Seeking international protection
The term asylum-seeker is often confused with the term refugee. An asylum-seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee and seeks international protection from persecution or serious harm in their home country. Every refugee is initially an asylum-seeker, but not every asylum-seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee. While they are waiting for their claim to be accepted or rejected, they are called asylum-seekers.
The term asylum-seeker contains no presumption either way - it simply describes the fact that someone has lodged the claim for asylum. National asylum systems are there to decide which asylum-seeker actually qualifies for international protection. Those judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries.
The efficiency of the asylum system is a corner stone in this process. If it is fast, fair and efficient, each asylum-seeker who is indeed a refugee will be granted refugee status, while those who are not in need of international protection, will not wrongly benefit from it.
Between 2006 and 2010, some 77,800 asylum applications have been lodged in the seven countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) covered by UNHCR`s Regional Representation for Central Europe. In 2010, some 12,000 people have sought asylum in the region, with Poland receiving just over half of all the applications (6.540), followed by Hungary (2.460), Bulgaria (1.030), Romania (860), Slovakia (540) and the Czech Republic (460). Slovenia, the smallest country of the region, also registered the smallest number of applications, some 210 in 2010.
Most of them come from Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Turkey to seek refuge in the countries of Central Europe.
How UNHCR ensures that asylum-seekers are granted effective access to territory and asylum procedures.
How UNHCR promotes basic human rights of refugees, helps states establish asylum structures and acts as a watchdog over refugee issues.
Why the length of the detention, the hour of the language class or the gender of the doctor matter to UNHCR.