At the end of 1998, Slovenia hosted 3,465 Bosnian and about 3,500 Kosovar refugees. The government recognized none as refugees according to the UN Refugee Convention and had not clarified the status of the Kosovars at year's end, but did officially provide temporary protection for the Bosnians. At year's end, 332 asylum cases from various nationalities were pending, of whom the largest group, 221, were Yugoslavs. Government statistics did not indicate how many of these might have been Kosovars.
USCR regarded about 8,000 former Yugoslavs (other than Bosnians) who remained stateless in Slovenia at the end of 1998 as being in refugee-like circumstances.
The number of registered Bosnian refugees in Slovenia decreased by about 35 percent from the end of 1997 to the end of 1998. Other factors contributing to the decline included 266 persons who obtained residence permits on other grounds, 566 who repatriated, according to official count, 86 whose temporary protected status was withdrawn, and 53 who were resettled to third countries. UNHCR estimated that about 500 Bosnians whose temporary protected status had been withdrawn in 1997 and 1998 (mostly persons originating from areas where they are in the ethnic majority) were still living in Slovenia without status at year's end.
Almost all of the Bosnians remaining in Slovenia at year's end were people originating in parts of Bosnia where they would be in the ethnic minority. Although the government had previously announced that temporary protection for such refugees would expire in June, the government extended temporary protection for this group indefinitely. Although by doing so, the government recognized the inability of these refugees to return, it did not grant them Convention refugee status. About 1,700 of the Bosnian refugees continued to live in collective centers.
Although Bosnian refugees originating in minority areas had the right to adjust their status, few could qualify because the foreigners law requires eight year's of residency in order to obtain a permanent residence permit. In fact, in 1998, only 33 Bosnian refugees were able to naturalize.
About 3,500 Kosovars sought refuge in Slovenia in 1998, according to government estimates. Although the government tolerated their presence, it did not grant them temporary protection or other status during the year.
(In April 1999, the government did grant temporary protection to Kosovars residing in Slovenia.)
The status of Convention refugees in Slovenia is regulated by the Foreigners Act of 1991. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for first instance asylum decisions. Rejected claimants may appeal within 15 days with the Office for Immigration and Refugees, an independent government body. An administrative court may review such appeals.
Applications for asylum must be lodged within three days of entry into Slovenia at police stations or reception facilities. Claims not filed within the three-day limit are routinely denied on procedural grounds.
The government granted only one asylum claim in 1998, a Democratic Republic of Congo national, the first person recognized by the government as a Convention refugee since 1995. Another 26 people were granted temporary residence permits on humanitarian grounds.
Observers have attributed the small number of asylum applicants in Slovenia to several factors. First, virtually no one is ever recognized as a refugee by the Slovenian authorities. Furthermore, border authorities reportedly have little experience handling asylum applications, and internal instructions do not provide them 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 1998, a draft law on asylum was pending its first reading by the Slovenian parliament. By year's end, no action had been taken on the measure.