Some 3,700 Romanians, most of whom were believed to be from the Roma minority, sought asylum during 2003, including about 700 in Ireland, 700 in the United Kingdom, 490 in Sweden, and 350 in the United States.

At the end of 2003, Romania hosted about 200 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection, including 35 asylum seekers with pending cases, and 160 persons granted asylum during the year.

During 2003, some 900 persons applied for asylum in Romania, similar to 2002. In addition, nearly 200 persons applied for the second time. The largest numbers came from Iraq (330), China (200), India (160), and Iran (66).

Authorities made decisions on 720 cases, and granted over 160 persons refugee status in Romania, 69 at first instance and 95 on appeal, a 10 percent recognition rate.

New Developments

In January, a new Aliens Law came into force in Romania, exempting asylum seekers who enter or stay in the country without proper documentation from deportation.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 18 persons were convicted of crossing the border without proper documentation during the year, were issued deportation orders, and subsequently applied for asylum, suspending their deportation until their claims were decided. They were detained during the process.

Under 2001 legislation, refugees are entitled to public assistance for a year, including employment services, language classes, vocational training, and unemployment benefits. During the year, the government granted childcare allowances to refugee children at school, offered refugees access to health insurance, and improved their access to social welfare. However, UNHCR reported that government officials administered such provision inconsistently, and UNHCR had to assist individuals to access it. UNHCR and its implementing partners organized training for government workers to increase their awareness of refugees' rights and needs.

In September, a Council of Europe report criticized Romania for continuing discrimination against Roma and their poor access to adequate living conditions and social services. Many Roma sought asylum abroad but, despite widespread and official European condemnation of their treatment in Romania, other European countries granted very few of them asylum; instead they expeditiously processed their claims, and summarily deported them to deter others from seeking asylum. The United States granted asylum to 57 percent of Romanian applicants in 2003.


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