At the end of 2003, Slovakia hosted more than 4,700 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 11 recognized refugees and around 4,700 asylum applicants awaiting decisions at the Slovak Migration Office.

Over 3,000 Slovaks, mostly ethnic Roma, sought asylum abroad during the year, including 1,100 in the Czech Republic, 590 in Germany, and 390 in Belgium.

During the year, Slovakia received nearly 10,400 applications for asylum, the highest number ever. The largest numbers were from Russia (2,700), India (1,700), China (1,100), Armenia (760), Afghanistan (630), and Moldova (590). The Slovak Migration Office issued around 500 initial decisions in 2003, granting 11 persons refugee status, a recognition rate of 2 percent, the lowest ever in the Slovakia. Authorities also granted 39 persons "tolerated stay" on humanitarian grounds.

Slovakia remains a transit country for asylum seekers traveling to Western Europe. In 2003, the authorities closed nearly 10,000 applications because the asylum seekers left Slovak territory.

New Developments

On January 1, a new Aliens Law came into force, bringing Slovakian asylum law more in line with EU standards. The law introduced a new asylum procedure whereby the police forward all asylum requests to the Migration Office, who must determine their admissibility under safe-third-country criteria within 30 days. The law provided for a "tolerated stay" status on humanitarian grounds and suspended removal while appeals are pending.

In March, the Slovak Migration Office opened a new asylum seekers' center in Opatovska Nova Vez, central Slovakia, with capacity for 150 people.

In May the UN High Commissioner for Refugees convened a task force with the Ministry of Interior, the Migration Office, and the Aliens and Border Police to assess the capacity of the Slovakia's asylum system to cope with predicted increases in applications after the country's entry into the European Union in May 2004. The European Commission, International Organization for Migration, and the U.S. and Netherlands embassies agreed to participate in the task force, which is scheduled to issue recommendations relating to the reception, processing, integration, and return of asylum seekers in 2004.

The Roma minority in Slovakia continued to experience police and skinhead brutality, without adequate reparation through the justice system. The U.S. Department of State human rights report noted that discrimination in education, healthcare, and employment sectors against minorities continued during the year, particularly against Roma. Amnesty International, the European Roma Rights Center, and others published reports that the government had not thoroughly and impartially investigated allegations of forced sterilization of Roma women.


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