for Refugees is obliged to prepare the travel documents and ensure the travel arrangements, which, however, takes some time. If the other state refuses the applicant’s transfer into its territory, the procedure will be conducted in Bulgaria. The Agency for Refugees will examine the application for protection and will issue a decision on it.
If, before entering Bulgaria, the applicant has been in another state of the European Union, the applicant may be taken back into that state. If the applicant wishes to stay in Bulgaria, he/she has the right to lodge an appeal before a Bulgarian court within 7 days from the date on which the decision on his/her return to the other European state is received.
If the applicant does not meet any of the grounds for being transferred into another European state, he/she will receive a written decision informing him/her that Bulgaria is the European state responsible for examining his/her application for protection. This decision must be read to the applicant by an interpreter; then it is served on the applicant by the interviewer in order to be signed, and a copy in Bulgarian is given to the applicant. Within 7 days after the decision is received, the second stage of the procedure starts – the accelerated procedure.