Operations in Romania
The UNHCR Office in Romania was established in 1992, one year following the country’s accession to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
According to the latest provisional figures, some 2064 people have applied for asylum in Romania in 2011. 33 of them were unaccompanied minors or separated children. In 2011, 73 men, women and children have been recognized as a refugee and 129 people granted complementary form of protection. The three most frequent countries of origin were Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Projects and activities
UNHCR in Romania carries out border monitoring at the country borders, jointly with non-governmental organizations in order to ensure that asylum-seekers have access to territory and fair and efficient asylum procedures. It also organizes cross-border meetings involving Moldovan and Ukrainian institutions dealing with asylum and migration. The monitoring project provides regular trainings to border guards and border police and includes the placement of information leaflets in dispensers at border crossings, providing asylum-seekers with information on their rights and legal advice in various languages.
As part of the UNHCR’s Europe-wide Quality Initiative, UNHCR Romania carried out an Asylum Quality Assurance and Evaluation Mechanism as well as a Further Developing Asylum Quality project aiming at improving the quality of the asylum procedures and introducing an internal quality assurance system. As a result of the projects, several aspects of the refugee status determination procedures have become more fair and efficient and an evaluation method has been developed to assess the quality of the asylum interviews and decisions. UNHCR also organized trainings for decision-makers and a conference for asylum judges on the impact of the judicial system reform on the fairness of the asylum procedure.
Since 2007 UNHCR Romania has been visiting reception and accommodation centres for asylum seekers and refugees as well as private homes to monitor the situation and map the specific needs and concerns of asylum-seekers and refugees on a regular basis. These participatory assessments are part of UNHCR’s global Age, Gender and Diversity strategy. As a result of the visits many shortcomings, e.g. in the provision of health care, have surfaced and some improvements have been made. Information material has been developed on general and legal themes that are of interest to refugees and asylum-seekers. UNHCR also trained interpreters through an NGO partner for the status determination procedures.
UNHCR in Romania regularly comments on existing and new legislation and recommends amendments in order to support the authorities in bringing legal provisions concerning refugees and asylum applicants in line with international standards.
In 2008, Romania made its first step towards becoming a resettlement country, having promised to resettle 120 refugees between 2008 and 2010. Resettlement is the durable solution UNHCR arranges for those recognized refugees that can neither return to their home country in safety and dignity nor can stay in the country of first refuge. In Romania, the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR started to advise the government on legislative gaps and recommended amendments to the existing laws for better integration prospects of refugees, including those resettled. UNHCR organizes awareness raising and training events related to integration for governmental actors and through NGO partners, it provides assistance to other integration-related activities.
Since 2008 an Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) operates in Timisoara, in the South-West of the country. It was Europe’s first evacuation facility of that kind, providing temporary shelter for refugees on their way to a resettlement country. It hosts those displaced people who cannot wait in the place of first refuge, e.g. for security concerns, until the resettlement procedure by their future new home country is completed.
At the ETC in Timisoara they spend their waiting time with language courses and they receive cultural orientation on their resettlement country to prepare their smooth integration. UNHCR coordinates their resettlement between all the actors and authorities involved. It organizes and partially finances the accommodation and other activities at the ETC which are carried out together with the Romanian authorities, nongovernmental partners and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Romania acceded to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness in 2006, with three reservations to the former. UNHCR advocates for the lifting of these reservations and for establishing a statelessness status determination procedure. The Representation has set up a National Task Force on Statelessness with the aim to review existing information on stateless persons in Romania. It has also analyzed the current legislation and made recommendations for the improvement of the national legal framework. It has launched the Handbook on Statelessness for Parliamentarians in Romanian at an international conference on statelessness, organized in cooperation with the Embassy of the Netherlands.
UNHCR’s communications activities in Romania focus on increasing awareness on people in flight through media relations, including organized visits to the ETC for journalists. Furthermore, its website as well as partnerships with universities and the corporate sector, e.g. by way of free space for UNHCR publicity, help inform an interested public about asylum seekers and refugees in the country. Information leaflets in English, Arabic and other languages as well as the annual Age Gender Diversity Report in Romanian complement the information package on offer.