Refugees wait in line for food near policemen guarding the migrant camp in the town of Harmanly, some 250 km from Sofia, Bulgaria |  Photo: EPA/VASSIL DONEV
Refugees wait in line for food near policemen guarding the migrant camp in the town of Harmanly, some 250 km from Sofia, Bulgaria | Photo: EPA/VASSIL DONEV

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has said that it is necessary to improve the situation of healthcare assistance for foreigners in detainment.

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has called on Bulgarian authorities to urgently adopt measures to improve the situation of healthcare assistance for foreigners held in the country in line with immigration laws. 


In a new report, the committee expressed satisfaction on some progress that had been made in the situation and the treatment of migrants in the facilities visited in December 2018. However, it underscored that there is a need to facilitate effective communication between the people being held and the external world. 

Satisfaction with treatment of migrants detained 

According to a statement issued by the Council of Europe, the CPT delegation visited Border Police detention facilities in Elhovo, Sofia Airport and Svilengrad (Kapitan Andreevo) and carried out follow-up visits to the Special Homes for Temporary Accommodation of Foreigners in Busmantsi and Lyubimets. 

In Busmantsi, the delegation also paid a visit to the Closed-Type Premises run by the State Agency for Refugees (SAR). ''The delegation heard no recent and credible allegations of physical ill-treatment of detained foreign nationals by Border Police officers,'' the executive summary of the report stated. 

''Persons detained by the Border Police were generally provided with written information on their rights (in several languages) and granted access to a lawyer (including ex officio lawyers) and an interpreter,'' it added, and that the material conditions could be considered acceptable for the length of their detention, which cannot exceed 24 hours. The committee said that it had not seen violations of this maximum limit of 24 hours except in rare exceptions. 

Concern over healthcare assistance 

The summary noted that there ''had been hardly any change in the provision of health care to detained foreign nationals at Busmantsi and Lyubimets Homes; in short, the only positive aspects were that there was a 24/7 staff presence and that the infirmary in Lyubimets was clean and in a good state of repair (unlike in Busmantsi). However, the medical equipment was very scant and often out of order, the range of free-of-charge medication was extremely limited (some of it, including antibiotics, had expired a long time ago) and access to specialist care was very restricted. Further, the initial medical screening was perfunctory, the recording of injuries was virtually inexistent, and medical confidentiality was not observed. The delegation also noted the absence of proper individual medical files and the succinct and unreliable character of the existing medical documentation.'' 

It added that the CPT ''was particularly concerned by the detained foreign nationals' very poor access to psychiatric care, limited in fact to emergencies. This was additionally compounded by the lack of interpretation arrangements and by the fact that detained foreign nationals had no health insurance. The CPT called upon the Bulgarian authorities to take urgent steps to address the aforementioned serious deficiencies of health-care services and to strive to improve the level of psychological assistance to foreign nationals detained at Busmantsi and Lyubimets Homes, including the provision of professional interpretation.''
 

More articles