At the end of 2000, the Slovak Republic hosted more than 400 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 10 recognized refugees and 400 asylum applicants awaiting a decision at the Slovak Migration Office.
During 2000, 1,556 persons applied for asylum in the Slovak Republic, up 18 percent from the 1,320 who applied in 1999. The largest groups of asylum seekers during the year were from Afghanistan (624), India (380), Pakistan (161), Iraq (115), Sri Lanka (87), and Bangladesh (46).
The Slovak Migration Office issued 133 first-instance decisions in 2000, granting 10 persons refugee status (5 from Afghanistan) and rejecting 123 persons.
The Slovak Republic remains a transit country for asylum seekers traveling to Western Europe. In 2000, the authorities closed 1,366 applications because the asylum seekers left Slovak territory, presumably to seek asylum in countries farther west.
In 2000, the government amended the Refugee Law (283/1995) and the Aliens Law (73/1995), measures that govern the country's asylum procedure.
In November, the government enacted amendments to the Refugee Law that removed a 24-hour time limit for applying for asylum in the territory. The new legislation also obligates the government to grant refugee status to a refugee's spouse and single children up to age 18 and sets a 30-day time limit for second-instance decisions in the accelerated procedure.
On April 1, amendments to the Aliens Law came into force, relating mainly to the treatment of immigrants in the Slovak Republic.
The Slovak Republic is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Government Decree 4/1996 provides the administrative guidelines for implementing the asylum law.
Once an asylum application is deemed admissible, the police forward it to the Slovak Migration Office. Most asylum seekers are then transferred to a reception center in Adomov-Gbely, where they undergo a medical examination. After a month of "quarantine," asylum seekers move into residential centers, where they await decisions on their applications.
In recent years, the Slovak Republic has opened new reception centers to accommodate the increasing numbers of asylum seekers entering the country. Asylum seekers receive three meals a day, basic medical care, and a small financial allowance at the residence center. Children may attend school, and parents are allowed to take Slovak language courses. UNHCR provides legal, social, and vocational counseling to asylum seekers, as well as recreational programs and additional material assistance.
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 reunion.
The government may extend temporary protection by decree to specific groups of foreigners fleeing war. The Slovak Republic has granted temporary protection to former Yugoslavs, mostly from Bosnia and Kosovo.
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: Angola, Bulgaria, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, and the European Union (EU) member states. Slovakia considers Canada, the Czech Republic, EU member states, 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.
Rejected asylum seekers are issued exit visas, valid for 30 days. When asylum seekers 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.
In September, the government opened a new detention center in Secovce on the Slovak-Ukranian border with a capacity for 250 persons. Some 1,700 undocumented migrants were detained on the border during the first nine months of the year.
Persons granted asylum move into an integration center in Zvolen, where regulations stipulate that refugees are only supposed to reside for up to six months. Recognized refugees receive work permits, language training, and access to the Slovak education system.
Slovak police neither prevented nor investigated several violent attacks on the Roma during the year. In one such attack, on February 7, two Roma were run down and killed. The police did not arrest the suspect, a well-known Slovak, but allegedly threatened and beat the victims' family members. In another incident, on August 20, three men shouting racist abuse beat a fifty-year-old Roma woman and her two daughters. The woman died of her injuries two days later. The deputy prime minister called the crime "deplorable," but the police said they had no evidence that the crime was racially motivated. On August 24, the Slovak Parliament observed one minute of silence in her memory.
The 1998 parliamentary victory of a pro-democracy coalition headed by Mikulas Dzurinda had led to some notable government initiatives to improve the situation of minorities in Slovakia. In 1999, the Parliament created the Advisory Committee for Roma Issues to provide guidance on the development of policy for Roma.
In 2000, however, human rights groups criticized the government for failing effectively to implement the advisory committees' September 1999 Resolution and Measures Concerning the Roma National Minority – a working plan to address their educational, employment, and social problems. In May, Pal Csaky, the deputy prime minister for human and minority rights, announced that he would draft an anti-discrimination law, but had not done so by year's end.
Many Roma from the Slovak Republic have sought asylum in Western Europe. In 2000, Belgium received 1,372 Slovak Roma asylum seekers. After record numbers of Slovak Roma applied for asylum in Belguim, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, and the United Kingdom, these countries imposed temporary visa requirements on Slovak citizens in 2000.
In April, Belgium tried to encourage some 1,500 rejected Slovak asylum seekers to repatriate by offering them free flights and a small reintegration sum. Few Slovak Roma receive asylum in Western Europe, and most are returned on safe country of origin or safe third country grounds.