Majid is a 37-year-old man. He is a Kurd, a citizen of Iraq carrying an Iraqi ID Card. He is married and has children, but is not accompanied by them in Bulgaria.. He was refouled from Austria under the so-called Dublin Regulation (he left without appealing a refusal of the State Agency for Refugees to grant him protection in April 2015). Since his return to Bulgaria on the 21st of October 2015, he had been detained at the Busmantsi Detention Centre until the 11th of April 2016. Length of immigration detention:5 months and 20 days.
‘I lost 22 kg in Busmantsi. I weighed 103 kg and got out at 81 kg. It was depressing. There was nowhere to exercise. There were no rules about keeping the place clean. People have to beg to be allowed a breath of fresh air. Overall, even if you spent even a month there, you would still need to see a doctor after’
When Majid arrives at Sofia Airport, a police car is expecting him and they take him directly to the Immigrant Detention Centre at Busmantsi. He had asked why he was being taken there since they had had his fingerprints and could send him to an open camp, but no one gives him a reason for the detention. The detention order is issued on the 21st of October 2015 by the Head of the Migration Directorate citing Article 8(2) of the Regulation on responsibility and coordination and further taking into consideration that ‘in light of the circumstances, it is necessary to make arrangements for the transportation and purchasing of ticket for the detainee to his country of origin, which is an obstacle to the immediate enforcement of the coercive administrative measures imposed’. No hearing is held for Majid’s case and no lighter detention measures are discussed. . Majid does not contest his detention. He is served the order without an interpreter present against a signatory blank statement: ‘I was advised of the content of the order in a language that I understand’.
‘The problem is that when they brought me to Busmantsi, I wasn’t given any information. No one tells you why you are there or when you are going to be released. All the basic information I got, I received from the other detainees.
At Busmantsis Majid filed another consecutive application for international protection.
‘It took me quite a long time, approximately 2 months, to be registered as an asylum seeker. Before that an employee from the Migration Directorate asked me whether I was going to go back to Iraq. I told him that I couldn’t go back there—that he wouldn’t be able to imagine what problems I had there. He then became angry and told me that in t hat case I would be there for a long time, possibly a year …I felt confused’.
The State Agency for Refugees (SAR) registers Majid’s application but he remains in detention. . On the 5th of February 2016 he receives a ‘white note’, on which is written that he has been registered as an asulym seeker. He subsequently learns that issued on the 10th of February 2016 is an ID card which identifies him as a foreign national seeking international The address on the card is Busmantsi village, Military Barracks 65A. When he is released on the 11th of April 2016, the address of the Regional Reception Centre of SAR is noted on the card. He is then also given the card.
‘‘They want to keep people as long as possible in here to cloud their judgment so that they agree to go home. This is Busmantsi’s plan. If you don’t get reliable help and a good lawyer, after 2-3 months you choose to be deported.”
Photo: The registration card of Mr. Majid attesting to his status as an asylum seeker
Another reason Majid believes he had been kept by the authorities there longer is because he is fluent in English, Arabic, Kurdish and Farsi and is used as a translator.
‘There is no interpreter int Busmantsi. I am the interpreter. They used me’.
Without receiving any pay, Majid translates for the staff at Busmantsi during their daily interactions with the detainees. Majid shares that he agreed in order to be able to help the others detained there. For example, he could accompany fellow detainees to the doctor and to the Hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
‘Sometimes a police officer would wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me that I had an interview. But when I would get to the room, I would realise that it was somebody else’s and I had just been called to translate.’
During his time in the Busmantsi Detention Centre Majid has several unsuccessful attempts at preparing the necessary documents that would allow him to switch from detention to weekly signing at the police station. However, each time the so-called ‘guarantors’ who by law must declare that they would allow him to live at their address and provide him with an allowance, and whom he had also paid for the service, failed to deliver on their commitment.
‘I paid to an immigrant to find me a guarantor so that I could provide an address to the authorities. He said that he could do it for me. I paid him 500 USD. But the person whom the immigrant paid let us down and I never gave me back the money.. Nobody cared.
Another time, I paid 360 EUR to an Algerian Arab. And another 300 EUR to some lads from Iran. There were all in Busmantsi.
‘These guarantors are part of a bad law. The law is totally messed up the us refugees, who are fleeing from wars in other countries, could find people in Bulgaria to guarantee for us, who are locked up. For example, myself – if I don’t pay, I don’t know anybody in Bulgaria. And in Maria Louisa they tell us that if we can’t provide a piece of paper from a guarantor, we have to go back to our countries’.
In Majid’s case, he does not require somebody to provide him with shelter and allowance, since he has enough resources on his own.
On the 27th of November 2015, an application with the Migration Directorate is lodged to provide both shelter and an allowance to Majid, by a person who is being paid by him. The Directorate does not respond to the application. On the 22ns of December 2015, via his HEAR project attorney, Madjid appeals the silence and requests for him to be put under a lighter set of detention measuresDuring the Court hearing, both Majid and his attorney emphasize that failure on the part of the administrative body, to give instructions to the party who had signed the notarised affidavit, should have resulted in Majid, detained at Busmantsi, being given a hearing. But it has failed to do so.
Being in detention, it was difficult for him, not knowing anyone outside of the Centre, to find a person who is capable of fully satisfying the requirements given by the Foreign Nationals in Bulgaria Act and to guarantee his accommodation and allowance. He could have taken care of himself the rest of the time. He has, up to this point, made four unsuccessful attempts in finding the so-called ‘guarantor’, who is prepared to sign an affidavit as such. This is a difficult task to accomplish while in detention even if he can take care of himself both financially and otherwise.
By a Ruling given on the 26th of February 2016, the Court sends the case-file to the Head of the Migration Directorate, with strict instructions to provide a decision on the application. The Court finds that since the guarantor who filed the claim could not be found, the administrative body should have requested a confirmation from Majid.
During the administrative procedure leading up to the issuance of Majid’s detention order the administrative body failed to give Majid a hearing. In the case at hand, the foreign national has sufficient means to provide for himself and would be able to find accommodation if released. Majid’s detention order is a classis example of imposing the most restrictive detention as first measure, , without considering its proportionality or justifying why a less restrictive measure would be inapplicable or ineffective. The appeal, before the Sofia Administrative Court, of the tacit refusal of the Head of the Migration Directorate to substitute the most restrictive measure imposed for a less restrictive alternative can be described as a strategic lawsuit. The Court points out that in case of nondiligence in asking for less restrictions (which is usually the case due to a lack of information around the guarantors filing the applications, rather than the detainees themselves), the administrative body must ask for a confirmation from the foreign nationals; and not to just leave the application unanswered when such confirmation is not received.
Mr. Majid’s case is a telling example of the shortage interpreters at the Busmantsi Detention Centre. Questioning not only the labour exploitation but also the truthfulness in the translated material on both sides (government body official and detained foreign national
Finally, Mr. Majid’s detention, after having been granted access to the general procedure for the review of his application for protection, is unlawful. The registration card is issued back on the 10th of February 2016. Another point raising suspicion as to the real intentions of the administrative body is that the address noted on the card is that of 65A Military Barracks, Busmantsi Village. These military barracks are an abandoned building located at a walking distance from the Busmantsi Immigrant Detention Centre where the foreign national was held. (see photograph below).
Photo: former military barracks nest to the Immigration Detention Centre, Busmantsi Village
 Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person.
 Special Home for the Temporary Accommodation of Foreign Nationals
 Regulation on the responsibility and coordination between the government bodies tasked with the implementation of the Dublin Regulation and the EURODAC Regulation.
 In the Bulgarian original the following segment: ‘Sign and go’ appears in English.
 In the Bulgarian original the following segment: ‘Go! Go! Go!’ appears in English.
 Registration and reception centre.
 Maria Louisa is a toponymical name used by foreign nationals in Bulgaria to refer to the Migration Directorate.
 Case No 176/2016 on the record of the Sofia Administrative Court.
 Mr. Majid should have been released on the grounds of Article 20(2) of Regulation Iz-1201 of 1 June 2010 laying down the rules and provisions on internal order at centres for the temporary detention of foreign nationals and the functioning of such centres, issued by the Minister of Internal Affairs