Slovenia

SLOVENIA

General information

Slovenia was the first of the 2004 accession states to join the Euro zone (2007) and to take on the presidency of the European Union (January to June 2008), and as such, developed the necessary tools for its entry in the Schengen area (21/12/07). Slovenia is located on one of the new external borders of the EU and constitutes a main entry point for migrants. For a large number of Slovenian NGOs, their country remains a transit region, and according to them, migrants do not initially aim to settle in Slovenia.

Legislation on immigration

Slovenian law on migrants regulates entry, stay and exit from the territory. Dating from 1999, it was amended in 2002 [1] and was widely modified upon Slovenia’s entry into the European Union.
The conditions of entry and stay of foreigners are practically identical in Slovenia and in other European countries : non-EU migrants are required to obtain a visa, residence permits may be obtained on the basis of employment, family reunification or study, etc [2]... The authority responsible for these matters is the Slovenian interior ministry [3].

Slovenian statistics concerning foreigners entering and residing legally on the territory are available on : http://www.stat.si/eng/tema_demografsko_prebivalstvo.aspStatistics concerning irregular entry, detention and deportation are not made public.

Asylum

The first law on asylum was passed in 1999, and has since been amended several times (2000, 2001, 2003, 2006). The most important amendments were made with a view to entering the EU in 2004 [4].

A new law on asylum came into effect on January 4th 2008 [5], systematising the detention of asylum seekers, as well as that of families and children. It makes an appeal against rejection of the asylum claim non-suspensive. Not only civil society, but also the High Commissioner for Refugees [6] (HCR) are concerned by the significant restrictions placed upon the right to asylum implemented in this text.
Asylum seekers are housed in the open centre of Ljubljana in the Vic district (Asylum Dom) while their claim is assessed. This centre has a capacity of around 200 people. It comprises a detention unit in which newly arrived asylum seekers without identity documents are held for an average of fifteen days. Separate units are provided for families, minors, men and women. The centre also houses the body responsible for determining asylum claims in Slovenia. The association Slovenska Filantropija provides support (for example : listening to asylum seekers, organising activities with adults, explaining how Slovenian society functions, giving practical advice on transport, etc.). The association PIC provides a legal duty service for asylum seekers.

The number of asylum claims in Slovenia has greatly varied according to the situation of conflicts occurring in neighbouring countries. The year 2000 represented a peak with 9,244 claims (UNHCR Statistical yearbook 2005, http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/statistics/opendoc.pdf ). Following this, the number of asylum claims began to drop with 1,522 claims in 2001 and 702 claims in 2002. During these two years, Convention status was granted in only two instances. Between 2003 and 2005, the number of claims rose, while the number of claimants granted status oscillated between 14 and 19. 2006 marked another significant fall in claims, with only 518 [7] new claims, 28% less than in 2005. Only one person was granted refugee status.
Detention : Closed centre of Postojna (50 km south of Ljublajna)
This centre can accommodate around 200 people, and comprises three units : one for people awaiting deportation, one for asylum seekers, and one for families. Migrants may be detained for a period of 6 months, renewable once for a period of 6 months. Asylum seekers may be placed in detention for four reasons : to give time to establish their identity [8], to prevent contagious illness, when they are suspected of abusing the asylum process or when a person’s life or possessions are at risk.

The association PIC is authorised to provide legal assistance only to asylum seekers several times a week. For migrants awaiting deportation, access to their rights is very precarious since it is ensured by a group of people sympathetic to the situation but without specific authorisation (the Anti Racist Assembly). As such, volunteers make sporadic visits during family visiting hours.

A nurse is normally present every day in the centre. The units for asylum seekers and migrants awaiting deportation are provided with a telephone, which is not the case in the family unit in which detainees must request permission from a guard if they wish to make a telephone call.

Unaccompanied minors

According to article 28 of the asylum law, unaccompanied minors must be assigned a legal representative before any legal procedures begin. This representative will take decisions in the minor’s best interest. During 2007, the NGO “Slovenska Filantropija” was authorised to represent minors from their arrival. This NGO is informed by the social services of the arrival of any minors and determines who will be their legal representative.

The detention of minors whose asylum claims have been rejected is possible in Slovenia, although it is a matter of some controversy : firstly, in the eyes of the International Convention for the Rights of the Child to which Slovenia is party, but also as a result of a decision by the constitutional court dating from 1996 and which stipulates that minors cannot be detained. Minors detained in the closed centre of Postojna are housed in the unit reserved for families. One unit is also reserved for minors in the asylum accommodation centre. The association Slovenska Filantropija would like to go one step further by putting in place a reception centre specially adapted for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.

Readmission agreements

Slovenia has signed readmission agreements with 16 European Union member states, including France, and European border states such as Hungary, Austria and Italy.

Border surveillance

Slovenia has 1370km of borders, of which 670km are with Croatia. During September 2007, the European border agency Frontex carried out an operation called KRAS, in which Slovenian border guards and Frontex agents, as well as Austrian, Bulgarian, German, Italian, Romanian and British experts participated ; this operation aimed to carry out a needs analysis at the busiest crossing points in order to reinforce control points on the land border with Croatia [9].
A drill was organised from April 7th to 11th 2008, within the framework of the ‘Rapid Borders Intervention Team’ (RABIT) of the agency Frontex [10]. This operation aimed to simulate a massive arrival of migrants on the ‘green border’ between Slovenia and Croatia at the crossing points which are considered to be the most vulnerable. Around thirty border guards, members of RABIT and originating from 20 EU states, came together on this occasion. A dozen of them concentrated on checking visas and identity documents at two crossing points on the border, Gruškovje and Zavrč. The others took up border surveillance at the police checkpoints at Ormož, Podlehnik and Rogaška Slatina, organising their work in the three-shift system and always accompanied by Slovenian border officers.

Slovenian civil society

PIC (Legal Information Centre) : a Slovenian association of specialists (lawyers and solicitors) who work to defend and promote the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. PIC organises free consultations at detention and reception centres for asylum seekers. The association also writes reports on the situation of asylum in Slovenia, works closely with the authorities on the conditions at the borders and is also the HCR reference in Slovenia. http://www.pic.si/.

Peace Institute : an association of specialists on asylum, immigration and forced labour which produces research and publications on these subjects http://www.mirovni-institut.si/

Slovenska Filantropija : this association focuses on refugee integration. The association also works in the open centre for asylum seekers, placing a social worker in the centre. Asylum seekers and refugees are also invited to attend the association’s office in the centre of Ljubljana to allow them to better understand Slovenian society
http://www.filantropija.org/

Anti Racist Assembly : a group which visits people detained in the detention centre of Postojna.

Bibliography

“Conditions of third party nationals detained in centres (detention camps, open centres, as well as transit zones), with particular emphasis on the services and resources available to people with specific needs in the 25 member states of the European Union”, European Parliament, December 2007. IP/C/LIBE/IC/2006-181
“Annual Report of the Slovenian Ombudsman 2006”, July 2007 (pages 36 to 40)

“Third report on Slovenia”, ECRI (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance), adopted on 30 June 2006 (55 pages)

“Reception Conditions and the Impact of the EU Directive in
Slovenia”, ICF II, Cross Border Asylum Action, May 2007 (9 pages) www.proasyl.de

Press sources

UN refugee agency criticises Slovenia’s asylum law http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/1199715421.65

Eva Ottavy - 2009

Translated by Eleanor Staniforth - 2011