U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Romania
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||10 June 2002|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Romania , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c15420.html [accessed 29 April 2016]|
At the end of 2001, Romania hosted some 150 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 83 refugees, 38 persons with humanitarian status, and 33 pending cases.
Asylum seekers submitted 2,280 asylum applications in 2001, about 67 percent more than in 2000. The largest number of asylum seekers came from Afghanistan (777), followed by Iraq (626), Somalia (171), India (157), and Iran (101).
During the year, Romanian authorities issued 2,353 first-instance decisions, granting refugee status in 83 cases, a 3.5 percent approval rate, and humanitarian status in 38 cases. The authorities denied 2,232 asylum applications, of which 136 were rejected as manifestly unfounded. Some 65 applications were closed or withdrawn during the year.
Romania acceded to the UN Refugee Convention in 1991. A new refugee law entered into force in November 2000 that brought Romanian asylum policies and institutions further in line with European Union (EU) standards. The legislation provides explicit safeguards against forcible expulsions (refoulement), exempts asylum seekers from penalties for illegal entry or residence, and incorporates the provision in the European Convention on Human Rights against returning persons to countries where they may face torture.
Under the refugee law, asylum seekers lodge their applications with officials of the National Refugee Office of the Ministry of the Interior, and are issued temporary identification papers. The National Refugee Office conducts status-determination interviews in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Asylum seekers have the right to legal representation and free interpretation services.
Romanian authorities grant refugee status to applicants who meet the UN Refugee Convention standard, and also grant humanitarian status to persons exposed to inhumane or degrading treatment or torture in their country of origin. Persons fleeing armed conflict may receive temporary protection under some circumstances.
The 2000 law introduced accelerated border procedures for asylum seekers entering the country. Applications can be deemed manifestly unfounded on "safe country of origin" and "safe third country" principles. During the year, 136 applications were rejected as manifestly unfounded. Asylum seekers may not be detained at the airport for periods longer than 20 days, irrespective of whether they hold documents.
Persons granted refugee status receive identification cards, valid for 6 to 12 months and regularly renewable, as well as travel documents containing a one-year renewable residence permit. Those granted humanitarian status are issued temporary refugee identification cards, also renewable.
Rejected asylum seekers who wish to appeal their cases must file with a local court within ten days of receiving the negative decision. If the appeal is denied, a second appeal with a higher court is possible if the applicant files within five days.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concerns about aspects of the law and its implementation in 2001, observing that access to the asylum procedure at border crossings and in the accelerated procedure may not be guaranteed, particularly in the short time frames given for evaluation of claims in the accelerated procedure. UNHCR also noted that exclusion, cessation, and withdrawal clauses in the law exceed the provisions of the UN Refugee Convention.
Assistance and Accommodation
Asylum seekers unable to provide for themselves may be accommodated in one of two refugee reception centers, which have a combined capacity of over 700 persons. According to UNHCR, the financial assistance allocated to asylum seekers is insufficient for the costs of food and other basic necessities. Asylum seekers unable to stay in reception centers often cannot afford to pay for private housing with the allotted funds. Through a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) partner, UNHCR supplements government medical care and other services for asylum seekers. Additional reception facilities are being set up along Romania's borders, according to the government.
The refugee law also stipulates that recognized refugees are eligible for social assistance, an integration loan, and permission to work. Vulnerable refugees, such as single mothers with children and unaccompanied minors, are permitted to remain in reception centers. During 2001, refugees received a reimbursable loan equal to the national minimum wage for a period of up to nine months. However, according to UNHCR, the payment was often delayed for several months, creating considerable hardship for refugees. Refugees were highly dependent on integration services provided by UNHCR through NGOs during 2001. However, new legislation passed during 2001 will extend access to social welfare beyond the nine-month period and will entitle refugees to state-funded employment services, language classes, vocational training, and unemployment benefits.
Border Control and Readmission Agreements
Romania has concluded readmission agreements with Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. During 2001, a total of 16,769 Romanian nationals were returned from European countries under existing readmission agreements.
Romania also passed legislation during 2001 that aligned its border control procedures more closely with those of the EU. In February, the National Refugee Office and the border police signed a protocol that allows police to immediately return illegal migrants arriving from countries with "high migration potential." Although such migrants are, in principle, given access to the asylum procedure, UNHCR noted that the quick return policy could have a negative effect on the right to seek asylum. Other legislation, in response to political pressure to control illegal cross-border movement by Romanian nationals, mandated stiff penalties for illegal border crossings or for participating in human smuggling. UNHCR expressed concern that these penalties were excessive and disproportionate.
During 2001, the Romanian government took steps to address the marginalized status of the Roma minority, including the creation of a national strategy for improving conditions for Roma. However, human rights groups charged that Roma were the targets of attacks and harassment by police and by other citizens, and that authorities failed to investigate and prosecute reported incidents. Roma also faced widespread discrimination in education, employment, and housing.
Discrimination and intolerance led many Roma to seek asylum abroad. In 2001, some 5,900 Romanians sought asylum in other European countries.