“Center for Legal Aid – “Voice in Bulgaria” (CLA), in partnership with Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights (BLHR), begins work on a new project focused on helping migrants at risk integrate into the community instead of being detained. The project is called: “Protecting migrants with precarious status: decreasing the use of detention and applying community-based alternatives” and is funded by the Network of European Foundations (NEF) through the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM).
Starting January 1st 2017, the CLA and BLHR will build on and continue the work started with the previous project implemented by the CLA and funded by EPIM: “Who Gets Detained? Increasing the transparency and accountability of Bulgaria’s detention practices of asylum seekers and migrants”. The new project’s length is 24 months and it will finish on December 31, 2018.
The project’s goal is to bring migrant detention in Bulgaria in accordance to the European Union and Council of Europe legal standards – meaning to limit it only to the objectively necessary, proportional and mandated by law minimum, used as a last resort only when all alternative to detention measures are exhausted. The project would be also focused on the precarious status of migrants, residing illegally within the territory of the state whose deportation cannot be carried out.
How would we do that?
CLA and BLHR, through focused advocacy and bringing key cases before the court, will aim to establish practices of placing asylum seekers and newly-arrived migrants who have entered irregularly in closed-type centers that are synchronized with the abovementioned European standards. Both groups are subject to placement in closed facilities with legislative changes adopted in 2016, in the Law on the Asylum and Refugees (LAR), and the Law on the Foreigners in R. Bulgaria (LFRB), respectively.
The abovementioned LAR and its other recent amendments regarding the admissibility of subsequent asylum claims has closed the only door to maintaining some legal status in Bulgaria for failed asylum seekers, and had thus worsened the situation of undocumented persons by exposing them to risks of detention and precarious living. That is why the project team will be also turning their attention towards the drafting of a bill providing a possibility for regularization or according a “tolerance” status for persons with irregular status whose deportation cannot be carried out.
The project’s team will initiate public discussions and debates and advocate before the institutions, the legislative and executive powers. CLA will continue to maintain a specialized website on detention and related topics – www.detainedinbg.com. The team will also identify 50-60 migrant cases of strategic importance and relevance to the project’s goals and will provide thorough case management for those people, including legal representation and social mediation. The goal will be to help them meet their basic needs and enable them to integrate into the community rather than be placed in detention, until their case is resolved by obtaining legal status in Bulgaria or informed departure to the country of origin, if all grounds for staying are exhausted.
What is regularization and “tolerance” status?
Regularization is defined as “the granting, on the part of the State, of a residence permit to a person of foreign nationality residing illegally within its territory.” The main element of this definition lays in the fact that the foreigner is already residing illegally within the territory of the given state and precisely this illegality is to be regularized. In other words, through regularization procedures a person who is already residing in a given state for a period of time and who the state thus far could not deport acquires legal status and is no longer subject to removal from the territory of the state.
There are numerous benefits from regularization – both for the persons concerned and the society. Regularization grants basic human rights to people who have been living and working in a state for long time. It regulates the underground economy, prevents worker exploitation and increases tax revenues.
On the other hand, there are states who temporary “tolerate” foreigners who are illegally residing for a reason (for instance, their deportation would breach the European Convention on Human Rights). The “tolerance” status does not regularize a person as her/ his stay continues to be illegal but her/ his obligation to leave the country is simply suspended. Therefore, s/he is not subject to detention and forced removal.
There are different forms of regularizations. However, the most distinguishable classification is between permanent regularizations (also known as mechanisms) and one-off regularizations (also known as programs). One-off procedures often target a specific group of people and presuppose the fulfillment of certain conditions – typically related to the date of entry of those concerned or their presence within the territory of the state on a particular date. The permanent regularizations, on the other hand, are continuous, ongoing processes which are part of a regular migration policy framework. They do not target a specific group of migrants or a period of time but rather involve, for instance, humanitarian considerations (e.g. non-deportable rejected asylum-seekers, health condition, family ties etc.) who are not presupposed by the date on which the foreigners entered the territory of the state.
Since 1998, over 5 million people have been regularized in European Union states.
Where to look for more information and the project’s progress?
CLA’s team will publish on this website on a regular basis various information on the topics of detention and its alternatives, regularization and other related issues, including an in-depth study of regularization practices within the EU which CLA’s team would conduct as part of the project.
 See Apap, J., De Bruycker, P., & Schmitter, C. (2000). Regularisation of Illegal Aliens in the European Union-Summary Report of a Comparative Study. Eur. J. Migration & L., 2, 263.
 See Apap, J., De Bruycker, P., & Schmitter, C. (2000). Regularisation of Illegal Aliens in the European Union-Summary Report of a Comparative Study. Eur. J. Migration & L., 2, 263; see also Baldwin-Edwards, M., & Kraler, A. (2009). REGINE Regularisations in Europe. Study on practices in the area of regularisation of illegally staying third-country nationals in the Member States of the EU. ICMPD–International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Ref. JLS B, 4.
 See Baldwin-Edwards, M., & Kraler, A. (2009). REGINE Regularisations in Europe. Study on practices in the area of regularisation of illegally staying third-country nationals in the Member States of the EU. ICMPD–International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Ref. JLS B, 4.