sty12x18 Migration
sty12x18 Asylum
sty12x18 Main Difficulties

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1. Migration

Although Romania has been a source of emigration since the revolution in 1989, fewer citizens are now leaving the country. In 1990, 96,919 Romanians permanently settled abroad. In 1994, the figure was only 18,148, in 1996, 24,888 and in 1997 21,635 137. 21,643 Romanians, who left the country during the communist period, returned to their home country between 1990 and 1995 138.

Romania remains a transit country for most migrants, although many give up their plan to go to Western Europe and try to find work in Romania.

Illegal migration

At the moment, Romania faces serious problems concerning the prevention of illegal immigration. From 1993 to 1996, 45,000 foreigners have been refused entry; 15,000 living illegally in the country have been discovered by the authorities, but were allowed to stay in the country though more than 1,800 have been returned to their countries of origin. In November 1997, the unofficial number of illegal migrants reached 25,000 139.

The majority come from Turkey, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt and intend to go to the West, especially Germany. Three main routes cross Romania - two of them are organized from Moscow as departure point. One goes from Moscow to Chisinãu to Hungary, the other from Moscow to Kyiv to Hungary. These routes are used for migrants coming from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Nigeria. The third route is the southern one and is used by Iranians and Iraqis who cross Bulgaria and Romania to Hungary 140.

The 'Law on Foreigners' was adopted in September 1998. It stipulates that persons cannot house foreigners who do not have passports and valid visas. Persons housing foreigners will have to inform the police of their presence within 48 hours, hotels within 24 hours. According to the law, the 'citizens of the states known as having immigration tendencies' who request visas for Romania will have to present a written invitation from a Romanian citizen (or legal person) approved by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Besides the Ministry´s approval, the invitation must also contain the host's declaration that he will take responsibility for expenses during the foreigners' stay in Romania, as well proof of a bank guarantee. The tourist companies, through which foreigners from these countries come to Romania, are also obliged to provide bank guarantees. The Romanian authorities can refuse the visa if the foreigner does not prove that he has enough money for his stay in Romania should there be evidence of his intention to remain there, in cases of diseases which jeopardize public health or in the case of criminal records.

The law stipulates the maximum length of the different kinds of visas: business and employment visas will be granted for a period of maximum 30 days, with the possibility of prolonging it for up to 6 months. The same regulation is valid for foreign journalists. The tourist visa can be granted for 60 days and can be prolonged for up to 60 days; the transit visa is granted for 3 days without the possibility of prolongation.

85 countries are considered 'as at risk'.

Border control

The activities of human traffickers have sharply increased. The Romanian authorities have implemented several legislative and administrative measures, border controls have been tightened in order to improve the possibilities of identifying false passports and travel documents, forged visas and means of transport for trafficking in human beings. Within the framework of the PHARE programme, border posts have been modernized. The granting of visas for people from emigration countries (a list containing 85 countries has been drawn up and a visa for transiting airports for the citizens of Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sri-Lanka, ex-Zaire, Pakistan and Bangladesh has been introduced 141) has become more restrictive. Staff of the Border Police are trained in special courses at the Police Academy of the Ministry of the Interior.The law on the status of customs staff was debated at the chamber of deputies in October 1998 after having being adopted by the senate. Title VI of this law provides for improving of financial conditions of the customs staff in order to protect it from temptation of bribery and corruption. Additionally, information exchange and cooperation with border police units in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Turkey, Ukraine and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have been improved.

Despite these activities, the lack of financial resources makes efficient border controls, and especially the expulsion of illegal immigrants to their country of origin, very difficult. Cooperation with Europol remains an important political option for Romania. The European Commission states that no significant progress has been recorded on border controls, though this was one of the three short-term priorities of the accession partnership. Particular attention should be paid to the borders with Moldova and Ukraine, and the port of Constanza 142.

Readmission agreements

Romania has negotiated and concluded readmission agreements with 15 countries in Europe and with India. Readmission agreements have been concluded with the following countries: Austria, Benelux, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Negotiations are underway with Portugal, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, China, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Turkey, Latvia, Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Iran 143.

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2. Asylum

Following the 1989 democratic transformation, Romania, having previously been considered uniquely as a source of refugees fleeing the communist regime, quickly became an asylum country.


Asylum claims between 1991 and mid-1998:

Status of Claims










Refugee claims submitted










Refugee status granted










Claims rejected (First Instance)










Claims withdrawn










Claims abandoned










Voluntary repatriation










Source: The Office of Refugees, Bucharest, August 1998


Main country of origin of asylum seekers:

Country of origin

Number of Claims

Refugee status granted










Sri Lanka


















Source: The Office of Refugees, Bucharest, August 1998


Procedure and legal basis

Romania acceded to the 1951 Geneva Convention and its Protocol of 1967 without reservations according to Law n 1 46/1991. A committee for migration problems was created (Decision n E 417/91). The recommendations of the UNHCR concerning minimum standard guarantees are applied. The law concerning the status of refugees in Romania entered into force on 5 May 1996 and is in line with the 1951 Convention and its Protocol. Asylum seekers coming from war-torn areas can be granted refugee status for humanitarian reasons even if the conditions of the 1951 Geneva Convention are not fulfilled 144. During the provisional period, the asylum seeker has the right to a temporary identity document, to necessary living support and social assistance.

Refugee status is not granted to a foreigner who has committed a crime against peace and humanity or a crime in Romania for which Romanian law provides a sentence of more than three years (Article 4 of the Law on the Status of Refugees). Foreigners applying for asylum in Romania have to submit a written and detailed application to a diplomatic mission, to a consular office, to the General Department of the border police or to Romanian territorial bodies. If the application is made to the border police, the foreigner is allowed to enter the country if he has valid entry documents and the necessary visa or if he is arriving directly from the territory where his life or freedom are in danger. Responsibility for interviewing the applicant and analysing the reasons for granting refugee status lies with a commission appointed by the government and composed of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. UNHCR representatives can assist in the proceedings. The commission will decide whether to approve or reject the application within 30 days of its receipt (Article 10 of the Law on the Status of Refugees). According to Article 11, refugee status can also be refused if the asylum seeker dishonestly refuses to provide all data and information necessary for the Romanian authorities to deal with the request, if he tries to obtain refugee status by giving false data or information or if he does not observe the obligation stipulated in Article 10 (e.g. the asylum seeker must undergo a medical examination and remain at the residence locality, unless otherwise authorized).

An appeal against the decision of the commission is possible.

According to Article 15 of the Law on the Status of Refugees, a Convention refugee has the right to stay on Romanian territory and receive adequate documents, to work in Romania, to undertake all forms of education and to receive refundable support within the limits of the state's financial possibilites 145. In practice, it is very difficult for a refugee to find employment without sufficient knowlege of the Romanian language and no language courses are organized. UNHCR assistance constitutes the main financial support and hundreds of needy asylum seekers and refugees rely on it. The slim chances of integration have forced numbers of recognized refugees to leave Romania.

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Main difficulties

The new Law on Refugees contains some doubtful provisions: refugee status may be granted for only three years (Article 22 of the Romanian Refugee Law), and is subject to a further two-year extension. Another worrying provision of the law is that it denies access to asylum to those who arrive at the border without valid documents, unless they arrive directly from the country in which they have been persecuted 146.

As in all the CEECs, integration within the country is not easy and there is no access to free language courses. In the field of border control, there seems to be no significant progress, though the problem of illegal immigration is growing.

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137. Council of Europe, CDMG, 'Evolution récente des politiques relatives aux migrations et aux migrants', Provisional version, 28 August 1998, p.66

138. Statement of the representative of the Republic of Romania at the meeting of the Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs of the European Parliament with corresponding Committees of the Parliaments of the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe, June 1996

139. Nine O'Clock, 7/8 November 1997

140. Council of Europe, CDMG, 'Evolution récente des politiques relatives aux migrations et aux migrants', Provisional version, 28 August 1998, p.66

141. Romanian Mission to the EU, Florin Saghi, Counsellor, August 1998

142. European Commission, 'Progress towards accession', November 1998

143. Romanian Mission to the EU, Florin Saghi, August 1998

144. Statement of the representative of the Republic of Romania, at the meeting of the Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs of the European Parliament with corresponding Committees of the Parliaments of the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe, June 1996

145. Romanian Business Journal, 'The law concerning the status and conditions of refugees in Romania', April 1996, p.12

146. UNHCR, information bulletin, September 1998

© European Parliament: February 1999