U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Slovak Republic
|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 - Slovak Republic , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c15428.html [accessed 21 September 2014]|
At the end of 2001, the Slovak Republic hosted more than 3,100 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 18 recognized refugees and 3,156 asylum applicants awaiting a decision at the Slovak Migration Office.
During the year, 8,151 persons applied for asylum in the Slovak Republic, up more than 400 percent from the 1,556 who applied in 2000. The largest groups of asylum seekers during the year were from Afghanistan (4,315), Iraq (990), Bangladesh (429), Pakistan (176), Sierra Leone (156), and Somalia (129).
The Slovak Migration Office issued 148 first-instance decisions in 2001, granting 18 persons refugee status (7 from Afghanistan) and rejecting 130 persons.
Despite the significant increase in asylum applications in 2001, the Slovak Republic remains a transit country for asylum seekers traveling to Western Europe. In 2001, the authorities closed 5,247 applications because the asylum seekers left Slovak territory, presumably to travel to countries farther west.
The Slovak Republic is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. The country's asylum laws are governed by the Refugee Law of 1995 and by amendments to the Refugee Law passed in 2000.
Once an asylum application is deemed admissible, the police forward it to the Slovak Migration Office. Most asylum seekers are then transferred to one of four reception centers, where they undergo a medical examination. After a month of "quarantine," asylum seekers move into residential centers, where they await decisions on their applications. Residents receive three meals a day, free basic medical care, and a small financial allowance. Children may attend school, and parents are allowed to take Slovak language courses. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides legal, social, and vocational counseling to asylum seekers, as well as recreational programs and additional material assistance. At the discretion of the Interior Ministry, some asylum seekers are permitted to live in private accommodations.
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 reunification.
The government may extend temporary protection by decree to specific groups of foreigners fleeing war. The Slovak Republic granted temporary protection to former Yugoslavs, mostly from Bosnia and Kosovo, during the 1990s.
The Migration Office may refuse status to applicants who arrive in the Slovak Republic from "safe countries of origin" or "safe third countries." 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 Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, the European Union (EU) member states, Ghana, Hungary, Iceland, Kenya, Mauritius, Norway, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe. The Slovak Republic considers Canada, the Czech Republic, EU member states, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States to be safe third 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.
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.
Recognized refugees receive a permanent residence permit. Rejected asylum seekers are issued an exit visa, valid for 30 days; if they 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, where refugees can reside for up to six months. Recognized refugees receive work permits, language training, and access to the Slovak education system.
Asylum and EU Membership
Although the Slovak Republic has made progress towards bringing its asylum policies in line with EU standards, particularly with the 2000 amendments to its Refugee Law, gaps still remain. A new asylum law is being drafted, expected to come into force in January 2003, that will be fully compatible with EU standards and includes the right to an independent judicial review of rejected asylum claims.
According to the European Commission's 2001 Regular Report on Slovakia's Progress toward Accession , lack of coordination between the Slovak Republic's Aliens and Border Police and its Migration Office "do not guarantee a consistent and competent assessment of refugee cases."
Many asylum seekers and immigrants transit through the Slovak Republic to reach points farther west, often traveling illegally. More than 10,000 illegal immigrants were detained in the Slovak Republic during 2001, significantly more than the 6,000 apprehended in 2000. Slovak police reported several instances of asylum seekers attempting to cross the Morava River, which borders Austria and the Czech Republic. In June, a group of Indian asylum seekers drowned while attempting to cross the river.
On December 18, the Slovak Parliament passed a new Aliens Law, scheduled to come into force in April 2002. The law provides for a "tolerated stay" for stateless persons and for aliens who cannot be deported (including rejected asylum seekers) because they may face torture in their country of origin, and suspends deportation orders for rejected asylum seekers who have appealed against their expulsion.
In response to a surge in asylum applicants in 2001, a new refugee camp opened in November at Rohovce, with capacity for 140 people. UNHCR attributed the huge increase in asylum applications to a 2000 amendment to the Refugee Law that eliminated the 24-hour time limit for applying for asylum upon entry into the Slovak Republic.
The Slovak Republic's record on minority rights continued to be a sticking point on its entry into the EU. Although the government has instituted programs and developed policies aimed at improving protection of minority rights and reducing discrimination, the European Commission report noted a gap between the formulation and implementation of these policies. Violence against members of the Roma minority persisted throughout 2001, demonstrating a continued failure of the police to prevent attacks against Roma.
In July, a Roma man was beaten to death in police custody, and in October, the Budapest, Hungary-based European Roma Rights Center filed suit against the Slovak Republic in the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of a Roma man who died in police custody in 1999. Roma also faced continued discrimination in housing, education, and employment during 2001.
According to UNHCR, 2,777 Slovaks, the majority of whom are believed to be Roma, sought asylum in other European countries during 2001. In April, after Belgium lifted its visa requirement for Slovak nationals, a new influx of Slovak Roma asylum seekers led Belgium to threaten to reinstate the visa regime. Few Slovak Roma receive asylum in Western Europe, and most are returned on safe-country-of-origin or safe-third-country grounds.