- Bulgaria’s Migration Policy
The democratic changes in Bulgaria and the processes of globalization have completely changed the migration situation in the country. Before 1989 Bulgaria, like the other former Soviet-bloc countries, was a country with limited migration. After 1989 the country became part of the European and the world migration system and now is under increasing migration pressure.
Regulation and control of the processes of migration is one of the priorities of the Bulgarian government. The main goal is to increase the security of Bulgarian citizens and to combat trafficking and illegal migration. The new migration policy of Bulgaria is aimed at achieving an optimal balance between the freedom of movement of people and the control of illegal immigration while respecting the fundamental human rights and freedoms as guaranteed in international treaties and European Union standards.
In 2004 Bulgaria completed its negotiations for EU membership, which is expected to come into force in January 2007. We are, therefore, in the process of introducing European legislation in the field of migration. It has been developing very dynamically over recent years, and Bulgaria is making a serious effort to follow these developments. The national assembly adopted new laws and regulations that are in compliance with EU legislation, and it has accelerated the process of accession to or conclusion of international instruments related to the issues of migration. [End Page 125]
The Legal Background of Migration Control in Bulgaria
The legal basis of Bulgarian migration policy consists of international legal regulations and domestic legislation in the field of immigration control. According to the Bulgarian constitution, international treaties that have been ratified, promulgated, and entered into force are part of domestic legislation and supersede it if it contradicts them. There are several categories of international legal instruments related to migration that are applicable in Bulgaria: multilateral international treaties concerning migration, human rights, and the combat of terrorism.
Given the importance of the issue of terrorism, it should be pointed out that Bulgaria has ratified all twelve international legal instruments related to the fight against terrorism. It is important to note that the readmission treaties concluded by Bulgaria are based on the model of bilateral readmission agreements between an EU member-state and a third country, and therefore the procedures established in Bulgaria for return and readmission are in full compliance with European legislation.
Bilateral Treaties for the Exchange of Labor Forces
These treaties are the main instruments for the regulation of temporary labor migration. Domestic legislation includes two categories of legal norms: general and special. General norms set an overall framework of the status of foreigners in Bulgaria, while the special norms regulate specific procedures, rights, and obligations.
The following provide general rules for the status of the foreigners in Bulgaria:
1. The Bulgarian Citizenship Act of 18 November 1998 regulates the procedure for the acquisition, restoration, and withdrawal of Bulgarian citizenship.
2. The Bulgarian Identity Documents Act, in force since 1 April 1999, introduced procedures and conditions for the issuance, usage, and safekeeping of Bulgarian personal identification documents, including those for foreigners legally residing in the country. The provisions of this law [End Page 126] guarantee that the new identity documents fully comply with the standards of the EU and that they have all levels of protection against counterfeiting and mala fide (bad faith) usage.
3. The Civil Registration Act of 27 July 1999 regulates the terms and the procedures for civil registration of all Bulgarian citizens, foreigners permanently residing in Bulgaria, individuals who have refugee or humanitarian status, and individuals who have been granted the right to asylum on the territory of Bulgaria.
4. The Asylum and Refugees Act (ARA) of 31 May 2002 provides for the types of specific protection, procedures, and conditions for granting asylum and refugee status to foreigners in Bulgaria. The provisions of the ARA pay special attention to individuals with specific needs, including women and unaccompanied minors. The ARA meets the European criteria and standards in the sphere of asylum.
Under the provisions of the Employment Promotion Act of 29 December 2001, foreigners have the right to work in and to make business trips to Bulgaria. The act establishes legal guarantees against...