Temporary protection of a foreigner in Bulgaria – advantages or a curse?

In our opinion, the legal regulations regarding temporary protection in Bulgaria suffer from a serious legal deficit – the inability for the protection status to be surrendered.Posolstvo.eu

The Temporary Protection status became especially popular after the start of the war in Ukraine. From February 2022 onwards, thousands of Ukrainian citizens left their homes to seek refuge abroad. A significant number of them chose Bulgaria as their temporary or permanent home. Many of the refugees also received the status of a person under temporary protection, according to the provisions of the Law for the asylum and the refugees (the Refugees Law). However, today, more than a year after the start of the war in Ukraine, many Ukrainian citizens are willing to voluntarily give up their temporary protection status. But is this even possible? What should the foreigner do to surrender his “rights”? And last but not least, why are there so many Ukrainians (and not only) who are willing to give up their temporary protection status in Bulgaria?

Why give up temporary protection status?

The temporary protection, although it provides a lot of rights to the foreigners in Bulgaria, has its downsides. For example, persons under temporary protection cannot obtain an EU Blue Card, even if they meet all legal requirements. Highly qualified specialists from Ukraine, for instance, working in Bulgaria with temporary protection status, prefer the significantly more stable EU Blue Card residence status. These people realize very well that the temporary protection status can be terminated at any moment.

Another disadvantage of the temporary protection status is that it does not lead to a fast procedure for acquiring Bulgarian citizenship.

Voluntary surrender of temporary protection in Bulgaria – mission impossible?

The Refugees Law defines what temporary protection is:

Temporary protection is granted in the event of a mass influx of foreigners who are forced to leave their country of origin due to armed conflict, civil war, foreign aggression, violation of human rights or large-scale violence on the territory of the respective country or in a separate area from it and who cannot return there, because of these reasons.

art. 1a, par. 3 from the Refugees Law

The Bulgarian legislation defines the cases when temporary protection can be granted and terminated.

Granting of temporary protection

The provision of temporary protection is regulated in Art. 2, par. 2 of the Refugees Law. The law stipulates that temporary protection is granted by the Council of Ministers, on basis of a decision of the Council of the EU:

The Council of Ministers grants temporary protection under Art. 1a, par. 3, introduced by a decision of the Council of the EU. The term of temporary protection is determined by the decision of the Council of the EU.

art. 2, par. 2 from the Refugees Law

Termination, revocation and surrendering of temporary protection

termination of temporary protection

Termination of temporary protection

The termination of the temporary protection is regulated in art. 82 of the Refugees Law. According to par. 1, temporary protection is terminated when:

  1. the term for which the protection is decreed has expired;
  2. a decision is taken by the Council of the EU.

Withdrawal of temporary protection

According to art. 82, par. 2 of the Refugees Law, temporary protection is revoked when, for the foreigner, there are serious reasons to assume that he:

  • has committed a war crime or a crime against the peace and humanity;
  • has committed a serious crime of a non-political nature outside of the territory of Bulgaria;
  • carries out, incites, assists, participates in training or preparation for carrying out actions contrary to the goals and principles of the UN, regulated in the Preamble and in Art. 1 and 2 of the UN Charter, as well as in resolutions and, on measures to combat international terrorism;
  • there are serious grounds for believing that he poses a danger to the national security or to the society.

Surrendering of the temporary protection

At the moment, there is no legal procedure that allows for the surrender of the granted temporary protection status.

The legal deficit or why we can’t give up temporary protection?

As we have seen above, in the current legal framework in the field of temporary protection, there are no legal norms that allow for the surrender of temporary protection, before the expiration of the period for which it has been decreed (granted).

At the same time, the Bulgarian administrative authorities provide the opportunity for the foreigner to return his registration card. The card is to be returned to the State Agency for Refugees at the Council of Ministers. In this case, the card is kept until the reason for its issuance ceases or with a view to returning it to the foreigner upon request. Unfortunately, such a return has absolutely no legal consequences and is practically a purely symbolic act.

The impossibility of a voluntary surrender of “rights”, in this situation, is in itself a legal absurdity. At the same time, the formal provisions of the law create a number of difficulties, and only the future will tell what the decisions of the courts will be in relevant cases.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need assistance with temporary protection related issues.

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