U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Slovenia

  At the end of 1997, Slovenia hosted about 5,300 Bosnian refugees and 100 asylum seekers of other nationalities. The government recognized none as refugees according to the UN Refugee Convention. Bosnians By year's end, the number of registered Bosnian refugees in Slovenia had been reduced by about half since the beginning of the year. In April, Slovenia adopted the Law on Temporary Protection of Nationals of Bosnia and Hercegovina that established new eligibility criteria for temporary protected status. The government withdrew temporary protection for about 2,300 Bosnians at that time, including persons who originated in areas where their ethnic/religious group is in the majority, as well as single persons, families without children, and families whose children were not in school. Of the registered Bosnians, 4,506 met the new eligibility criteria and were able to extend their temporary permission to remain in Slovenia. During the year, 2,834 Bosnians were recorded as having repatriated, of whom UNHCR assisted 1,982 to return. Another 249 refugees were able to resettle in third countries during the year. At year's end, UNHCR said that it was still concerned with another 800 persons who lost temporary protected status in 1997, or who were refugees sur place. On August 6, USCR wrote to the Slovenian government regarding the end of temporary protected status for Bosnians. USCR questioned how Slovenia would handle cases of Bosnians who claimed a continuing fear of persecution upon return. USCR pointed out that the Slovenian asylum law requires applicants to apply within three days of arrival, which would not be possible for those who had been granted temporary protected status. USCR urged the Slovenian government to rescind the three-day filing requirement, and to rectify any other legal obstacles that might hinder Bosnians seeking to register asylum claims. In response, a Slovenian government official met with USCR in August to reiterate that minorities would not be compelled to return and that students would be able to complete their terms of study before leaving. He said that since the cessation of armed conflict in Bosnia, the reasons for not returning are now principally economic in character. He said that the government was providing financial assistance to those who opted to repatriate. Nevertheless, because they necessarily missed the three-day filing deadline, Bosnians for whom temporary protected status expired could not apply for asylum. The government initially said it would extend temporary protection until June 1998 for those refugees originating in areas where they would be in the ethnic minority. Later, however, the government said it would extend temporary protection for this group indefinitely until it decides on the final lifting of temporary protected status. Although the government indicated that refugees originating in minority areas could adjust their status, few Bosnians would qualify, because the foreigners law had recently been amended to extend the residency requirement from three years to eight in order to obtain a permanent residence permit. In fact, the government has not allowed Bosnians to adjust to permanent resident status. It has, however, provided persons with temporary protection a limited right to work. About 150,000 persons from other former Yugoslav republics who had been resident in Slovenia between December 23, 1990 and June 1991 have been granted Slovenian citizenship, according to the government. According to UNHCR, however, between 5,000 and 10,000 former Yugoslavs resident in Slovenia at the end of 1997 still lacked effective citizenship in Slovenia. About 2,300 of the Bosnian refugees remained in 12 collective centers at the end of 1997. During the year, the Slovenian authorities renovated a former collective center, turning it into a reception center for asylum seekers. 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 are not 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 197 asylum claims have been filed in Slovenia, according to the government; 83 claims were filed in 1997. The government granted no asylum claims in 1997. In fact, Slovenia has recognized no one as a Convention refugee since 1995. The authorities denied 8 claims during the year, and 62 others dropped their claims. Iranians comprised 45 of the 102 asylum seekers Slovenia hosted at the end of 1997. The remainder came from 15 other countries. About one quarter of the asylum seekers were children. Observers have attributed the small number of asylum applicants in Slovenia to several factors. Border authorities are said to have little experience in handling asylum applications, and internal instructions do not provide border police officers with the competency to assess asylum claims. The government's view is that relatively few asylum seekers who arrive at the border state a desire to seek asylum in Slovenia. During 1997, a Slovenian government committee worked on a draft of a new asylum law, but by year's end, the parliament had not acted on the measure. Readmission Agreements Government officials suggest that most asylum seekers see Slovenia as a transit country, preferring to continue on to other countries. Using bilateral readmission agreements, Slovenian authorities seek to return such asylum seekers to the countries from which they entered Slovenia. At the beginning of the year, Slovenia had readmission agreements with Austria, Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, and the Slovak Republic. In 1997, Slovenia concluded readmission agreements with Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. Observers have expressed concern over the vagueness of references to asylum seekers within these agreements, and noted that Slovenia has not always permitted persons returned to Slovenia under these agreements to enter into the asylum determination procedure. Implementation of the agreements is said to lack administrative supervision. Italy returned 1,146 foreigners to Slovenia in 1997, Austria returned 226, Croatia returned 135, and Macedonia returned 14. Those returned predominantly were nationals of Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey. In response to a USCR inquiry, a Slovenian official said that "in all cases" these returnees were deported to their home countries "where this was possible and there was no reason for nonrefoulement."

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