U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Slovenia
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||20 June 2001|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Slovenia , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e1690.html [accessed 24 October 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
At the end of 2000, Slovenia hosted approximately 12,000 refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people. These included 8,834 pending asylum cases and some 3,000 beneficiaries of temporary protection (about 2,800 from Bosnia and 200 from Kosovo).
During the year, asylum seekers submitted 9,244 applications in Slovenia, more than ten times the 867 who applied in 1999. During 2000, more than half of all asylum seekers originated in Iran (5,924), with substantial numbers also coming from Turkey (1,119), Iraq (447), former Yugoslavia (397), Bangladesh (270), and Afghanistan (247).
During the year, Slovenian authorities adjudicated 57 admissible asylum cases. They recognized 11 persons as refugees for humanitarian reasons but gave no one Convention refugee status, and rejected 46 claims. Another 831 cases were closed on procedural grounds. A further 81 cases were refused on "safe third country" grounds. Since 1990, Slovenia has granted refugee status only three times.
Refugees from Bosnia
Slovenia granted temporary protection to some 70,000 refugees from the Bosnian conflict in 1992. At year's end, about 2,800, mostly elderly people, remained in Slovenia. Some 118 Bosnians repatriated during 2000, receiving the equivalent of $350 from the government and $140 ($70 if a child) from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Most remaining refugees from Bosnia originated from areas where they would be in the ethnic minority – about 90 percent from Republika Sprksa. Few were eligible for permanent residence because under the law on temporary refuge, recipients of temporary protection cannot change their status. Slovenia recognized that these refugees were unable to return, yet had not granted them refugee status.
Refugees from Kosovo
UNHCR estimates that at the end of 2000, some 200 Kosovars with temporary protection remained in Slovenia. During the year, about 450 Kosovars returned, 376 on a UNHCR-organized flight. The government gave temporary protection to beneficiaries who repatriated voluntarily the equivalent of about $175 and their air ticket, while UNHCR contributed the equivalent of $40.
The International Helsinki Federation has estimated that, since Slovenia's independence, as many as 90,000 former long-term residents of Slovenia of former-Yugoslavian citizenship have left. These primarily have been ethnic Serbs, Croats, Albanians, and Roma who had not requested Slovenian citizenship in 1991-1992. While many left voluntarily, government officials forced out numerous others through administrative measures, such as deleting residence records, arbitrarily evicting tenants from former federal military and social housing, canceling driver's licenses obtained in the former Yugoslavia, and restricting to Slovene citizens alone many forms of humanitarian aid and shelter.
August 1999 legislation allowed those remaining in Slovenia without status to apply for permanent residence. During the year, out of almost 13,000 applications for regularization, the government granted about 8,000 permanent residence permits. Only 46 applications were rejected. The process is expected to be completed by the end of 2001.
Human rights groups criticized a provision of the 1999 legislation that barred from the procedure persons who had left Slovenia for any period exceeding three months since Slovenia's independence in 1991. However, during the year, the Slovene Constitutional Court invalidated an exclusion clause in the law for those applicants with minor criminal offenses or repeated petty offenses.
Slovenia participated in a program sponsored by the European Union (EU), announced in February 1999, intended to harmonize asylum and immigration legislation in ten Eastern European countries. The legislation was adopted in August 1999 under the Aliens Act (61/99). It defined the right to asylum, refugee status, the principle of nonrefoulement, cooperation with UNHCR, and assistance to asylum seekers in conformity with the UN Refugee Convention. The new law improved procedural safeguards and addressed the special needs of vulnerable groups, such as female asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors.
Border authorities must refer asylum seekers to an asylum center. Asylum seekers can lodge their applications at the Ministry of Interior, at the reception center, or with the police, regardless of the legality and length of their presence in Slovenia. Every applicant is entitled to an individual hearing. Slovenia's Administrative Court hears appeals of first-instance decisions, and must reach a verdict within 30 days.
The steep increase in asylum applications resulted in a sharp rise in the number of pending claims in 2000 – 8,834 at year's end compared to 607 at the end of 1999. First-instance decisions reportedly took about one year. Slovenia also recorded a 70 percent increase in the number of undocumented migrants entering the country during the first nine months of the year. UNHCR believes that the significant increase in applications was because of the easing of entry restrictions in post-war former Yugoslavia and tougher border controls introduced by central European states.
The government can declare applications by nationals of certain "safe third counties" inadmissible to the procedure. Such a presumption of safety can nonetheless be appealed to the Administrative Court, which issues a decision within seven days. In November, Slovenia declared Croatia a "safe third country" and began to return asylum seekers there. Slovenia also considers Hungary "safe." During the year, 81 asylum cases were rejected on "safe third country" grounds.
On November 9, 2000, Slovenia's Constitutional Court amended the asylum law and added a second-instance appeal stage in the asylum procedure. Under the amendment, asylum seekers may challenge Administrative Court appeal decisions to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia, which has to issue a decision within 15 days.
On December 21, the Slovene Parliament adopted a major change in the asylum law, stipulating that the movement of asylum seekers could be restricted on the grounds of a suspicion of misleading or abuse of procedure. Such restriction of movement may be extended until the decision about the asylum application becomes effective. UNHCR expressed grave concern about this measure, particularly in light of major overcrowding in the reception facilities in Slovenia. The new provision was not enacted during the year, but the government expected to implement it in spring 2001.
Reception and Integration
After filing their claims, asylum seekers are usually accommodated in a special reception center, located in Ljubljana and administered by the Ministry of Interior. Those in need have access to free board, clothing, health care, and a small daily allowance. Applicants deciding after seven days to live elsewhere may apply for financial as sistance amounting to 60 percent of the legal minimum pay.
The Ljubljana reception center has a maximum capacity of 150 beds, but accommodated 450 persons at year's end. In addition to severe overcrowding, living conditions in the center were deteriorating. The Ministry of Interior claimed that it tried to find suitable land to build alternative accommodation in 2000, but faced strong local resistance. It also claimed that it could not afford to build new facilities to house asylum seekers.
Unlike in most other European countries, temporary protection in Slovenia grants its beneficiaries only limited social rights and benefits. The right to employment, for example, is restricted to 60 days per year. This creates particular hardships for some Bosnians who have lived in Slovenia for nearly nine years.