U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Slovak Republic
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||1 June 2003|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Slovak Republic , 1 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3eddc49ac.html [accessed 23 August 2014]|
At the end of 2002, the Slovak Republic hosted more than 4,500 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 20 recognized refugees and around 4,500 asylum applicants awaiting decisions at the Slovak Migration Office.
Around 4,100 Slovaks, mostly ethnic Roma, sought asylum abroad during the year.
During the year, the Slovak Republic received over 9,700 applications for asylum, up 20 percent from 2001. The largest numbers of asylum seekers during the year were from China (1,800), Afghanistan (1,700), India (1,600), and Iraq (1,200). The Slovak Migration Office issued around 330 initial decisions in 2002, granting 20 and rejecting around 300 cases, a recognition rate of 6 percent.
The Slovak Republic remains a transit country for asylum seekers traveling to Western Europe. In 2002, the authorities closed over 8,000 applications because the asylum seekers left Slovak territory, presumably to travel to countries farther west.
The Slovak Republic is a party to the UN Refugee Convention. The country's asylum laws are governed by the Refugee Law of 1995 and amendments passed in 2000.
Asylum seekers first file their applications with the police who then forward the applications to the Slovak Migration Office within the Ministry of Interior. 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. The Migration Office usually issues initial decisions within 90 days.
The Migration Office may refuse status to applicants who originate from or travel through countries it deems safe, unless applicants can demonstrate that the general presumption of safety in a country does not apply to them. According to the 1997 Government Decree 67, safe countries of origin include Bulgaria, Canada, the 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 transit 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 appeal to the Migration Office, the same office responsible for making the initial 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 permanent residence. 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.
Refugees may move into an integration center and reside there for up to six months. Refugees also receive work permits, language training, and access to the Slovak education system.
Alternative Forms of Protection
In addition to granting status under the UN Refugee Convention, the Migration Office may occasionally also grant "de facto refugee status" on humanitarian grounds, such as reunification with family members already granted asylum. The government may also 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.
(On January 1, 2003, a new Aliens Law came into force, bringing Slovak Republic asylum law more in line with EU standards. The law introduces a new asylum procedure whereby the police forward all asylum requests to the Migration Office, who must determine their admissibility under safe-third-country criteria within 30 days. It also provides for a "tolerated stay" status on humanitarian grounds and suspends removal while appeals are pending.)
Residents receive meals, basic medical care, and a small cash allowance. Children may attend school and parents are allowed to take free Slovak language courses. In December, to address accommodations shortages, the Migration Office opened a new temporary reception center in central Slovakia to house about 150 asylum seekers. The Migration Office announced that it would open a permanent reception center in March 2003.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides legal, social, and vocational counseling to asylum seekers, as well as recreational programs and additional assistance. At the discretion of the Interior Ministry, some asylum seekers may live in private accommodations.
Ethnic Roma continued to suffer widespread societal discrimination, racially motivated violence, and inadequate police protection. In May, during a visit to a EU-funded Roma settlement in eastern Slovak Republic, a European Commissioner urged the Slovak Republic and other EU candidate countries with ethnic Roma to further integrate them.
Although the government has instituted programs and developed policies aimed at improving minority employment, education, training, health, and reducing discrimination, a 2001 European Commission report found these policies had not been fully implemented. Skinheads and other unidentified assailants persisted in attacking Roma throughout 2002, demonstrating a continued failure of the police to prevent attacks against Roma. In one such incident, a group of seven teenage skinheads brutally beat and stabbed a young Roma couple returning from a shopping trip in September. The skinheads also attacked two Roma men who tried to help the couple during the attack. The police did not remand the assailants in custody, and denied a racial motive to the crime.
Many Roma sought asylum abroad but, despite official European condemnation of their treatment in the Slovak Republic, other European countries granted very few of them asylum, expeditiously processed their claims, and summarily deported them to deter others from seeking asylum. Most were returned on safe-country-of-origin or safe-third-country grounds.