Operations in Slovakia
Following the split of the Czechoslovak Federation in 1993, the Slovak Republic re-enacted its accession to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. UNHCR covers Slovakia out of its Regional Representation for Central Europe in Budapest.
According to the latest provisional figures, some 491 people have sought asylum in Slovakia in 2011. 18 out of this were unaccompanied minors or separated children. Some 6 people have been granted refugee status and some 97 a complementary form of protection in 2011. Most of the asylum seekers arrived from the three country of origin: Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia, Moldova and the Russian Federation.
Projects and activities
UNHCR in Slovakia has been carrying out border monitoring on the Slovak–Ukrainian border and at the airport with the aim of ensuring that asylum-seekers have access to territory and safe and efficient asylum procedures. Trainings for some 40 border guards have been organized to improve their professional skills, the quality of cooperation with interpreters and the administrative procedure. UNHCR also provides information leaflets in dispensers at border crossings in various languages to inform people who might want to seek asylum of their rights and give them contacts to legal advice.
As part of UNHCR’s Europe-wide Quality Initiative the Asylum Systems Quality Assurance and Evaluation Mechanism project also helped Slovakian authorities analyze how to improve interviews with asylum seekers and how to improve the quality of the decisions on the claims. Also the Further Developing Asylum Quality project which received co-funding from the European Refugee Fund, helped evaluate asylum procedures with the aim of making them as fair and efficient as possible. This Quality Initiative also provided support to the establishment of an internal quality assessment mechanism and an audit unit within the Slovak Migration Office. Furthermore, UNHCR trained lawyers of the Centre for Legal Aid to represent asylum applicants in their asylum procedure.
Slovakia was among the first countries where UNHCR started the participatory assessments in 2005, involving asylum-seekers and refugees. As part of UNHCR´s Age, Gender and Diversity strategy, refugees and asylum-seekers are given a voice, are heard by the authorities, UNHCR and non-governmental organizations. This provides the institutions dealing with people in flight an additional and very important perspective. As a result, very practical aspects and challenges of every day life of these people have surface during interviews and visits to the facilities hosting them. Living conditions of and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers could be improved on several aspects.
In the field of refugee integration, UNHCR in Slovakia focuses on the implementation of its Agenda for the Integration of Refugees in Central Europe, through analyzing existing rules and practices and identifying weaknesses of the integration system. UNHCR promotes the mainstreaming of integration into all relevant policies and building of partnerships among key stakeholders of the government, municipalities, NGOs and the refugees themselves. It has organized roundtable discussions on integration policies and measures. The agency also lobbies with government partners to establish a forum that enables the dialogue with refugees and the exchange of feedback on the quality and appropriateness of integration programmes and services.
Refugees from the Russian Federation face specific problems in Slovakia when applying for citizenship because of a treaty between the two countries that prohibits double nationality. UNHCR therefore advocates for the revision of this treaty so that all refugees in the country have equal access to citizenship.
UNHCR provides its expertise to the Slovak authorities for legislation affecting people in flight, including for the transposition of international or regional legal instruments.
UNHCR promotes the adoption of a permanent, small-scale resettlement scheme, based on previous resettlement in the country. This durable solution is organized by UNHCR for those refugees who can neither return to their home country in safety and dignity nor stay in the country of first refuge, e.g. because of instable security conditions. Since 2009, Slovakia supports UNHCR´s global efforts in this area through its Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) in Humenné in the East of the country. Vulnerable refugees selected by the UN Refugee Agency for resettlement, who are at risk in their first country of refuge and whose resettlement procedure with their future new home country is still under way, can be evacuated temporarily to the ETC.
The scheme was originally set up for a group of Palestinian refugees from the Al-Weed camp in Iraq. In 2010, UNHCR has negotiated that the Centre should be open to all refugees in need of evacuation, independently of nationality.
At the ETC, and with the help of a non-governmental organization, refugees can consult with social workers and receive in-kind donations like clothes. Beds, strollers and computers, too, have been donated to this facility. During the stay of refugees in Humenné, UNHCR supports the authorities with a field assistant. The Regional Representation for Central Europe has also produced a leaflet in several languages to inform the new arrivals about the purpose of the Centre and about practical aspects of everyday life, including about the community nearby.
Slovakia has acceded to both Statelessness Conventions, but there is no special procedure for the determination of statelessness in the national law. Therefore, UNHCR advocates for the establishment of such a procedure in Slovakia.
UNHCR in Slovakia informs the interested public about the plight of people in flight through its website, media interviews and publications, including the annual Age, Gender and Diversity Report in Slovak language. In addition,UNHCR also facilitates or co-organizes public events to raise awareness about the situation of the displaced people around the globe.