Today we are speaking with Kaloyan Stoyanov - one of the lawyers at the Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR. Find out why refugee law is the area that resonates the most with his life principles and what his own battle is in this interview!
Annie: Hi, Kaloyan, so glad you accepted the invitation! I know that you have a lot of experience in refugee law. What does it mean for you?
Kaloyan: Refugee law is an area in which I was able to find myself and decided to develop professionally as a lawyer and later as an advocate. It is the closest to what satisfies me professionally.
Annie: What do you like most about it?
Kaloyan: The matter is very interesting and dynamic. It allows me to have direct contact with people. Communicating with them is extremely valuable to me: I learn a myriad of things about their countries of origin and life there and about the problems faced by the communities. In one way or another, their stories become part of my experience, and I see the beneficiaries themselves as people who are familiar and close to me. Each case is very engaging for me, because it has to be looked at strictly individually and into the eye of the matter. I do my best to help the person who has sought help. I want him or her to be able to get what he or she is fighting so hard for and wishes so much for, and has even risked his or her life for.
Annie: But, we all know that refugee stories in most cases are very difficult, and you, as a lawyer, are obliged to get to familiarize yourself with it down to the smallest detail. How do you manage to overcome this " heaviness of the refugee story"?
Kaloyan: It is true that I often overwork myself. I have a principle: when a case has not ended successfully, i.e. the way I wanted it to, it is not over (at least not for me). For a long time after I left the courtroom, I thought and analyzed how I could have found a way to get to the result we wanted. Luckily for me, refugee law offers just that opportunity.
Annie: How do you unwind?
Kaloyan: I have a lot of different interests and hobbies. I try to practice them, although sometimes I have a very busy schedule. I like cycling in the evening, skiing in the winter. I also love motorsports, but my biggest hobby remains fishing because I grew up by a river.
Annie: How and why did you turn to refugee law?
Kaloyan: Initially, as a lawyer, I really wanted to have litigation experience. I always thought that a real lawyer is the one who goes into a courtroom and masters the process. I knew that the State Agency for Refugees-SAR had a lot of lawsuits, and that was the main reason I went to work there. So I became a legal adviser at the State Agency for Refugees (SAR). I was lucky enough to work in a very good team of lawyers and managers who were very experienced. My colleagues made me passionate about refugee law. At one point, I took over the legal representation of almost all international protection cases at the Agency. I gained a huge amount of experience which has been very helpful to me to this day.
Annie: Which is the most emblematic case for you?
Kaloyan: I have had many interesting cases over the years. Luckily for me, I have won most of them. One of the most emblematic cases that I am currently leading at FAR is about a person who has been in Bulgaria for over 27 years without having a settled residency status and without having even minimal human rights guaranteed. He is, in effect, a prisoner in the country and cannot even leave it if he so wishes. He has had many international protection proceedings, unfortunately all of which have been unsuccessful. I remember when I told him during our meeting that I thought there was a chance we could win his case. the way he looked at me, there was no hope in his eyes. He's probably heard it so many times in 27 years. His case was quite difficult, but in the end, the court sent a preliminary ruling to the Court in Luxembourg. It's worth thinking about this: this man has had more than half of his life in Bulgaria, and he doesn't really have any rights, so how long will this go on.
Annie: And how did you learn about FAR?
Kaloyan: I first met with Valeria Ilareva, Esq. It was at the very beginning of my exposure to refugee law, during a case in which I represented SAR. Ilareva, Esq. had recently won another case and her name was "going around" at the Agency. Colleagues were discussing it a lot and I found out that Ilareva, Esq. is one of the most respected names in refugee law that I could meet in a courtroom. Then, before the case had begun, I decided to go and meet her. I don't know if she remembers that.
Annie: Why and when did you decide to join FAR?
Kaloyan: When I became a lawyer, I secretly hoped and believed that one of the organizations working in the field of refugee law would invite me to join them, in view of my experience and expertise. FAR and I were united in a common case in which I represented a boy from Ukraine who was under 18, about to finish his secondary education and at risk of being drafted in wartime. I met with him and his mother. The war in Ukraine had just started, and I realized that for this boy we had to " pull out" the type of status and protection that would allow him to stay in Bulgaria where there was no danger to his life. However, by its order, the SAR suspended all international protection proceedings for Ukrainian refugees. This motivated me to appeal against this order, which applied to all Ukrainians in Bulgaria. Valeria Ilareva, Esq. was the only person who strongly supported me in this and we started working together and preparing the case. Later, after one of the trainings that FAR traditionally holds, Valeria invited me to join the team. I think this is something unique and is my biggest professional achievement so far.
Annie: What do you like the most at FAR?
Kaloyan: I like a lot of things. FAR has managed to build an impressive organization, considering how big our team is and how many different things we deal with. When I started working at FAR, I realized that I was on the right track, where I always get support from the more experienced lawyers, like Valeria Ilareva, Magdalena Miteva and Valeri Petkov. Whatever questions I might have, they respond and help me with advice and recommendations. This mutual support is something unique and extremely important.
Annie: As you know, FAR turns 10 this year. What would you wish for the Foundation?
Kaloyan: May this flame and drive never die out and may FAR continue to shine in Bulgarian law.