Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 08:36 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Romania

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Romania , 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8d42c.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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 1998, Romania hosted more than 900 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included about 900 recognized refugees and 21 asylum applicants whose cases remained pending at year's end.

Asylum seekers submitted 1,236 asylum applications in 1998, the largest number coming from Bangladesh (584) and Iraq (259). During the year, Romanian authorities issued decisions on 2,576 asylum applications, conferring refugee status in 276 cases, an approval rate of 10.7 percent. Applicants from Afghanistan had the highest approval rate (75 percent), followed by nationals of Somalia (50 percent), Iran (24 percent), Iraq (18 percent), and Turkey (18 percent). Authorities denied 2,300 asylum applications during the year.

Although more than 6,000 persons have applied for asylum in Romania since 1991, many have left the country, traveling on to countries farther north and west. Others returned home following rejection of their asylum claims.

Asylum Procedure

Romania enacted a refugee law in May 1996 (no. 15/1996) that provides guidelines for implementing the UN Refugee Convention, to which Romania acceded in August 1991. In November 1996, the Romanian government issued administrative guidelines to implement the new refugee legislation. Despite these steps, aspects of the law remained unimplemented, and Romania's ability to provide assistance and protection to asylum seekers remained limited in 1998.

The refugee law provides for granting refugee status to applicants who meet the refugee definition contained in the UN Refugee Convention. Those who do not may be granted refugee status on humanitarian grounds. The law also stipulates that persons fleeing armed conflicts may receive temporary protection under some circumstances.

Persons wishing to apply for asylum may file applications with a Romanian diplomatic mission, at a Romanian border crossing, with the General Directorate of Border Police, Aliens, Migration Issues, and Passports (in Bucharest), or with the directorate's territorial units. Asylum seekers not meeting the normal entry requirements for foreigners may enter Romania only if they "arrived directly" from the country where they fear persecution. "Direct arrival," according to the refugee law's administrative guidelines, is interpreted to include an asylum seeker's transit of third countries that are not signatories to the UN Refugee Convention as well as transit of countries where the asylum seeker, for reasons not imputable to him or her, could not request asylum. The refugee law also stipulates that asylum seekers applying within Romania must do so before their visa expires and, at latest, within ten days of their arrival.

Although authorities did not enforce the ten-day filing deadline in 1998, an asylum seeker's failure to apply promptly for asylum reportedly was sometimes a decisive factor in rejecting his or her claim. Similarly, while authorities rarely invoked the direct-travel requirement as grounds to deny would-be asylum seekers access to the determination procedure, authoritative international sources reported that Romanian border police arbitrarily denied some asylum seekers the chance to apply for asylum in 1998, resulting in their refoulement.

The refugee law mandates that asylum seekers unable to provide for themselves be accommodated in a refugee reception center during the asylum procedure. During 1998, the Romanian government and UNHCR accommodated some 200 refugees and asylum seekers in a hostel in the suburbs of Bucharest. However, the center reportedly was overcrowded and lacked adequate facilities for families with children.

According to the refugee law, the Decision Commission, an inter ministerial body comprised of representatives of the ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, and labor and welfare, is responsible for interviewing asylum seekers and deciding their asylum claims. However, the Decision Commission has delegated its interviewing responsibility to the Refugee Office of the General Directorate of Border Police, Aliens, Migration Issues, and Passports. Insufficient training for asylum interviewers and a lack of interpreting services sometimes reportedly resulted in poor decision making during 1998.

Rejected asylum seekers wishing to appeal their cases must file with a local court within ten days of their negative decision. If the appeal is denied, a second appeal with a higher court is possible if the applicant files within five days.

The refugee legislation provides approved applicants a grant of refugee status for three years, which can be extended for another two. UNHCR pointed out that the five-year limit on refugee status is arbitrary and not in keeping with the provisions of the UN Refugee Convention that regulate cessation of refugee status. Nevertheless, UNHCR reported in 1998 that the Romanian authorities in practice continue to renew the residence permits of recognized refugees beyond the five year period. The refugee law also provides that recognized refugees are eligible for social assistance, an integration loan, and permission to work.

Despite these rights accorded to recognized refugees under the law, significant barriers to integration remained at the end of 1998. Recognized refugees did not have access to government social assistance and had not received integration loans. Because the Romanian language skills of most recognized refugees remained rudimentary in 1998, few were able to find jobs.

Otopeni Airport

International observers cited conditions for asylum seekers arriving at Otopeni Airport on the outskirts of Bucharest as a source of particular concern in 1998. Airport authorities reportedly detain significant numbers of asylum seekers in the transit zone of the airport for as long as three months, pending decisions on their asylum applications. This practice contradicts the Romanian Constitution, which mandates 24 hours as the maximum period that anyone may be detained without charge.

Accommodation facilities for asylum seekers in the airport transit zone reportedly consist of two rooms, which provide no private space for women and children. Food distribution to asylum seekers in the transit zone is sporadic.

Not all asylum seekers detained at a separate airport facility are granted access to the asylum procedure or informed of how to apply for asylum.

Readmission Agreements

At the end of 1998, Romania had concluded bilateral readmission agreements with Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. At year's end, Romania was negotiating readmission agreements with Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iran, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Portugal, Turkey, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. The Romanian government claims that these agreements were concluded in full observance of the principle of nonrefoulement, and do not affect asylum seekers whose applications are under review.

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