act

Legal Aid

Enhancing public awareness and facilitating legal reform

Legal Internship Programs

Social and professional integration assistance

 

Background:
Bulgaria is an ethnically plural state that draws clear differentiating lines around vulnerable minority migrant communities.  It is a state with a history of both accepting and persecuting minorities.  But effective systems for protecting minority rights, particularly vulnerable migrant populations such as undocumented immigrants, trafficked people, asylum seekers and refugees, are yet to develop.  A rise in anti-immigrant political rhetoric currently threatens the potential for increased tolerance at a time when Bulgaria is developing its first formal integration policy and, for the first time, is monitoring an external land border of the European Union.
Tendencies towards increased restriction of the rights of undocumented and semi-documented immigrants through physical containment in detention centres are disturbing.  Administrative training within these centres is minimal as regards respect for basic human rights; and treatment there of torture survivors, trafficked people, minors, stateless persons, persons with disabilities, and asylum-seekers frequently violates international obligations.  Often, detainees are not informed of their rights; they are denied access to appropriate medical aid, placed in solitary and unsanitary conditions, and are rarely provided competent legal representation before the authorities who rule on their cases.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has repeatedly called for increased legal assistance to migrants in Bulgaria, and the European Parliament, the U.S. State Department, and Amnesty International have all expressed great concern over the treatment of immigrants in Bulgarian detention centers.
Description of the activity:
To achieve legal and social recognition and protection of the fundamental human rights of migrants and refugees in Bulgaria, the CLA actively works for legal reform and enhancing public awareness on the issues described.
The CLA is engaged in continuous research and initiation of discussions and campaigns for needed legislative changes, so that the national legislation to correspond the European and International legal standards in regards to rights of migrants and refugees. In May 2009 Bulgarian Parliament passed amendments in the Law on Foreigners (State Gazette issue 36 of 15th May 2009), provoked by the need to synchronize Bulgarian legislation with European Union (EU) law. The new changes, together with the introduction of key principles from the EU law, hide also many challenges. In answer, the CLA organized in June 2009 a public debate with the participation of key state authorities, judicial structures, non-governmental entities and migrants’ groups representatives. Since the end of 2009 the CLA is also currently engaged together with two more non-governmental organization in campaign for introducing regularization practices and mechanisms in Bulgarian law for long-term illegally residing migrants, who cannot be deported back to their countries of origin.

The CLA tries also to actively engage the public through a variety of events and media outlets, such as public discussions, workshops and round-tables, internet presence, television, newspapers, and radio participations. In the summer of 2009, local conferences and television interviews featured the activities of the Center and concrete legal cases of clients.  The media have begun to take an interest in the needs of migrants and refugees.
 
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