Where the decision issued in the procedure is a refusal, the applicants can appeal against this decision in a Bulgarian court.
If the time limit is missed even by one day, the court will not hear the appeal, the decision refusing a status will become final, and the procedure in Bulgaria will come to an end. Then the Bulgarian authorities will have the right to return the applicant to his/her country of origin as an illegal immigrant who has received a final refusal of international protection.
The time limits for lodging an appeal depend on the stage at which the refusal is issued:
- in cases of a refusal in the accelerated procedure – the time limit is 7 days from the day on which the applicant received the copy of the decision and certified this by signing.
- in cases of a refusal of a status in the general procedure – the time limit is 14 days from the day on which the applicant received the copy of the decision and certified this by signing.
Before these two stages, in the preceding Dublin procedure, an appeal can be lodged only if a decision has been issued for the applicant’s transfer into another European state, and the applicant wishes to remain on the territory of Bulgaria. In this case, the appeal must be lodged before the court within 7 days. The decisions issued in the Dublin procedure for initiating a procedure in Bulgaria, however, are not subject to an appeal.
The court procedures are also different depending on the procedure stage at which the decision appealed was issued:
- in cases of an appeal against a refusal in the accelerated procedure – the competent court to decide on the appeal is the administrative court by the applicant’s residence address indicated on his/her registration card, and the appeal is heard only at one instance whose decision is final.
- in cases of an appeal against a refusal in the general procedure – the appeal is heard at two instances, which means that if the applicant is not happy with the judgment of the first court, he/she can appeal against this first decision at the second instance.
The competent court to hear the appeal in the general procedure at the first judicial instance is the administrative court by the area of the applicant’s residence address indicated on his/her registration card.
The decision of the first judicial instance is served on the applicant by a court clerk, and the receipt is certified by the applicant’s signature. The clerk serves the decision at the applicant’s address indicated on the appeal; therefore, if the address was changed after the lodging of the appeal, it is very important for the applicant to file a written application informing the court about the new address. If the applicant fails to do so, he/she loses the right to lodge an appeal at the second judicial instance in case the decision is not in his /her favour.
If the first judicial instance rejects the appeal, the applicant has the right to lodge a second appeal against the decision issued by the first court. The second appeal must be lodged within 14 days from the day on which the applicant is served with the judgment and certifies the receipt by signing. This appeal is lodged at the last judicial instance – the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria. The judgment of the Supreme Judicial Court is a final decision. The applicant does not have the right to lodge a third appeal; this is why as from that point he/she becomes an illegal immigrant with a final refusal.
The lodging of such an appeal does not require paying a fee, as the law provides for a free-of-charge court procedure in such cases. The applicants are advised to be assisted by a lawyer for the purpose of writing and lodging the appeal. For more information on this issue, see “Legal aid by a lawyer”.
The court must be presented with all the documents or other evidence that the applicant has in order to prove his/her identity and the reasons why he/she fled his/her country of origin in order to seek protection in Bulgaria. The court may also be requested to order an expert assessment for proving a claim made by the applicant, for example: that the applicant is an unaccompanied child aged under 18. For more information on this issue, see “Expert assessments”.
The same appeal procedure is applied with respect to any other decision issued by the Agency for Refugees – refusal for accommodation in a refugee centre, which is subject to an appeal within 7 days. The other decisions that can be appealed in the same way but within a time limit of 14 days are: the decision on termination of the procedure; the decision refusing the permission for family reunion (линк към 8. от основното меню) in Bulgaria after a status has been granted; and the decisions on withdrawal of a status or cessation of a status.