U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Slovak Republic
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||1 June 2000|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Slovak Republic , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8ce54.html [accessed 30 April 2016]|
At the end of 1999, the Slovak Republic hosted 376 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 27 recognized refugees and 349 asylum applicants awaiting a decision at the Slovak Migration Office.
During 1999, 1,320 persons applied for asylum in the Slovak Republic, an increase of 260 percent from the 506 who applied in 1998. The largest groups of asylum seekers during the year were from Afghanistan (654), India (155), Iraq (140), Pakistan (86), Sri Lanka (83), Kosovo (51), Yugoslavia excluding Kosovo (41), and Bangladesh (41).
The Slovak Migration Office issued 1,237 first-instance decisions in 1999. Of these, 27 persons received refugee status, 23 from Afghanistan.
Slovakia remains a key transit country for asylum seekers traveling to Western Europe. In 1999, the authorities closed 1,036 applications because the asylum seekers left Slovak territory, presumably to seek asylum in countries farther west.
The Slovak authorities rejected 176 cases in the regular asylum procedure during 1999. The Ministry of the Interior issued 96 decisions at the administrative appeals stage. Of these, the ministry confirmed 93 first-instance rejections, and rejected another appeal on the grounds that it had been filed after the 15-day time limit. The Supreme Court overturned only 1 of the 26 administrative appeals that it reviewed, sending it back to the Ministry of the Interior for further review.
Slovakia is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Slovakia's asylum procedure is governed by a refugee law that came into force in January 1996. Government Decree 4/1996 provides the administrative guidelines for implementing the asylum law.
Although the refugee law states that persons must apply for asylum within 24 hours after arrival in the country, the Slovak aliens police reportedly no longer strictly implement this rule that effectively denies many asylum seekers access to the asylum procedure. A proposed amendment to the refugee law, expected to enter force in June 2000, would eliminate the 24-hour rule.
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 residential centers, where they await a decision on their application.
Following the increase in the number of asylum seekers in 1999, Slovakia opened an additional residential center with the capacity for 200 asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers receive three meals a day, basic medical care, and a small financial allowance at the residence center. Children may attend school, and parents can take Slovak language courses. UNHCR provides legal, social, and vocational counseling to asylum seekers, as well as recreational programs and additional material assistance.
The Migration Office issues first-instance decisions, usually within 90 days. In addition to granting refugee status under the Refugee Convention, the Migration Office may also grant refugee status on humanitarian grounds, such as family reunion.
The government may extend temporary protection by decree to specific groups of foreigners fleeing war. Slovakia first granted temporary protection to former Yugoslavs, mostly from Bosnia. Temporary protection for this group ended in June 1997. During 1999, Slovakia granted temporary protection to Kosovo Albanians.
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 European Union (EU) member states. Slovakia considers Canada, the Czech Republic, Iceland, EU member states, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States safe third countries. UNHCR reported in 1999 that the government would not share the criteria used for drawing up these lists of safe countries.
The Slovak Republic employs an accelerated procedure through which the Migration Office may reject manifestly unfounded asylum claims within seven days. Denied applicants have three days to file an appeal, which automatically suspends deportation.
Applicants denied under the normal procedure have 15 days to file an appeal with the Migration Office, the same office responsible for making first-instance decisions. If the Migration Office does not grant asylum upon review, it refers the case to the Ministry of the Interior, which has 60 days to issue a decision. Negative decisions may be further appealed to the Supreme Court. Applicants may not be deported while appeals are pending.
Rejected asylum seekers are issued exit visas, valid for 30 days. When asylum seekers do not leave voluntarily, the authorities may expel them. Rejected asylum seekers may be detained for a maximum of 30 days while authorities make deportation arrangements.
Persons granted asylum move into an integration center in Zvolen, where regulations stipulate that refugees are only supposed to reside for up to six months. In 1999, UNHCR implemented a program to refurbish public housing for refugees who face difficulties finding accommodations in the private sector. Recognized refugees receive work permits, language training, and access to the Slovak education system. Proposed changes to the refugee law would allow recognized refugees to apply for family reunification.
During 1999, 205 asylum seekers from Kosovo received temporary protection following a government decree. When temporary protection for Kosovars expired on December 31, 1999, 165 had already repatriated. The remaining Kosovo Albanians applied for asylum or other Slovakian residence permits.
In 1999, 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 prevent or investigate several violent attacks on the Roma and other ethnic minorities.
The 1998 parliamentary victory of a pro-democracy coalition headed by Mikulas Dzurinda led to some notable government initiatives to improve the situation of minorities in Slovakia. Although no comprehensive law against discrimination currently exists, the government does provide funding for cultural, education, and broadcasting activities for ethnic minorities. During the year, the parliament created the Advisory Committee for Roma Issues to provide guidance on the development of policy for Roma. In September, the Slovak parliament also approved a working plan to address the educational, employment, and social problems Roma faced.
Despite these parliamentary initiatives, widespread discrimination and violence in the Slovak Republic led many Roma to seek asylum in Western Europe. In 1999, Belgium received 1,175 Slovak Roma asylum seekers. After record numbers of Slovak Roma applied for asylum in Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, and Norway, these countries imposed temporary visa requirements on Slovak citizens in 1999. Few Slovak Roma receive asylum in Western Europe, and most are returned on safe country of origin or safe third country grounds.
While ethnic Hungarians do not suffer the violent prejudice that Roma endure, they do reportedly encounter difficulties in asserting their educational and cultural rights.