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European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Bulgaria in violation of Article 3 and Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights for unlawfully returning a Turkish citizen

22.07.2021

On 20 July 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Bulgaria in violation of Article 3 and Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights for unlawfully returning a Turkish citizen in October 2016 without conducting an individual risk assessment for torture and inhuman or degrading treatment upon his return to Turkey.

The Centre for Legal Aid "Voice in Bulgaria", whose experts supported the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Foundation "ProAsyl" in the ECtHR proceedings, deems the case D. vs. Bulgaria a key judgment for Bulgaria regarding the guarantees for the right to access the asylum procedure and the protection of asylum-seekers against return to the country of persecution.

The applicant in D. vs. Bulgaria is a Turkish journalist who was forced to leave Turkey due to the increasing state repression after the attempted coup d'état in July 2016. Together with six other refugees from Turkey and Syria, he was apprehended in a truck at the Bulgarian-Romanian border on 14 October 2016. Despite the fact that he expressed fear of returning to Turkey, the Bulgarian authorities did not, at any stage, assess the risk of torture, inhuman treatment or further political persecution, which he faced upon return. D. was deprived from the right to access a lawyer and a translator, and he was sent back to Turkey in less than 24 hours. Upon his return, D. was immediately arrested and in December 2019 he was sentenced to seven and a half years of imprisonment.

The case of D. is not an isolated incident - it is part of a systematic practice of pushing back Turkish citizens and other vulnerable asylum-seekers in need of international protection, for which Bulgaria has been continuously criticized at the European and international level. The Center for Legal Aid examined the issue of access to territory in detail in the recently published policy brief "Access to territory: A Gateway to the Right to Asylum".

According to 2020 data of the Ministry of Interior, 60 Turkish citizens have been detained upon entry through the Bulgarian border. Between January 2021 and the end of June 2021, this number has increased with 26 persons, which ranks Turkey as third country of origin percentagewise after Afghanistan and Syria. According to data from the State Agency for Refugees, from the beginning of 2020 until June 2021, 20 Turkish citizens have sought international protection in Bulgaria, but only one was granted humanitarian status.

 

The ECtHR judgment in D. vs. Bulgaria is yet another occasion to reexamine the established practice of Bulgarian authorities in the implementation of the readmission agreements with Turkey and other countries, as well as the country’s migration policies as a whole, in order to achieve compliance with national and European legal standards in every case.

 

Please find more information about the case in the press release of the ECCHR, in the ECtHR legal summary (in English) and the ECtHR judgment itself (in French).