Operations in Romania
The UNHCR Office in Romania was established in 1992, one year following the country’s accession to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol.
In 2012, 2511 people applied for asylum in Romania including 43 unaccompanied minors or children separated from families. 161 people received refugee status and 177 people were granted complementary protection. The majority of the asylum-seekers came from Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan.
Projects and activities
To ensure that asylum-seekers are able to enter Romania and have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures, UNHCR Romania conducts border monitoring in cooperation with NGOs. It also organizes cross-border meetings with Moldovan and Ukrainian institutions dealing with asylum and migration. As part of the monitoring project, border guards and police receive regular training, and police, and information leaflets are made available in dispensers at border crossings. In text written in multiple languages, these leaflets describe the rights of asylum-seekers, and offer legal advice.
As part of the UNHCR’s Europe-wide Quality Initiative, UNHCR Romania carried out the following projects: the Asylum Quality Assurance and Evaluation Mechanism, and the Further Developing Asylum Quality, which were both aimed at improving asylum procedures and introducing an internal quality assurance system.
As a result of these projects, improvements were made to refugee status determination procedures, and the quality of asylum interviews and the decisions derived from these interviews. UNHCR also organized training for decision-makers in the asylum process, and a conference for asylum judges under the theme: the impact of judicial reform on the fairness of asylum procedures.
Since 2007, UNHCR Romania has been visiting reception and accommodation centres for asylum seekers and refugees and the private homes of foreigners in order to monitor the condition of these places, and identify any specific needs asylum-seekers and refugees may have. These assessments, conducted on a regular basis, are part of UNHCR’s global Age, Gender and Diversity strategy, and they’ve revealed shortcomings in the asylum system, such as the availability of healthcare for asylum-seekers and refugees. These assessments also reveal that improvements are being made.
The agency has produced material providing refugees and asylum seekers with general and legal information, and it has worked with NGO partners to train interpreters working in the status determination process.
UNHCR Romania regularly inspects and comments on legislation, and makes recommendations to help bring Romania’s laws concerning refugees and asylum applicants in line with international standards.
To improve Romania’s resettlement and integration policies, the agency began advising the government on how to improve and strengthen its legal framework. In cooperation with NGO partners, UNHCR also organizes awareness-raising and training sessions about integration for government officials.
Since 2008, an Emergency Transit Centre (ETC), Europe’s first refugee evacuation facility, has been operating in Timisoara, in southwest Romania. Co-funded by the UNHCR, this centre provides temporary shelter for refugees on their way to resettlement countries. (It hosts refugees who must be moved from places of refuge, usually for security reasons, while arrangements are being made to resettle them.)
While waiting at the ETC Timisoara, refugees study the languages and cultures of the countries that will be accepting them. UNHCR coordinates the refugees’ resettlement, and administrates and partially finances the shelter, and the programs conducted there, which are carried out in partnership with the Romanian authorities, NGOs, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
In 2006, Romania acceded to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, but listed three reservations for the 1954 convention. UNHCR is encouraging Romania to lift these reservations and establish a statelessness status determination procedure. The agency has also set up a National Task Force on Statelessness, which reviews data and information on stateless people in Romania. UNHCR Romania has reviewed and analysed recent legislation on this issue, and has made recommendations on improving laws pertaining to statelessness. In order to increase awareness, the agency released the Handbook on Statelessness for Parliamentarians in Romania during an international conference on statelessness, which was co-organized with the Embassy of the Netherlands.
UNHCR has attempted to increase public awareness about refugee issues in Romania through media relations, including arranging visits to the ETC by journalists. The agency also uses its website, leaflets (published in multiple languages), information packages, and Romanian-language publication of studies) to help inform the local public on refugee issues. UNHCR also boasts partnerships with several Romanian universities and corporations, which have agreed to disseminate UNHCR information free of charge.