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UN agency: hold off returning migrants to Bulgaria

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January 3, 2014 07:01 AM EST | AP


BERLIN (AP) — The United Nations' refugee agency is urging European countries to hold off returning asylum seekers to Bulgaria, citing problems with access to basic services and with asylum procedures.

Under the "Dublin procedure," European Union countries return illegal migrants to the first EU country they entered. Bulgaria is on the bloc's eastern edge and has seen increasing numbers of asylum seekers in recent months, among them people fleeing Syria's civil war.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees urged other countries Friday to suspend returning migrants to Bulgaria because of risks they could face "inhuman or degrading treatment"; it plans to review the situation in April.

It says Bulgaria has made progress but problems remain with asylum seekers' access to food and health care, registration delays and risks of arbitrary detention.