U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Slovak Republic
|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 - Slovak Republic , 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8c028.html [accessed 26 July 2014]|
At the end of 1998, the Slovak Republic hosted 315 refugees and asylum seekers in need in protection. These included 266 asylum applicants awaiting a decision at the Slovak Migration Office.
During 1998, 506 persons applied for asylum in the Slovak Republic, a decrease of 27 percent from the 645 applicants in 1997. The largest groups of asylum seekers during the year were from Afghanistan (158), India (145), Iraq (50), and Kosovo (31).
The Slovak Migration Office issued 209 first instance decisions in 1998. Of these, 49 persons received refugee status, the majority from Afghanistan (40). Some 224 applications in the regular asylum procedure and at the appeals stage were administratively closed during the year.
The Slovak authorities rejected 36 cases in the first instance. The Ministry of the Interior rejected all 36 appeals it decided during 1998.
Slovakia's asylum procedure is governed by a refugee law (No. 283/95) that came into force on January 1, 1996. Decree No. 4 provides the administrative guidelines for implementing the asylum law. Slovakia is a signatory both to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol.
Section 4, Paragraph 2 of the refugee law states that persons applying for asylum in Slovakia must do so within 24 hours after arrival in the country. Slovak authorities grant exceptions to this rule only when the applicant demonstrates that "serious obstacles" made it impossible to meet the deadline. Failure to apply within 24 hours can result in immediate expulsion proceedings.
The Slovak Aliens police have reportedly used a strict interpretation of the 24-hour rule to deny access to the asylum procedure. In 1998, UNHCR reported cases of asylum seekers detained for illegal entry or departure and denied a hearing on the merits as a result of the provision. The police, rather than the Migration Office, determine whether serious obstacles prevail and thus, whether an asylum application can be submitted after the 24-hour deadline.
Once an asylum application is deemed admissible, the police forward it to the Slovak Migration Office. Most asylum seekers are then transferred to a reception center in Adomov-Gbely, where they undergo a medical examination. After a month of "quarantine," asylum seekers move into a residential center, where they await a decision on their application. Asylum seekers receive three meals a day, basic medical care, and a small financial allowance at the residence center.
The Migration Office issues first-instance decisions, usually within a 90-day limit. In addition to granting refugee status under the Refugee Convention, the Migration Office may also grant refugee status on humanitarian grounds to asylum seekers who do not meet UN Refugee Convention criteria. Though rarely awarded, humanitarian refugee status confers the same legal and social rights as Convention status. No person received humanitarian refugee status in 1998.
Upon government decree, temporary protection may be extended to specific groups of foreigners fleeing war. Slovakia first granted temporary protection for former Yugoslavs, most of whom were Bosnians. Temporary protection for this group ended in June 1997, and former Yugoslavs who remained in Slovakia past this date had to apply for asylum. During 1998, Slovakia did not grant temporary protection to any groups.
The Migration Office may refuse status to applicants who arrive in Slovakia from safe countries of origin or safe third countries where they can be returned. However, applicants who can demonstrate that the general presumption of safety in a country does not apply to them are exempt from these provisions.
According to Government Decree 67/1997, safe countries of origin include: Angola, Bulgaria, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, and the EU member states. Slovakia lists Canada, the Czech Republic, Iceland, EU member states, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States as safe third countries.
The Slovak Republic employs an accelerated procedure under which the Migration Office may reject manifestly unfounded asylum claims within seven days. Denied applicants have three days to file an appeal.
Applicants denied under the normal procedure have 15 days after a negative decision to file an appeal with the Migration Office, the same office responsible for making first-instance decisions. The Migration Office refers the case to the Ministry of the Interior if it cannot grant a positive decision after reviewing the case. The Ministry of the Interior has 60 days to issue a decision. Negative decisions may be further appealed to the Supreme Court. Applicants may not be deported while their appeals are pending.
Rejected asylum seekers are issued an exit visa, valid for 30 days. Should the asylum seeker refuse to leave voluntarily, an expulsion order may be enacted. A rejected asylum seeker may be detained for a maximum of 30 days while authorities make arrangements.
Persons granted asylum move into an integration center in Zvolen. In theory, residence in this center is not to exceed six months, although refugees may continue to live there if the Migration Office is unable to find other accommodations. Recognized refugees also receive work permits, language training, and access to the Slovak education system.
The outbreak of fighting in Kosovo drove many ethnic Albanians to seek protection abroad. Slovakia became a key transit country for Kosovars traveling to Western Europe to seek asylum. Slovak authorities detained large groups of Kosovar asylum seekers at its borders repeatedly throughout 1998. However, few actually sought asylum in Slovakia.
Slovakia has signed readmission agreements with all neighboring countries. Generally, these agreements do not take into account the special situation of asylum seekers. They include provisions permitting the return of undocumented persons to a neighboring state within 48 hours of a border crossing. The Slovak Republic entered into a readmission agreement with Italy in 1998.
In 1998, the international community continued to criticize the Slovak Republic for its treatment of minorities, in particular the Roma. In housing and employment, Roma continue to experience significant discrimination. Human Rights Watch reported that Slovak police did not act to prevent, or investigate, several violent attacks on Roma. Incidents of police brutality towards Roma also remained a problem throughout 1998.
Widespread discrimination and violence led many Roma to seek asylum in Western Europe and Canada. In April, the British authorities granted asylum to a Roma family based on human rights conditions in the Slovak Republic, focusing attention on the situation of Roma there. After some 1,600 Slovak Roma applied for asylum in the United Kingdom during August and September, the British government imposed a visa requirement on Slovak citizens in October.
While ethnic Hungarians do not suffer the violent prejudice that Roma endure, they do encounter difficulties asserting their educational and cultural rights.
In parliamentary elections held in September, a pro-democracy coalition won a clear victory over Prime Minister Mercier's ruling party. Throughout 1998, Mercier's government had drawn criticism for manipulating the electoral system and for failing to protect minorities from discrimination. The new coalition government promised to improve conditions for the Roma in Slovakia to prevent them from seeking asylum abroad.
(In its 1999 Legislative Plan, Slovakia's government approved plans to amend the Refugee Law to address issues such the 24-hour rule, the absence of family reunion provisions, and the lack of an independent appeals body.)