United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Slovak Republic, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bc66.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
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At the end of 1997, Slovakia hosted 134 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 69 asylum applicants awaiting a decision by the Slovak Migration Office. During 1997, 645 asylum seekers filed applications in the Slovak Republic, a 60 percent increase from the 403 asylum seekers who applied in 1996. During 1997, the largest numbers of asylum seekers were from Afghanistan (313), Iraq (96), India (55), Bosnia (49), and Sri Lanka (31). Of the 149 status determinations made during the year, 65 were granted asylum and 84 were denied status. The overwhelming majority of cases (539 applicants) were administratively closed. Temporary protection for Bosnians expired on June 30, 1997. Of the 93 Bosnians remaining in Slovakia at that time, the Slovak Migration Office granted 35 asylum, 7 permanent residence permits, and 51 long term residence permits. Asylum Procedure No changes in Slovakia's asylum laws were reported during 1997. Slovakia's asylum procedure has been governed by a refugee law (No. 283/95) that became effective on January 1, 1996. Shortly afterward, 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, improperly documented entrants), must seek asylum with the police within 24 hours of their entry. Officials make exceptions to the 24-hour rule only when the applicant demonstrates that "serious obstacles" made it impossible to meet the deadline. Applicants not meeting these requirements do not gain access to the asylum procedure. Aliens Police may detain them for up to 30 days, under the Law on Foreigners, enacted on June 1, 1995. Slovak police have reportedly used the 24-hour provision as grounds to deny asylum seekers a hearing on the merits. This strict interpretation has increased the number of persons denied access to the asylum procedure, as well as the number of detentions resulting from the provision. Some asylum seekers sent back to Slovakia because they traveled through its territory en route to other countries reportedly also have not been allowed to file claims upon their return. In such cases, the Slovak authorities have reportedly said that the asylum seekers have 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 forwards 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 refers 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, where they live for the duration of the asylum procedure. The 1996 refugee law requires the Migration Office to adjudicate claims within 90 days of their submission. Article 8 of the refugee law authorizes the Migration Office to refuse refugee status to applicants who arrive in Slovakia from safe countries of origin or safe third countries where they can be returned. However, applicants who demonstrate that the general presumption of safety in a country does not apply to them 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 include: Bulgaria, Gambia, Ghana, Poland, Romania, Senegal, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. The 1996 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. Denied applicants have three days to appeal. 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 1997 which office in the ministry is responsible for the job. Applicants denied under the normal procedure have 15 days after a negative decision to file an appeal with the Ministry of the Interior, which has 60 days to issue a decision. Applicants may appeal negative decisions in the second instance 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 government housing for up to six months. Although the refugee law stipulates that those granted asylum should receive permanent residence permits in Slovakia, some recognized refugees reportedly have received annual residence permits. The refugee law also stipulates that asylum seekers who do not meet the UN Refugee Convention definition may be granted refugee status for humanitarian reasons. The law contains provisions for temporary protection as well. Readmission Agreements The Slovak Republic has signed and implements readmission agreements with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine. During 1997, Slovakia reportedly was negotiating readmission agreements with Belgium, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, and the Netherlands. Under the agreements it has reached with neighboring states, Slovakia may return undocumented persons to a neighboring state or vice versa within 48 hours of their border crossing. None of the agreements specifically addresses the situation of asylum seekers. The Slovak Republic deported 551 persons to other countries based on readmission agreements in 1997, and other countries returned 1,918 persons to Slovakia. Minorities The Slovak government drew criticism for its treatment of minorities during 1997. In September, Hungary's foreign minister disclosed that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar of Slovakia in an August meeting had proposed a population exchange of their respective Hungarian and Slovak minorities. Meciar responded to the outrage his alleged statements precipitated by insisting that he had always maintained that any departure of ethnic Hungarians from Slovakia should be voluntary. Approximately 500,000 ethnic Hungarians lived in the Slovak Republic during 1997. The situation of Roma in the Slovak Republic did not improve during 1997. Human Rights Watch reported significant police and skinhead brutality perpetrated against Roma and widespread anti-Roma prejudice. During the year, some 305 Roma from Slovakia sought asylum in the United Kingdom.