Summary of the national legislation on refugees
Slovenia is currently following allEuropean legislation regarding refugees. It follows the non-refoulement (non expulsion)principle, a international law which forbids the rendering of a true victim of persecution to his or her persecutor, generally the persecutor in mind is a state actor. Besides that is also secures the right of the asylum seeker to have access to an asylum procedure in his or her native language, information about the process and all the rights they are entitled to, a personal meeting with a person well versed in the appropriate legislative procedures, the right to legal advice free of charge, the lawful protection against unlawful police searches and the right to an explanation of written decree. Asylum seekers also have the right to access the services of non-governmental associations and UN organizations like UNHCR.
Refugee life in Slovenia
In order to provide for basic needs, an adult refugee in Slovenia recieves an allowance of 270 euro per month. If the inividual has more than one family member, the second adult recieves 50 to 70 % of 270 euro.
Every refugee in Slovenia has the opportunity to live in integration houses, asylum centers or to obtain 220 euro for renting a flat by his/her self. Living conditions usually depend on the integration house, room or flat, but are normally good. Sometimes refugees complain about the checks at the entarance of asylum centers being too strict, but in general asylum seekers mostly complain about food and high renting prices, in case they live outside of an asylum center.
Heating in most centers is adequate; drinking water is also available, whereas toilet facilities can sometimes be problematic. Normally, all facilities function above minimal hygienic standards. Epidemics or illneses are negliable, and when they do occur are usually outbreaks of common cold, flu, pneumonia and measles are the most common. Allthough, there were sporadic cases of bacterial meningitis also.
Regarding food, refugees have the opportunity to eat three meals per day, allergies are taken into consideration and also other dietary needs can be provided for. Asylum seekers that live in rented flats have to buy and cook their own food; in general this is not a problem for the refugees I spoke to. As long as they live in asylum centers, both refugees and asylum seekers are, apart from food and water provided with free use of the kitchen, computers, tv, wireless internet connection. It should be noted, however, that in this case their living allowance per month is only 25 eur (now 18 eur).
All refugees are offered language lessons. These lessons entail approximately 300 hours of learning Slovenian, normally in small groups. In casea refugee has not learned Slovenia well enough after these lessons, and cannot pass the official Slovenian language exam, he or she is offered a maximum of 100 additional hours of language training. If there is more effort needed to master the Slovenian language, there are several volunteer organizations that provide language teaching.
People with a refugee status have permission to work in Slovenia and are also assisted (every few months, so not very frequently) in their search for employment by the Employment service of Slovenia.
Legal refugees can start working immediately; only people with subsidiary protection are prevented from working immediately.
If an asylum seeker applies for asylum, the period allowed for state authorities to considerthe application is three months . If there is no progress in the application procedure after three months, it is likely the case that the application accepted.
Refugees (both legal refugees and people with subsidiary protection) and their children can attend schools and universities for free. If they cannot provide any diploma’s or certificates, they are assessed and tested to ascertain the appropriate class or level.
The State is only obliged to provide asylum seekers minimal healthcare in life threatening conditions.
People with refugee status are free to travel within Slovenia with only their identity card; their refugee passports also allows them to visit other European countries. They are given the right to vote in mayoral elections, but not in parliametary ones. They are also free to express their opinion, work, and have the right to family reunification. The majority of social life for refugees in Slovenia consists of their contact with other refugees. It is also noteworthy that interactions with non-refugees are very common and not always negative. Discrimination can still be found from time to time, but are not very common. Nonetheless, primary social interactions between regular Slovenians and refugees are rare. Some refugees, either because of lack of relatives, refugee friends or interactions with Slovenian citizens, experience social isolation. Personal well-being varies a lot, from unhappy, stressed, apathetic refugees to very optimistic and happy. Refugees are unable to be forcibly returned to their country of origin if they were given a positive decree.
Refugees can apply to live in a different EU country, if they are younger than 18 years or if they have family members in other EU countries. As tourists they can go to all EU countries.
The legal process
When a person enters into Slovenia with the intention to seek asylum, the preliminary procedure is dealt with by the police who take fingerprints (registration of irregular entry) as well as a statement detailing the intention to seek asylum and a brief summary of the reasons why, and how the individual came to the country. Concerns have been raised in relation to the quality of the interpreters used in the preliminary stages and the fact that conversations are not recorded for monitoring purposes.[i]
After this initial stage, the individual in question is moved to an asylum home where they will lodge the formal asylum application and given the official status of asylum seeker. A verbal statement is recorded with the help of an interpreter who reads it back to the asylum seeker to sign. Fingerprints are taken again for the EURODAC database to determine whether another EU country may be responsible to the applicant according to the Dublin Regulation, as well as a photo for the ID which is issued to the asylum seeker ID.[ii] Critics have pointed out that because movement is restricted when not carrying ID, the time period between entry and receipt of the card can be seen as de facto detention, which is in breach with international standards.[iii]
The applicant is then handed over to the Slovenian Migration Office where a first ‘in-merit’ (personal) interview is carried out, detailing the grounds for asylum. This should usually happen within one month. After this, the case is referred to a decision maker who conducts a second interview before a determination of status is given. The whole procedure should not exceed six months according to the law; however, it almost always does.[iv] Likewise, the prioritisation of vulnerable individuals which is supposed to take place is rarely respected in practice.[v]
The outcome of the Migration Office decision can be either the granting of refugee status, subsidiary protection and a rejection of the application. In case of rejection, the applicant can appeal by requesting a judicial review within 15 days and, depending on the outcome of the review, either party can complain to the Supreme Court which gives the final verdict. Only in exceptional cases, where an applicant believes their constitutional rights have been violated, can they complain to the Constitutional Court after a Supreme Court decision. Such a complaint would represent the last domestic remedy in Slovenia.[vi]
Description of what happens if they do not receive the refugee status
Deportations from Slovenia are carried out under some circumstances, such as, if minors without a police statement are caught trying to cross the border before the process is complete or if the application for asylum was first applied for in Slovenia. In 2015, 277 people applied for asylum in Slovenia, most of these applications came from Afghanistan (48), then from Iraq (43), Iran (34), Kosovo (28), Pakistan (25), Syria (17), Ukraine (14), Albania (9), Serbia (7), Somalia (7), Russia (7), Kazahstan (7), Bosnia and Herzegovina (5), Nigeria (5), Georgia (3), Turkey (3), Algeria (3), Egypt (2), Cameroon (2), Niger (1), Guinea (1), Guinea-Bissao (1) and Bangladesh (1). As reflected by these numbers, currently, refugees mainly come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo and Pakistan.
Asylum seekers in Slovenia have mainly fled their countries of origin because of political issues. Usually pertaining to the threat of imprisonment or mistreatment. Other causes are war or because of inadequate living conditions such as hunger or poverty.
Analysis of how the media depicts the refugees in Slovenia
If we quickly fly over what has been written about migration in Slovenia, we can see that most in this area began to be written as the so-called Balkan Route opened. When the media started to report on what was happening in the 2016 period, so did different members of the public, including groups and individuals who published on various social media channels.[i]
Like many other European countries, Slovenia did not prepare itself proactively for any large numbers of migrants. Critics argued that it was too much for a Slovene nation that is deeply rooted in its traditions and principles, and where many find it difficult to respond to the change.
Some responded to the uncertainty by publishing desperate videos and trying to censor others, which again pushed bigger players to the frenzy in this period. We find that a lot of the articles about the wave of refugees are lacking in facts and objectivity.[ii]
As we can see, many media reports were violent, and in the period 2015-2017 different incentives began to stop migration into Slovenia as this was seen to be in contrast to the country’s migration policy; several new initiatives were created that contributed to this.
Within civil society, various non-governmental organizations launched workshops in asylum homes and elsewhere. We also see a lot of examples about individuals who want to help migrants in their own way. Many positive and negative contributions can be found. The media has written extensively on migration, but still miss out on some important aspects.
In general, there are several different media in Slovenia which write about migrants in negative ways, but despite the critical writing, it would be possible to emphasize the good inter-gaming practices in Slovenia.
The media in Slovenia should put more focus on areas such as: solidarity and social and religious tolerance. The emphasis should also be placed on individuals and civil society. Only in this way can we get quality and productive solutions.[iii]
In 2018 and first part of 2019 there was a new increase in reports of undocumented migrants crossing the border, especially in the area of Koper along the border with Italy and the Bele Krajne, where illegal border crossings were observed. This development was mostly seen as problematic, and members of the media have reported from the border crossings to emphasise the large number of migrants appearing there.[iv]
[i] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/v-slovenijo-je-prispelo-ze-vec-kot-200-tisoc-beguncev-in-migrantov-389289; https://www.dnevnik.si/1042731304; https://www.delo.si/nedelo/v-sloveniji-je-bilo-ze-70-000-beguncev.html; https://www.delo.si/svet/evropa/balkanska-pot-postaja-zgodovina-turcija-sprejema-vse-prebeznike.html
[ii] https://www.sta.si/2284587/na-kostelskem-zarascena-zicna-ograja-ob-kolpi-se-naprej-hromi-zivljenj; https://www.sta.si/2363795/mineva-leto-dni-od-zaprtja-balkanske-begunske-poti; https://www.mladina.si/180542/begunci-bezijo-iz-slovenije/
[iii] https://www.domovina.je/odpira-se-nova-juzna-migrantska-pot-zgodba-domacina-ki-je-iz-kolpe-reseval-migrante-video/; https://www.delo.si/kultura/film-tv/zgodbe-migrantov-na-katere-smo-prepogosto-imuni.html
[iv] https://www.sta.si/2631369/konec-tedna-stevilni-ilegalni-prehodi-meje; http://nova24tv.si/slovenija/crna-kronika/temperaturno-lep-konec-tedna-v-drzavo-privabil-kar-39-nezakonitih-migrantov/; http://nova24tv.si/slovenija/crna-kronika/samo-na-policijske-uprave-novo-mesto-policisti-prijeli-25-nezakonitih-migrantov-iz-severne-afrike-in-bliznjega-vzhoda/; http://nova24tv.si/lokalno/na-obmocju-pu-koper-kar-86-migrantov-slovenski-policisti-so-jih-prestregli-samo-6/; http://moja-dolenjska.si/v-beli-krajini-prijeli-kar-77-ilegalnih-migrantov/; https://reporter.si/clanek/slovenija/v-prvih-stirih-mesecih-2019-enkrat-vec-ilegalnih-prehodov-meje-kot-v-enakem-obdobju-lani-701847
Follow-up on the refugee crisis
Being a refugee or an asylum seeker is not an easy matter; there are many obstacles in the process. Among them the language barrier, oftentimes asylum seekers have little to no knowledge of the language and culture in which they are suddenly submerged. Here we should point out that many of them are incorporated into programs that provide language training. However, this plan takes time. An additional or alternative option might be a mentorship, in which asylum seekers or refugees are “adopted” by Slovenians. Slovenıa is the maın transıt country for refugees trying to cross the Balkan Penninsula. The maın crossıng poınts of in Slovenia are Dobova, Brezıce, Rıgonce, Gornja Radgona, Sentlilj. Dobova ıs the busiest of these points. More ınformatıon can be found through the link below.
An English translation of the artıcle, orgınally in Slovenian, is also inserted below.
The orgınal can be found here http://www.vecer.com/clanek/201601036173367
In the new year, the reception center in Dobovi, on the route to Austria, already received 85 buses and 10 trains carrying asylum seekers.
From 31 December 2015 until third of January, 19:00 pm, to Dobova arrived trains from Croatia with 10,849 migrants, reported the Novo Mesto police. 1548 of them were accompanied by Croatian police officers on 31.12., 9301 of them came after the new year. In the new year, every day an average of 3,100 migrants arrived. According to the medical and humanitarian supplies by police officers with trains and buses escorted to Austria.
Currently, in a reception center Dobova more than 900 migrants are expected to come from Croatia one to three times per day. Most of the migrants wait until the morning buses and trains travel on towards Austria.
The subjective perspective
Migration issues are among the most important issues in European Union in the past few years, and especially these months. Issue itself deals with people management, countries dynamics, European union’s member states flexibility to newcomers as well as labor market. For sure we could make migrant issues both more sustainable and much more welcoming, safe for refugees, who came mainly because of war issues in their countries of origin. Refugees and migrants will always be. To be a migrant is a natural thing, everyone has the choice to live in every country in which one would like to live and normally surpluses of newcomers are only temporal in character, because of good name of the new country. However when we talk about refugees, normally they should be given priority rights without question to be provided really safe new place of living. European union is not small in size, it could manage sustainable system for refugees, while at the same time integrating them into new areas. Refugees centers often seem to not provide refugees safe labor market, easy integration into new society if they are located not near enough big centers.