The Second Round table on Bulgaria's European Union Accession, European Harmonisa- tion of Asylum and International Refugee Protection took place in Sofia on Tuesday.
It was organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - Sofia Office, and was co-hosted by representatives of the Council for European Integration, the Committee of Human Rights of the National Assembly, the Swedish EU Presidency, and the Agency for Refugees.
Luise Druke, UNHCR Representative at the Sofia Branch Office, praised the National Assembly for having passed the first comprehensive refugee law in 1999. "This was a major step in the country's integration into the international legal framework and the EU," she said.
In his keynote address Bulgarian Interior Minister Emanuil Yordanov spoke about Bulgaria's EU integration, focusing on asylum and migration in terms of international standards. "This is a matter of utmost importance to Bulgaria in the context of our forthcoming negotiations with the EU on the Justice and Home Affairs chapter," Yordanov said. He highlighted Bulgaria's successes in improving border control and preventing illegal immigration over the last four years, achievements internationally acknowledged by the removal of Bulgaria from the visa blacklist of the Schengen states - those which have signed a treaty on free border movement.
Since 1996 the number of asylum applications has been growing. Most asylum seekers in Bulgaria are from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia and Armenia.
The Agency for Refugees operates two refugee centres - in Sofia, and in Banya (Southern Bulgaria), with a total capacity of 470 people. The Interior Ministry has established a temporary transit centre at Kapitan Andreevo, on the Bulgarian-Turkish border.