U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Romania
|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 - Romania , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e1688.html [accessed 24 May 2016]|
At the end of 2000, Romania hosted about 2,100 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. Asylum seekers submitted 1,366 asylum applications in 2000, about 18 percent fewer than in 1999. The largest number of asylum seekers came from Afghanistan (282), Iraq (250), Bangladesh (226), and Pakistan (225).
During the year, Romanian authorities issued 1,503 first-instance decisions, granting refugee status in 85 cases, a 6 percent approval rate, and humanitarian status in 86 cases. The authorities denied 1,271 asylum applications.
During the first six months of 2000 alone, 5,300 Romanians sought asylum in other European countries.
Romania has remained primarily a country of transit for asylum seekers and migrants traveling on to countries farther north and west. Its asylum system is based on a 1996 law that implemented Romania's 1991 accession to the UN Refugee Convention.
According to the refugee law, the Decision Commission, an interministerial 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, a responsibility that it has delegated to the Refugee Office of the General Directorate of the Border Police, Aliens, Migration Issues, and Passports.
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.
On November 2, a new refugee law entered into force in Romania. The Romanian government adopted the law through an emergency ordinance in response to international criticism of Romanian refugee policies. The legislation attempts to bring Romanian asylum policies and institutions in line with EU standards, providing safeguards against forcible expulsions (refoulement).
Romanian authorities continue to grant refugee status to applicants who meet the definition contained in the UN Refugee Convention. Provisions adopted in 2000, however, allow the Romanian government to grant humanitarian status to persons exposed to inhumane or degrading treatment or torture in their country of origin. Persons fleeing armed conflicts may receive temporary protection under some circumstances.
The new legislation lifts prior time limits on the grant of asylum. Previously, approved asylum applicants were granted refugee status for three years, which could be extended for another two years. In 1999, UNHCR pointed out that the five-year limit on refugee status was arbitrary, and did not adhere to the provisions of the Refugee Convention that regulate cessation of refugee status.
The Romanian government also eliminated a restriction on asylum application submissions. Under previous refugee law, asylum seekers had to submit applications for asylum before their visas expired and, at the latest, within ten days of their arrival. Asylum seekers must now submit their applications "as soon as possible" after they enter the country.
The 2000 refugee law abolishes the legal distinction between documented and undocumented asylum seekers, and introduces accelerated border procedures for asylum seekers entering the country. In the past, Romanian airport authorities reportedly detained significant numbers of undocumented asylum seekers in the transit zone of the airport for long periods pending decisions on their asylum applications. According to the new legal requirements, refugees may no longer be detained at the airport for periods longer than 20 days. This restriction on the length of detention is irrespective of whether asylum seekers hold documents.
UNHCR criticized Romania's new refugee law because it allows the applications of asylum seekers "who by their activity or membership in a particular social group, represent a threat to national security or public order" to be considered in the accelerated asylum procedure. In addition, Article 27 of the new law provides for the withdrawal of refugee status from any person considered a threat to Romanian national security. UNHCR notes that this does not conform to international standards.
Assistance and Accommodation
Asylum seekers unable to provide for themselves may be accommodated in a refugee reception center. One center in Bucharest with a capacity for 264 persons housed asylum seekers in 2000. Another reception center with a capacity for 400 persons is scheduled to open in Bucharest by spring 2001. UNHCR reports that authorities are also renovating a special center to accommodate unaccompanied minors and constructing two additional reception centers at border points to be opened in 2001.
The refugee law also says that recognized refugees are eligible for social assistance, an integration loan, and permission to work. Despite these rights, UNHCR reports that significant barriers to integration remained at the end of 2000. Recognized refugees do not benefit from government housing and receive the equivalent of slightly less than one dollar a day, not enough to cover basic food and accommodation costs. Refugees receive assistance as a re-imbursable loan from the Ministry of the Interior for six to nine months. In the past, UNHCR has urged the Romanian authorities to increase and prolong this assistance.
Romania has yet to establish comprehensive state-funded language and vocational training programs for refugees. As a result, refugees face considerable obstacles in gaining access to the labor market. UNHCR identified additional problems for refugee integration in Romania in 2000, including difficulties in obtaining permanent residence status and poor access to education.
Romania has concluded readmission agreements with Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland. Authorities also signed agreements with Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, and Sweden, which were ratified in early 2001. Romania was negotiating readmission agreements with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia at the end of 2000.
During 2000, Romania continued to draw international criticism for its treatment of the Roma minority. Both Human Rights Watch and UNHCR reported that Roma faced widespread discrimination in education, employment, and housing and that the authorities failed to investigate and prosecute harassment of Roma.
Discrimination and intolerance led many Roma to seek asylum abroad. In 2000, Romanian Roma flocked in record numbers to Ireland, which registered 2,384 Romanian asylum seekers. Romanians constituted the second largest group of asylum seekers in Ireland during the year. Romania and Ireland signed a deal in May to facilitate the return of rejected Romanian asylum seekers to Romania.