sty12x18 Migration
sty12x18 Asylum
sty12x18 Main Difficulties

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1. Migration

The Slovak Republic is one of the main transit countries for migration flows from the south and east to Western Europe. Between 1 January 1993 and 31 July 1998 , about 464,000,000 people entered the country legally. During this period, 548,000 were denied entry by the state border protection authorities and 17,287 were detained because of illegally crossing the border, including 4,269 in the first half of 1998 . In the same period of 1998, 1,467 people were expelled from the territory, most of them from the Ukraine, Romania and former Yugoslavia 147.

In 1998, the number of illegal migrants trying to enter the Slovak Republic is 135% higher than in 1997, and the number of illegal migrants trying to leave the Slovak Republic is 130% higher 148.

The strongest migration pressure comes from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1,904), Afghanistan (400), Iraq (182), China (172), Vietnam (164), Sri Lanka (115)and India (110) 149. The emigrants' aim is to reach the developed countries of Western Europe, especially Germany. Many aliens enter the Slovak Republic legally but fail to leave after expiration of their visas. They wait for opportunities to illegally cross the Austrian or Czech border or try to find illegal employment.

The general conditions of entry and sojourn of aliens in the territory of the Slovak Republic are laid down in Law n E 73/1995. In accordance with this law, foreigners may only enter the Slovak Republic with a valid travel document and a visa, which are not needed by citizens of European states (except those from Albania, Macedonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina 150 and, currently, Britain 151).

The European Commission's opinion is that progress remains very limited in the field of visa policy and foreign nationals. A working party has been set up to prepare the necessary changes, but these have not materialized, despite the urgency of the matter 152.

The Slovak Republic has concluded bilateral agreements concerning the coordination of border controls with all neighbouring countries. Systems of information exchange have also been implemented.

Permanent migration

Since 1994 Slovakia can be considered as a migration country. In 1994, a total of 4,073 permits for long-term stay and 2,392 for permanent residence were issued. The same trend continued in 1995 when 3,022 long-term and 2,225 permanent residence permits were issued; in 1996 there were 3,250 and 1,348 respectively. Within the period from January 1997 to October 1997, 1,481 permanent residence and 2,248 long-term permits were issued 153. These numbers indicate that Slovakia, as a result of its stabilizing economic situation and also measures introduced by certain West European countries against migrants, began to change from a prevailingly transit country to one where migrants prefer to settle. At present, the largest group of aliens located in the Slovak Republic is formed by citizens of south-east and east European countries. By far the largest proportion of these are economic migrants, as shown by the highest amount of long-term stay permits issued for the purpose of employment or business activities in comparison with all other forms of stay 154.

Readmission agreements

Readmission agreements have been concluded with all neighbouring countries (Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic) and with Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia. They contain provisions on the return of their own citizens and those of third states. Agreements with the Benelux countries are under preparation.

In the field of asylum seekers, in the interest of avoiding refoulement and orbit situations and promoting international cooperation for the protection of refugees, the return of applicants who have found or could have found protection in another country should take place in accordance with arrangements agreed among the States concerned, in order to determine which State is responsible for considering an application for asylum and for granting the protection required. Readmission agreements should not be used for this purpose unless they explicitly provide for the protection of refugees 155.

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2. Asylum

In 1997, applicants for refugee status came mainly from the following countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, India, Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Turkey (Kurds), Sri Lanka.





















1998 (at 31.07)








Source: Ministry of the Interior, Migration Office, August 1998

Officially, the criteria for granting refugee status corresponds to the definition of the 1951 Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol. According to UNHCR, the ability to learn/speak Slovak is very much taken into consideration. That is why many of the refugees recognized are 'in situ' refugees, for instance, students from former Communist countries who arrived before 1990 and hold or will hold Slovak academic degrees.

Applicants without valid documents constitute almost 90% of all applications 156. According to Slovak migration officials, people only request asylum when caught by border police 157.

Procedure and legal basis

The Slovak Republic acceded to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, without reservation, in January 1993. National legislation relating to refugees is primarly contained in the Refugee Act which came into effect on 1 January 1996. UNHCR considers this law to be an improvement on the previous one regarding the legal status of recognized refugees 158 and the possibility for a foreigner to obtain refugee status in the Slovak Republic for humanitarian reasons.

Act n E 283/1995 is not only in line with the provisions of the Geneva Convention, but also with the General Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Freedoms and Human Rights, the 1959 Agreement on the Rights of Children as well as further bilateral and multilateral agreements and treaties between the Slovak Republic and neighbouring countries.

The new Act on Refugees provides a unique procedure. The Migration Office of the Ministry of the Interior is the first instance in this process. The Minister of the Interior constitutes the appeal authority. A further appeal against his decision can be made at the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic.

The application and the situation in the country of origin are carefully examined; all available sources are used (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNHCR, consular offices).

During the refugee status determination procedure, applicants pass through medical quarantine at the retaining refugee camp in Adamov-Gbely. During this period, freedom of movement is limited for medical reasons. After the quarantine period, applicants can leave the camp for defined periods of time.

The first interview is held by the Migration Office. Those who appeal against a negative decision are taken to the residential refugee camp centre in Brezova pod Bradlom. During this time, the Migration Office bears the costs of lodging and food.

Asylum seekers who have obtained access to the procedure are protected against refoulement and no problems have been experienced in its practical application 159.

According to the law, the Ministry takes a decision within 90 days. This time limit can be extended by the Ministry. In the event of a negative decision, the applicant can lodge an appeal with the same authority, and a decision is given by the Minister, on the recommendation of an advisory board, within 6o days. The decision of the Minister can be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

If, in the opinion of the Ministry, a claim is manifestly unfounded, the Ministry will make a decision within 7 days of the start of the procedure. The decision can be appealed against within three working days. The appeal has a suspensive effect.

A representative of UNHCR may at any time participate in the determination procedure. UNHCR provides legal opinions, country of origin information and trains the adjudicators.

In Zvolen, which is an integration centre, recognized refugees are provided with assistance in job seeking, renting an apartment or obtaining other social services. Refugees may spend a maximum of six months in this centre 160.

Recognized refugees are automatically given a residence permit of indeterminate term, which puts them on an equal footing with Slovak citizens (with the exception of franchise and military service) 161.

Access to procedure

The greatest problem asylum applicants have to face is access to the procedure. According to new Refugee Law n E 283/95, undocumented applicants must apply for refugee status within 24 hours of entering the Slovak Republic (Article 4(2)b). Some of the Ministry of the Interior's internal regulations reduce this limit (Regulation No. 4/1996) 162.

The Aliens and Border Police have to determine who may be allowed access to the procedure. The UNHCR has protested that the actions of the Aliens and Border Police have been arbitrary and inconsistent. When people are denied access, there is no possibility of appeal. Written decisions have not been issued. The UNHCR has intervened in many cases where applicants asked for asylum at the offices of the UNHCR and were then directed to the Aliens and Border Police. There they were either refused or placed in detention for up to 30 days.

Several cases went to the Slovak Constitutional Court before the Migration Office and the Aliens Police agreed to relax their internal instructions to allow for a broader range of exceptions for failure to comply with the 24-hour rule. In addition, the Aliens and Border Police are now obliged to issue written decisions. Nevertheless, they continue to arbitrarily deny access to asylum procedures without written justification. Oral rejections (often racially pejorative) have not ceased to be the norm 163.

In connection with UNHCR criticism concerning the 24-hour deadline and, even though 'softening measures' were implemented to extend the deadline in various cases (hospitalization, physical and mental exhaustion, extraordinarily bad weather conditions, language barrier), an amendment will be put forward in the near future to change this situation 164.

Following the European Commission's opinion on the progress towards accession of November 1998, asylum legislation needs to be more detailed, particularly regarding access to the procedure, because Slovakia has moved from being mostly a transit country to being a destination country as well.

The situation in the Slovak Republic is complicated by the fact that many asylum seekers, including those returned from neighbouring countries through the application of readmission agreements, do not necessarily wish to apply for asylum in the Slovak Republic because they still want to proceed to Western European countries.

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Main difficulties

Access to procedure remains a great problem, not only because of the 24-hour time limit but because of the language question and the arbitrary practices of the Aliens and Border Police. When refused access, the asylum seeker has no possibility of appeal and receives no written explanation.

The second issue which is of relevance for the question of access to the refugee status determination procedure is the return of persons on the basis of readmission agreements. Such readmission agreements do not contain special provisions for asylum seekers. Consequently, potential asylum seekers are treated as illegal aliens and are denied access to the asylum procedure, unless the returning authorities indicate that the returned persons have applied for asylum in their country. In some cases, as a result of UNHCR's intervention, the Slovak authorities have shown willingness to accept asylum applicants who have been refused entry into the procedure in other countries. On the other hand, UNHCR is not aware of any case in which returned asylum seekers have had access to the procedure without prior notice or intervention. A further problem in this context is that the Slovak Refugee Act allows for applying the safe third country concept in cases of return from another country, i.e. that the person would be at risk to be sent back to the returning country, hence potentially producing an orbit situation. UNHCR is of the opinion that rejections of asylum claims on the basis of the safe third country rule should only be taken and returns carried out in cases where - be it under a bilateral readmission agreement or any other return arrangements - formal assurances from the Slovak authorities have been obtained that they agree to readmit the persons in question and to allow them access to the refugee status determination procedure. In addition to informing the Slovak authorities that the returnee is an asylum seeker whose claim has not been heard, returning countries should inform the claimant of his/her right to apply for asylum in Slovakia and of his/her obligation to do so at the time of his/her arrival.' 165. No practical experience, however, is yet available.

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147. Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, Department of European integration and law approximation, Vladimir Kotulic, Director, August 1998

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

149. Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, Department of European integration and law approximation, Vladimir Kotulic, August 1998

150. Written statement of the Slovak delegation to the 6th Conference of European Ministers responsible for migration affairs, Warsaw, 1996

151. The Bulletin, 22 October 1998, p. 12

152. European Commission, Progress towards accession, November 1998

153. Ministry of the Interior, November 1997

154. Statement by the delegation of the Slovak Republic to the 6th Conference of European Ministers responsible for Migration Affairs, Council of Europe, Warsaw, June 1996

155. UNHCR, Background information on the situation in the Slovak Republic in the context of the return of asylum seekers, August 1998

156. Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, Department of European integration and law approximation, Vladimir Kotulic, August 1998

157. UNHCR, Information bulletin, September 1998

158. UNHCR, Background information on the situation in the Slovak Republic in the context of the return of asylum seekers, August 1998

159. UNHCR, Background information on the situation in the Slovak Republic in the context of the return of asylum seekers, August 1998

160. Migration News Sheet, November 1997, Hungarian Associations for Migrants

161. Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, Department of European integration and law approximation, Vladimir Kotulic, August 1998 and Act of Refugees, § 13, para. 2 and § 17, para. 1

162. Ministry of the Interior, Migration Office, November 1997

163. UNHCR Bratislava, Asylum and Migration in the Slovak Republic, note to DG IV, July 1996, p.2

164. Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, Department of European integration and law approximation, Vladimir Kotulic, August 1998

165. UNHCR Brussels, note to DG IV, September 1998

© European Parliament: February 1999