At the end of 1996, some 10,300 refugees from Bosnia and Hercegovina remained in Slovenia under temporary protection, according to the government. Bosnian Refugees Slovenia officially closed its borders to new refugee arrivals from Bosnia in August of 1992. However, it continued to award temporary protection to certain Bosnians on a case-by-case basis. Following the signing of the Dayton Accords in late 1995, Slovenia indicated that it would provide temporary protection to new arrivals only in cases of family reunification. During 1996, the number of registered Bosnian refugees decreased from 18,911 to 10,315, according to the government. More than three quarters of the Bosnians with temporary protection at year's end were Muslims, and about 58 percent were from Serb-controlled regions, according to government statistics. Some 3,800 Bosnians lived in 15 collective centers, according to UNHCR. The Slovene Office for Immigration and Refugees attributed to repatriation most of the decrease in the number of Bosnians with temporary protection during 1996. UNHCR reported that it assisted in the repatriation of some 1,320 Bosnians from Slovenia during 1996, and that others repatriated spontaneously. Smaller numbers of Bosnians were able to acquire residence permits based on family ties or employment, and 256 have acquired Slovene citizenship, according to the government. During 1996, Slovenia awarded temporary protection to 211 Bosnians. In December, the government initiated a registration exercise intended to update the number of Bosnians remaining in Slovenia. The exercise was expected to continue into January 1997. As the year ended, the government was considering withdrawing temporary protection from several categories of Bosnians who originated in areas where their ethnic/religious group is in the majority. Those likely to be affected – some 2,500 to 3,000 people – included single persons, families without children, and families whose children are not in school. The selective withdrawal of temporary protection might occur as early as May 1, 1997, according to the government. Asylum Procedure The status of Convention refugees in Slovenia is regulated by the Foreigner's Act of 1991. Applications for asylum must be lodged within three days of entry into Slovenia. Claims not filed within the three-day limit have not been examined. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for determining refugee status. Since the adoption of an asylum determination procedure in the fall of 1991, only 125 asylum cases have been filed in Slovenia, according to the government. Only two of those 125 cases have been approved; none was approved during 1996. Observers have attributed the small number of asylum applicants in Slovenia to several factors. Relatively few asylum seekers who arrive at the border state a desire to seek asylum in Slovenia, apparently preferring to continue on to other countries, thus making it possible for Slovene authorities to return them under bilateral readmission agreements to the countries from which they attempted to enter. In addition, border authorities are said to have little experience in handling asylum applications, making it difficult for would-be applicants to enter the determination procedure. During 1996, Slovene authorities reported registering only 35 new applications for refugee status, including 14 submitted by Iranians and nine submitted by Liberians. During 1996, Slovene authorities completed work on 26 applications for asylum, all apparently without consideration of the merits. Authorities dismissed 22 applications that were not submitted within three days of the applicants' arrival in Slovenia; four other cases were suspended because the applicants had left the country. Ten cases remained undecided at year's end. Readmission Agreements Slovenia has concluded and enforced readmission agreements with Austria, Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, and the Slovak Republic. Observers have expressed concern over the vagueness of references to asylum seekers within these agreements, and noted that persons returned to Slovenia under these agreements have not necessarily been permitted to enter into an asylum determination procedure in Slovenia. Implementation of the agreements is said to lack administrative supervision. During 1996, foreign governments returned 1,255 third-country nationals to Slovenia under these readmission agreements, according to Slovene authorities. These included 761 persons returned at the land border with Italy, 221 at the border with Austria, 173 at Croatia's border, 22 at Hungary's border, and 78 returned to the Ljubljana airport.

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