- Not yet a country of net immigration, the number of newcomers has risen in recent years from 3,900 in 2008 to 6,400 in 2013, especially due to labour migration of highly skilled workers, engineers and technical staff
- Another major change is the huge increase in humanitarian immigration due to the war in SY: Almost 11 thousand individuals arrived to BG in 2013 in just a few months
- BG employment rate is still relatively low for the EU but recovering in 2014
- Public opinion is slightly negative towards immigrants: only 37% think that immigration enrich the country economically and culturally
- Rank: 31 out of 38
- MIPEX Score: 42
- LABOUR MARKET MOBILITY 50
- FAMILY REUNION 64
- EDUCATION 3
- HEALTH 28
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION 13
- PERMANENT RESIDENCE 67
- ACCESS TO NATIONALITY 21
- ANTI-DISCRIMINATION 89
Changes in context
Key Common Statistics
|Country of net migration since:||% Non-EU citizens||% Foreign-born||% Non-EU of foreign-born||% Non-EU university-educated||% from low or medium-developed (HDI) country|
|UN 2010 data in 2013||Eurostat 2013||Eurostat 2013||Eurostat 2013||Note: Adults aged 18-64, Eurostat 2013||Eurostat 2013|
Changes in policy
Immigrant integration is still not a priority for the BG government. Therefore, little has changed since the first MIPEX evaluation of Bulgaria in 2010.
The minor changes that have occurred since 2010 are mainly in areas regulated by EU law: family reunification, long-term residence and anti-discrimination. BG (like HU and LT) has attracted a very small number of non-EU citizens (0.5% like BG, LT). Therefore, the government does not invest efforts in developing integration policies responding to the needs of the newcomers and continues to target mainly long-term residents, which have already integrated in the country.
Conclusions and recommendations
Newcomers benefit from halfway favourable policies that create slightly more obstacles than opportunities for non-EU immigrants to quickly and fully participate in society, ranked 31st (behind RO, CZ, EE and HU). Thanks to EU law, most non-EU newcomers can access the labour market and training, reunite with family and secure EU long-term residence, despite some of the persisting gaps in these areas. BG’s strong anti-discrimination laws and body can further contribute to equal treatment for non-EU citizens when practices go against the law, if the state supports their implementation through financial resources.
The major obstacles to integration in BG are common problems in the region. Despite EU law, when seeking or renewing permits, immigrants who meet all the legal requirements still face wide administrative discretion. BG has the most restrictive naturalisation policies out-of-touch with integration processes and out-of-reach for non-EU residents without ethnic Bulgarian roots. Immigrant pupils have extremely limited access to the school system and cannot benefit from any measures nor resources to support their specific needs. BG (as well as RO) is one of the most restrictive countries in denying all political rights to the small number of non-EU citizens, residing in its territory. Immigrants have also limited access to health services, with policies that often fail to take their specific health needs into account.
In contrast, other new destination countries continue to make major improvements (e.g. CZ, GR, PL), following international reform trends. BG can learn from other countries and international trends: reforming citizenship (PL, CZ, PT) from an integration perspective, implementing intercultural education (PT, Western Europe) and opening political opportunities (SI, IE, PT, ES).
Policy Recommendations from the Open Society Institute Sofia
- Include migrants with ‘continuous’ 1-year-renewable-permits (продължително пребиваване) and their families on continuous permits as beneficiaries of all integration policies, including equal access to public health insurance, social security, and general education and training
- Decrease disproportionately burdensome fees for reuniting families, long-term residence permit, naturalisation and access to the school system
- Allow local voting rights for permanent residents following international reform trends
- Amend BG citizenship law to establish a clear path to BG citizenship from an integration perspective, including by removing Bulgaria's renunciation requirement for non-EU residents without BG roots and decreasing the residence requirement to 5-7 years, the average in the MIPEX countries. Guarantee the right to appeal of decisions denying citizenship
- Grant equal access to schools for all migrant pupils and make intercultural education a reality – through the school curriculum, teacher training, BG and immigrant language classes, support for parents and prior learning assessment
- Enforce BG’s strong anti-discrimination laws and body by supporting its implementation through financial resources – raising awareness among the potential beneficiaries, monitor legislation’s compatibility with anti-discrimination standards, promote equality through information campaigns
- Remove the labour market test for non-EU residents with 1-year-renewable-permits in accessing the labour market
POLICIES - SUMMARY
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POLICIES - DETAILS
Labour Market Mobility
Non-EU workers and families lack the support, information and targeted programmes to pursue jobs and further training in BG
Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?
Ranking 27th, non-EU newcomers still face only halfway favourable opportunities for labour market integration in BG, as in most Central European countries. Holders of the new EU single residence/work permit should enjoy more equal access in many areas, including education and training (+2 in 2013) Non-EU labour migrants and family members must wait 5 years to gain equal access to the labour market and general support. All non-EU citizens face weak procedures to recognise their foreign qualifications and only ad hoc projects to provide them the specific information and skills they need to pursue jobs and further training. Non-EU residents with ‘continuous’ 1-year-renewable-permits (продължително пребиваване) and their families are still excluded from unemployment and social benefits.
Dimension 1: Access to labour market
- General access to the labour market continues to be favourable for long-term residents and open to immigrant entrepreneurs
- Long-term residents and their family members are not delayed in their access to the labour market, as in 23 other countries
- Temporary migrant workers and their families have to await 5 years to change jobs and sectors until they become long-term residents, a common delay across Europe
- Certain public sector jobs are still not fully open to non-EU citizens (see equal access to public sector in 15)
Dimension 2: Access to general support
- Non-EU citizens' access to general support is halfway favourable in BG, as in RO and HR
- Public employment services and study grants are accessible only for long-term residents and their family members
- Since 2013, holders of new single residence/work permit benefit from equal access to public employment services, education and training and diploma recognition, under Article 72d of Law on Employment Promotion and thanks to EU law (see also CY, CZ, GR, LV)
- Workers with non-EU professional qualifications must go through potentially more complicated procedures to get them recognised than EU citizens do
- No clear procedure exists to validate foreign skills and work experience, unlike in a slight-majority of countries
Dimension 3: Targeted support
- Limited targeted support through ad hoc EU-funded projects
- Foreign-trained workers can benefit only from a one-stop-shop National Centre for Information and Documentation (NACID) and regulations for academic qualification recognition procedures
- Other countries are piloting and evaluating potentially more effective support, such as job-specific/based language training (10 countries) and peer-to-peer mentoring (12 countries, e.g. AT, DE, PT)
Dimension 4: Workers' rights
- BG is among the countries with lowest score on workers' rights along with CZ, PL, SK (more equal in half the MIPEX countries)
- Although taxpayers, non-EU workers and their family members are excluded from unemployment and social benefits unless they are long-term/permanent residents or beneficiaries of bilateral agreements
Are immigrants acquiring new skills?
Very rough estimates from 2011/2 suggest that general support is only reaching a minority of working-age non-EU citizens. The EU Labour Force Survey suggests that ¼ may have recently undertaken education or training in BG. This estimate is unreliable but may reflect the sizeable international student population in BG who could stay on with their BG degrees and benefit in the future from labour market integration.
Better chances in recent years to reunite families in law and in practice thanks to EU law
How easily can immigrants reunite with family?
Non-EU families have slightly more favourable chances to reunite together in BG, thanks to EU law (+5 in 2011 and +3 in 2013). BG opened its restrictive definition of the family to include all minor and dependent adult children for medical reasons (since 2011) as well as stable long-term partners (since 2013). However, BG’s inclusive family definition still does not allow reunion with same-sex partners and a non-EU citizen’s parents. The procedure itself still contains several discretionary elements. And despite legal amendments in 2013, family members are still generally dependent on sponsor until they become long-term residents.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- Sponsors can now be joined by their spouse or their stable long-term partner since 2013, as in 16 other MIPEX countries
- 2011 amendments clarify that sponsors can reunite with all minor children and now unmarried adult children dependent for medical reasons, allowed in the majority of countries
- However, migrants in BG still cannot reunite with their same-sex partners unlike most MIPEX countries (26, recently AT, FR, IE, LU, MT, SI, US) and their parents like in 10 of the MIPEX countries
- All types of temporary residents with ≤1-year-permits (27 countries) can apply immediately to reunite with their family members (14 countries)
Dimension 2: Conditions
- Only basic legal income and standard housing required in BG and 21 other countries
- BG imposes disproportionately burdensome fees and costs for reuniting families (up to €270) when compared to the normal administrative fees and average income in the country
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Reuniting families are only slightly certain of their chances to reunite and settle in BG as in most countries
- Authorities can deny or withdraw their legal status through discretionary procedures with wide grounds (e.g. family breakup, economic resources, public security), without considering personal circumstances (e.g. violence, existing links with country of origin)
- Permits for family are as long and renewable as their sponsor's in BG and 18 other countries
- Rejected applicants learn why and can appeal to a court, as in 29 MIPEX countries
Dimension 4: Rights associated
- Reunited families have similar legal rights as their sponsors, as in the majority of countries
- Family members are now entitled to a one-off autonomous residence permit of up to one year (since 2013), based on very limited and vague grounds (in case of divorce and ‘extraordinary circumstances’)
- Families therefore still have very limited access to autonomous residence permits before long-term residence, which remains problematic in most MIPEX countries
Are families reuniting?
Between 900-1,100 non-EU family members have reunited with a non-EU family member in BG in recent years.
How often do immigrants reunite with family?
Non-EU families are slightly more likely to reunite with their non-EU resident sponsor in BG than on average with Europe. Non-EU family reunion is rare across Europe, with only around 2.2 newly arrived family members every year for every 100 non-EU residents in the EU population. In BG, this rate is slightly higher around 3 newly arrived family member per 100 non-EU residents. This rate is comparable to other Central European countries (CZ, HU, RO, SI, SK) with relatively small and new immigrant populations. Reuniting families are generally representative of the diversity of BG’s immigration population, with rates slightly lower for immigrants from nearby countries (e.g. AM, TU, UA) and higher for families further afield (CN, US, RU). BG’s average and improving family reunion policies may help to explain these slightly above-average rates, similar to countries with similar policies in Central and Southern Europe.
School system is the most unprepared to address the new needs and opportunities of immigrant pupils, even though only minor coordination and support are needed for this small number of pupils
How many pupils have immigrant parents?
The number of foreign-born pupils in BG remains very small as a new and small country of immigration. The OECD’s 2012 PISA test estimated that they made up only 0.2% of 15-year-old test-takers. The number of non-EU pupils remains small, estimated with Eurostat data at 2,700 or 0.2% of <15-year-olds in 2014.
Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?
Hardly any targeted support is available for immigrant pupils in schools in BG, scoring only 3/100 and ranking 38th similar to TU. The school system creates barriers to access for certain categories of immigrant pupils and largely ignores the specific needs and opportunities that they bring to the classroom. BG still lacks a nationwide framework for responding to the needs of newcomer pupils with accompanying measures and funding to increase these schools’ capacities.
Dimension 1: Access
- Access to the school system in BG as in HU, continues to be critically unfavourable by creating many specific barriers for immigrant pupils
- All pupils with migrant parents, except for family members of long term residence status holders, are obliged to pay high fees to access compulsory education (this should change due to Judgment No.1158/2013 of the Supreme Administrative Court, based on the prohibition of discrimination under Article 14 of the ECHR)
- Children of temporary residents and undocumented parents cannot access vocational or higher education under the same conditions as BG citizens
- No targeted policies to support access in practice for immigrant pupils throughout their education in BG, including no clear rules for the assessment of prior learning (see examples in FR & LU)
Dimension 2: Targeting needs
- BG receives another critical zero for the lack of any measures and resources to address the specific needs of migrant pupils, except for children of refugees and international protection beneficiaries (see instead strong policies in traditional countries of immigration, Nordics, EE)
- Teachers in BG are not required to be trained on migrants' needs or intercultural approach, as in 23 MIPEX countries
- Migrants pupils are not entitled to consistent quality support to learn the BG language
Dimension 3: New opportunities
- Bulgaria is not seizing the opportunities and skills that migrant pupils bring to the classroom (see instead AU, CA, SE)
- As in HU, schools in BG are not required to teach about immigrant languages and cultures
- In contrast, most countries teach immigrant languages and cultures to many more groups, though often only to migrant pupils, either at school (e.g. foreign language offer or teaching assistants) or through extra-curricular courses (see more accessible & flexible courses in AT, AU, CA, Nordics, CH)
Dimension 4: Intercultural education
- Intercultural education at schools is part of the state educational standards but remains critically unfavourable because of the lack of targeted measures in practice
- Centre for Educational Integration of Children and Students from ethnic minorities is still mainly focused on Roma integration, but slowly opening up for projects aiming to train teachers in tolerance and work in multicultural environment
- In contrast, most other countries make the appreciation of cultural diversity an explicit cross-curricular priority, a subject for voluntary teaching trainings and a government budget line for ad hoc projects
Health is area of weakness in integration policy across the region, including Bulgaria
Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?
Migrant health policies are another area of weakness for integration policy in Bulgaria, as in the average Central European country. Healthcare access and services are poorly adapted to migrants' specific needs. Bulgaria's previous work on ethnic minority health means that policies should be better prepared to support these changes. However, no changes have been made in healthcare services, even at a small scale, while policies on access are weaker than in most countries (see instead AT, CZ, IT, RO).
Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE.
Dimension 1: Entitlements
- In Bulgaria, as in most countries, legal migrants and asylum-seekers have basic entitlements to healthcare that may be undermined in practice
- Legal migrants, depending on what permit they obtain, are treated the same as Bulgarian citizens, as are asylum-seekers, depending on where they live; in both cases migrants may not recieve treatment in practice depending on the discretion of medical staff
- Bulgaria is one of the few MIPEX countries (9) excluding undocumented migrants (see box); The existing exceptions for vulnerable groups may be undermined in practice by staff discretionary decisions and demands for documentation.
Dimension 2: Access policies
- Migrants may find it harder to access their healthcare entitlements in Bulgaria than in most countries in Europe or the region
- Through a few ad hoc EU-funded projects, NGOs provide asylum-seekers in reception centres with limited multilingual information on their entitlements and health education/promotion
- Other migrants and healthcare providers are lacking information and intercultural mediators (see best practices in Western and Southern Europe)
Dimension 3: Responsive services
- Healthcare services are not at all adapted to migrants' specific health needs
- Services are critically unresponsive to migrants in Bulgaria, as in most Central and Southeastern European countries
- Not even hospitals are guaranteed interpreters when treating asylum seekers (see initiatives in CZ, HU and Western Europe)
Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change
- Policies are somewhat able to respond to the need for change, thanks to available data and substantial research on minority health issues in the Bulgarian healthcare system
- To date, policies do not explicitly address migrants in health policy, health in integration policy or migrant health stakeholders (in Europe, see IE, IT, NO, ES, UK)
Undocumented migrants in detention centres have free access to healthcare services. In practice, when appropriate services are missing, migrants may not be referred to specialists and hospitals. Those outside detention centres have no access to free healthcare and must pay even for emergency services. As a result, GPs may or may not choose to treat undocumented migrants, while in practice emergency services may refuse care to uninsured patients (see instead IT, RO, SI).
Political participation is still missing from BG’s integration strategy
Who are disenfranchised from voting?
The small number of non-EU citizen adults (estimated at 38,000 aged 15+ in 2014) are disenfranchised in local elections in BG. These potential electors represent only 0.6% of the adult (aged 15+) population in BG.
Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?
The small number of non-EU citizen adults are generally excluded from democratic life in BG, ranking 33rd like HR, LV and weaknesses across Central and Southeast Europe. Only through civil society do they have any opportunity to influence the policies that affect their everyday life. Their participation is not encouraged by the BG authorities through any specific consultation or funding structure for immigrant civil society. Political participation is still critically missing from BG’s integration strategy, with no improvements in recent years.
Dimension 1: Electoral rights
- Non-EU residents do not have the local right to vote or stand in elections, unlike in 21 countries including 5 other Central European countries (CZ, EE, LT, SI, SK, recent discussions also in PL)
Dimension 2: Political liberties
- Political liberties are marginally better as non-EU citizens can form associations in the same way as BG citizens
- However, they cannot become members of political parties, unlike in the vast majority of MIPEX countries
Dimension 3: Consultative bodies
- Consultative bodies to inform and improve the policies that affect migrants daily are not yet part of integration governance on local and national level in BG
- No action since 2010, except through occasional non-governmental initiatives funded through the European Integration Fund
- Local consultative bodies (mostly in the capital) now exist in 24 countries, as do national bodies in 13 countries (see new but relatively weak bodies in CZ, EE, GR, IE, LT)
Dimension 4: Implementation policies
- New immigrant communities cannot obtain State funds to organise politically, except through occasional European Integration Fund projects (see instead approach in new destinations such as KR, PT)
How many non-EU immigrants are eligible to vote?
The chances for the non-EU-born to participate politically in BG are highly uneven depending on their origins. As non-EU-born with ethnic BG roots easily become citizens, a very rough estimate of 40% of those in BG have become BG citizens with full voting rights. Ordinary immigrants without BG ethnic roots have very low chances of becoming BG citizens and no voting rights as non-EU citizens. BG emerges as a relatively exclusive democracy for immigrants, on par with RO, CZ and AT.
Applicants to become long-term residence should enjoy less vague and discretionary procedures, if they can pay one of the most expensive and disproportionate fees in Europe
Who can become long-term residents?
Despite the perception of BG as a ‘new’ country of immigration, most within its small community of non-EU citizens seem to be long-settled there (5+ years), according to very rough estimates from the 2011/2 EU Labour Force Survey.
How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?
Non-EU citizens benefit from slightly clear eligibility rules and conditions since 2011 (+3) and 2013 (+3), thanks to EU law. Still, applicants and long-term residents may be uncertain about the future, as authorities retain wide discretion and hinder access through disproportionate fees by BG and international standards.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- Non-EU residents are delayed for 5 years to apply for equal opportunities to integrate in economic and social life in most of EU countries
- The rules for counting time studying in BG and time abroad (amendment in 2013) are average for Europe
Dimension 2: Conditions
- The requirements are relatively straight forward for applicants who can prove their basic legal income, as is most common across Europe
- Applicants may be discouraged by one of the highest fees for issuing the permit in Europe (above 500 EUR); for a BG citizen, that’s the equivalent of two entire months’ income (based on the median equivalised income)
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Apart from being issued with a 5-year permit, as required under EU law, applicants and long-term residents are uncertain about the future, as authorities retain wide discretion, as in other Central European countries (CZ, LT, RO, SK)
- In 2011, BG introduced limitations to the grounds for refusal of long-term residence permits and personal circumstances are now considered before expulsion (e.g. duration of stay, social integration, links with the country of origin)
Dimension 4: Rights Associated
- Long-term residents can work, study and live in BG with the same social and economic rights as citizens, like in 29 other MIPEX countries
How many immigrants are long-term residents?
Only 150 long-term residents were reportedly living in BG, according to 2013 data communicated to Eurostat. 42 held national long-term permits while 108 held EU long-term residence permits, with the right to live and work in other EU Member States. These numbers have barely changed since 2008.
How often do immigrants become long-term residents?
<1% of non-EU citizens in BG are long-term residents, even though the majority seem to have lived there for the 5+ years to qualify. The number of permanent residents usually reflects countries' path to permanent residence and citizenship. New countries of immigration with restrictive residence and naturalisation policies allow for very few permanent residents (e.g. CY, GR, IE, MT). These numbers may improve in BG following the 2011 and 2013 reforms. However the disproportionately high fee may effectively discourage a very large number of non-EU citizens given the low incomes in BG.
Access to Nationality
Most restrictive naturalisation policies out-of-touch with integration process and out-of-reach of non-EU residents without ethnic Bulgarian roots
Who can become a citizen?
Among the 33,439 non-EU citizens legally residing in Bulgaria in 2013, only a reported 150 (or 0.4%) had the long-term residence permit required for naturalisation.
How easily can immigrants become citizens?
The path to citizenship for immigrants in Bulgaria is unfavourable for their integration and the most restrictive internationally after EE & LV. The 2013 Nationality Law was a missed opportunity for Bulgaria to catch up with regional and European reform trends on eligibility and dual nationality.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- Most non-EU residents in Bulgaria are made ineligible for citizenship, under some of Europe's most restrictive eligibility rules, alongside only the Baltics, HU and SK
- While MIPEX countries on average require 7 years of any legal residence, Bulgaria requires 5 years of permanent residence, meaning 10 years in practice; This is the longest period required in Europe and the legal maximum under European law
- Bulgarian-born children are not entitled to citizenship, unlike in 18 countries
Dimension 2: Conditions
- The requirements are only halfway favourable
- As in around half the MIPEX countries, the A2-level is the level required in Bulgaria and considered sufficient proof of integration; But all immigrants are not guaranteed enough free courses to pass (see EE, IT, PT, SI)
- Applicants must also pass a demanding income/job requirement compared to other countries and pay a relatively high fee for Bulgaria (see RO, TU)
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Immigrants face a rather discretionary procedure in Bulgaria, as in many Central European countries
- Authorities have wide discretion, and applicants no right of appeal (unlike in 31 other MIPEX countries, see recent reformers GR, LU, PL)
- If accepted, new Bulgarian citizens will be relatively well protected from withdrawal and statelessness
Dimension 4: Dual nationality
- Bulgaria's renunciation requirement is a major obstacle to naturalisation
- Despite the limited reform in 2013 (see box), Bulgaria is one of the few countries still denying dual nationality for most non-EU citizens, even though it is allowed for Bulgarian citizens naturalising in other countries
- Article 12.2 of the December 2013 Bulgarian Nationality Law allowed dual nationality for only certain immigrants in Bulgaria: spouses of Bulgarian citizens, EU/EEA and CH nationals and nationals of countries with bilateral agreements with Bulgaria; In contrast, dual nationality is accepted as a rule in 25 other MIPEX countries (e.g. GR, HU, RO and most recently CZ, DK, PL)
How many immigrants are becoming citizens?
Bulgaria reports to Eurostat that between 4,000-7,000 people were naturalised every year between 2003-2008 and that numbers fell below 2,000 per year between 2009-2012.
What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?
- Co-ethnics abroad can easily naturalise, but those from developed countries are less likely to apply
- Newcomers not yet eligible for ordinary naturalisation
- Most from countries allowing dual nationality
How often do immigrants become citizens?
Less than half of the non-EU-born adults in Bulgaria had naturalised by 2011/2. The vast majority are ethnic Bulgarians from the region. Bulgaria's citizenship policies are the strongest factor determining these naturalisation rates. Bulgaria's above-average naturalisation rate is unrelated to immigrant integration, as most naturalised citizens are not immigrants, but co-ethnics abroad benefiting from special naturalisation privileges. Bulgaria's restrictive naturalisation policy deters most ordinary non-EU residents. Rates are disproportionately low for women, minors, the elderly and nationalities from refugee-producing countries.
Time for enforcement: BG’s strong anti-discrimination laws and body may never reach many potential victims because of limited state support and financial resources
Who said they experienced racial/ethnic or religious discrimination last year?
5% of all people in BG in 2012 felt that they had recently experienced ethnic (4.8%) and/or religious (1.4%) discrimination, according to 2012 European-wide data. These high numbers were comparable to BG, RO, SK and a few Western European countries.
Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?
Like RO, Bulgaria has enacted robust and broad anti-discrimination laws that still need to reach the many potential victims of discrimination in order to access justice in practice. The other leading countries (CA, PT, SE, UK, US) continuously improve anti-discrimination and equality laws to make it easier to use in practice. So far there is no explicit obligation on the State to promote equality through information campaigns and consultation or in public contracts.
Dimension 1: Definitions
- The 2004 Protection Against Discrimination Act created favourable definitions protecting residents on all discrimination grounds
- Wide range of actors cannot discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality, as in 22 countries as well as multiple discrimination (as in 7 others)
- Amendments in the Penal Code in 2011 (art.162) now prohibit public incitement to violence, hatred or discrimination on the basis of racе, ethnicity and nationality, as well as public insults and offences based on these grounds
Dimension 2: Fields of application
- Everyone is generally protected from ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination in all areas of life in BG and 15 other countries
Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms
- Victims bringing forward a case should have access to favourable mechanisms to enforce the law (see also HU, HR, PL, RO, SK)
- In BG victims benefit from sharing the burden of proof (30 other countries) protections against victimisation (30 other countries)
- Eventhough they are entitled to free legal representation, they have limited access to interpreter, unlike in 28 MIPEX countries
- NGOs help to enforce rights by representing victims in court (as in 15 others), using actio popularis and class actions and presenting situation testing and statistics as evidence (12 others)
Dimension 4: Equality policies
- Victims can also look for support from one of the strongest equality bodies in Europe, the Protection Against Discrimination Commission (see also HU, IE, NL, SE)
- The Commission offers independent advice and investigative assistance, issues binding appealable decisions and instigates its own proceedings and investigations. It can also submit legally binding recommendations to the parliament and government to prepare bills and abolish discriminatory laws.
- New provision in Protection Against Discrimination Act since 2012 requires all public authorities not to allow any direct, or indirect discrimination, when drafting legislation, as well as when applying it. This provides sufficient legal basis for bodies to revise any legislation that contradicts the Protection Against Discrimination Act. However in practice, this has not been done.
- In BG there is still no mechanism for ensuring legislation’s compatibility with anti-discrimination standards, as well as explicit obligation on the State to promote equality through information campaigns.
How many racial/ethnic and religious discrimination complaints were made to equality bodies?
Statistics on discrimination cases are limited in BG. The Protection Against Discrimination Commission collects statistics on the number of case/files initiated on the different grounds including the grounds of ethnicity, race, religion or belief. For example, 50 were filed in 2011 on the grounds of ethnicity/race and 5 on religion/belief.
What other factors explain whether potential victims report discrimination cases
- Only 30% of general public know their rights as discrimination victims in BG, similar across Central Europe
- Low levels of trust in police and justice system in Central Europe
- Most recent immigrants without BG roots are not naturalised and thus less likely to report incidents of discrimination
How many complaints were made last year for every person who said they experienced racial/ethnic and religious discrimination?
While 5% of all people in BG in 2012 felt that they had recently experienced ethnic or religious discrimination, hardly any complaints seem to be made in BG as across Central Europe, even in the countries with new, strong but poorly supported anti-discrimination laws and bodies: around 1 complaint identified for every 6,000 potential victims complaining of discrimination (similar to BG, CZ, DE, EE, GR, PL, RO). Furthermore, only 30% of the BG public say that they know their rights as potential victims of discrimination. BG, like most countries, has not even taken the first steps to properly enforce and resource their anti-discrimination laws in order to guarantee the same access to justice for potential discrimination victims as they do for victims of other crimes and illegal acts.
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