Bulgaria and the Migrant Crisis in Numbers


As the migrant inflow into Europe has come to a seasonal low due to the tough winter conditions, Novinite has looked into official statistics about the past few years since the crisis began.

It is difficult to measure how many people crossed the country inadvertedly with the help of smugglers.

But data from the State Refugee Agency, which is in charge of processing international protection requests, gives a rough estimate about the minimum number that used Bulgaria as a temporary stop on their way to Europe.

Bulgaria was largely “spared” from the inflow of migrants into neighbouring Greece or Macedonia – but nevertheless migratory pressure reached a historic high over the past few years.

A total of 58 034 have applied for status

since the first surge of the migrant crisis in 2013, making up the majority of 79 301 people who have sought international protection with the Bulgarian refugee agency from 1993 on. The peak was in 2015, when 20 391 applied.

The figure involves people of all nationalities.

Syrian nationals were a majority only for a few years

Since 1993, the number of Syrians who applied for protection was 20 184 as of December 31, 2016. Of these, just 273 applied between 1993 and 2010, 85 in 2011, and 449 in 2012.

Therefore, 19 377 Syrians applied in four years.

Of 19 418 people (asylum seekers of all nationalities) who sought protection between January and December of last year, most were Afghans (8827) and Iraqis (5348). The number of Syrians who took the step was just 2639.

As many as 20391 people sought protection in 2015. 20787 applications have been terminated. Of all, the ones from Syrians were just 5983.

Refugee status

was granted mainly in 2014 (5162) and 2015 (4708), with just 764 requests getting an affirmative response last year.

This means as many as 10634 people were granted refugee status between January 2014 and December 2016. Over the previous 20 years for which the agency keeps track, the overall number is just 1722.

Humanitarian status

was obtained by 3314 people between 2014 and 2016. 7052 for the previous 20 years for which the agency keeps track.

In 2013, however, more humanitarian status requests were granted when the first more substantial inflow peaked into Bulgaria and Greece, with the refugee agency approving 2279.

The figure still leaves the total number of requests approved between 1993 and 2013 at just 4473.


Between 2004 and 2012, the number of declined requests was relatively constant – around a few hundred. It began peaking in 2014 (500), reaching 623 in 2015 and 1732 in 2016.

Most of those who arrived are thought to have left

In 2015 and 2016, the number of terminated proceedings was 14 567 and 8932, respectively.

The 2015 number is nearly five times that for 2014, when 2853 proceedings were cancelled (up from 824 in 2013 and 174 in 2012).

Figures about terminated proceedings suggest how many people left the country without waiting for a status decision. The agency itself has confirmed the number most likely refers to people who continued their journey to Western Europe.


The number of applications submitted by protection seekers

doesn’t tell the whole story.

7000 migrants were detained within Bulgaria’s territory in 2015. Between January and November 2016, only 4526 migrants were detained while trying to cross into Bulgaria from Turkey. Migrants arrested on the territory of Bulgaria after having crossed were 17 977, and there are no clear statistics about how many left.

Up until the autumn of 2016, Serbia has been raising its concern about Bulgaria’s failure to control its western border, with some activist organizations claiming there was a period of a few hundred people crossing out of Bulgaria every day.

It is not clear how many of those had been granted status or were registered applicants.


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