United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Slovak Republic, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8b644.html [accessed 1 February 2015]
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Some 403 asylum seekers filed applications in the Slovak Republic during 1996, a slight increase from the 359 persons who applied in 1995. During 1996, the largest number of asylum seekers came from Afghanistan (129), Iraq (99), and Turkey (40). Of the 190 persons who received a status determination during the year, 128 were granted asylum and 62 were denied status. The cases of an additional 193 persons were closed. At the end of 1996, the cases of an estimated 100 persons remained pending. Asylum Procedure As of January 1, 1996, Slovakia's asylum procedure has been governed by a new refugee law (no. 283/95). Shortly after it entered into force, on January 16, the Slovak minister of the interior adopted decree no. 4 to provide administrative guidelines for the refugee law's implementation. Article 4, paragraph 2 of the refugee law states that persons wishing to apply for asylum in the Slovak Republic must do so at a border crossing when entering the country. Those who do not (in practice, illegal entrants), must seek asylum with the police within 24 hours of their entry. Exceptions to the 24-hour rule are made only when the applicant can demonstrate that "serious obstacles" rendered that impossible. Applicants who do not meet these requirements are not given access to the asylum procedure and therefore are subject to the Law on Foreigners, enacted on June 1, 1995, which permits the Aliens Police to detain them for up to 30 days. Although the Slovak Migration Office told USCR during a site visit to Slovakia in April 1996 that Slovakia had not used the 24-hour provision as grounds to deny asylum seekers a hearing on the merits, reports on the new law's implementation indicate the contrary. The number of persons denied access to the asylum procedure, as well as the number of detentions resulting from the provision, appear to have increased as a result of a strict interpretation of the 24-hour limit by the Slovak Aliens Police. Some asylum seekers returned to Slovakia on the grounds that they traveled through its territory en route to other countries reportedly also have been refused the possibility of filing claims upon their return because they had used up their 24 hours while initially transiting the country. Once an asylum seeker has requested asylum and is deemed admissible, the Slovak Aliens Police forward his or her initial request to the Ministry of the Interior's Migration Office, the responsible body for deciding asylum claims. The Aliens Police then refer the applicant to a reception center in Adomov-Gbely, about 30 km from Bratislava, where he or she is "quarantined" for about one month. After completing their medical exams and asylum applications, applicants are sent to a refugee center in Brezova pod Bradlom for the duration of the asylum procedure. The new refugee law transferred the responsibility for issuing first-instance decisions on asylum claims from the Aliens and Passport Service to the Migration Office and requires the Migration Office to adjudicate claims within 90 days of submission. Article 8 of the refugee law authorizes the Migration Office to refuse refugee status to applicants who arrived in Slovakia from safe third countries to which they can be effectively readmitted or from a safe country of origin. However, applicants who can demonstrate that the general presumption of safety in a country does not apply in their individual cases are exempt from these provisions. The Slovak Republic lists as safe third countries the member states of the European Union, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Slovakia's list of safe countries of origin includes Bulgaria, Gambia, Ghana, Poland, Romania, Senegal, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. The new refugee law also created an accelerated procedure under which the Migration Office may deny cases that it considers manifestly unfounded within seven days of an application's submission. Applicants denied under the accelerated procedure have three days to appeal a negative decision. Some humanitarian organizations questioned the quality of the Migration Office's decision-making on cases during the year. Although the interviews with asylum applicants were reported to be of good quality, some observers noted that the justifications for denying refugee status did not always correspond with, and sometimes contradicted, the interviews conducted in those cases. Observers of the Slovak asylum procedure also charged that the authorities gave too much weight to the lack of travel documentation, and false documentation, as grounds for denying applicants. The overwhelming majority of applicants granted refugee status during the past several years have had travel documentation, one authoritative source said. Although the refugee law authorizes the Ministry of the Interior (of which the Migration Office is a part) to decide appeals, it was unclear in 1996 which office in the ministry is responsible for the job. Applicants denied under the normal procedure have 15 days from the issuance of a negative decision to file an appeal with the ministry, which in turn has 60 days to issue a decision. Negative decisions in the second-instance may be appealed to the Slovak Supreme Court. A UNHCR representative may be present at any stage of the determination procedure if either UNHCR or the applicant desires. Persons granted refugee status receive work authorization, integration assistance, and are eligible for government housing for up to six months. In addition to accepting refugees under the UN Refugee Convention definition, the new refugee law stipulates that asylum seekers may be granted refugee status for humanitarian reasons. Provisions for temporary protection are also codified into the new law. Readmission Agreements The Slovak Republic has signed and implements readmission agreements with Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. Under the agreements Slovakia has reached with neighboring states, illegal immigrants may be returned either to Slovakia from a neighboring state or vice versa within 48 hours of their border crossing. None of the agreements specifically addresses the situation of asylum seekers. Bosnians In early December 1996, UNHCR reported that 1,596 Bosnians remained in Slovakia. During the year, 206 Bosnians who had been living in government-run centers returned home. Two repatriation movements took place in the summer and early fall of 1996; some 77 Bosnians left in the first group and 41 repatriated on September 30. Those who wished to repatriate registered with the Slovak interior ministry. Their requests were sent to the Bosnian Ministry of Migration, which, in turn, investigated the possibilities for individual refugees to return.