Slovakia: New agreement on border and airport monitoring

Briefing Notes, 18 September 2007

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 September 2007, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has signed an agreement with the Slovak Aliens and Border Police and the Bratislava-based Human Rights League for monitoring activities along Slovakia's land borders and at its airports. The main purpose of the monitoring, which will be carried out through regular missions funded by UNHCR, is to ensure that asylum seekers have access to EU territory and to asylum procedures.

The agreement, signed on 5 September, formalizes the cooperation, roles and responsibilities as well as the working methodologies of the parties involved.

A similar agreement was signed with Hungary in late 2006 and negotiations are currently under way with Slovenia and Poland for a similar arrangement which we hope will be finalised during the upcoming months. These arrangements represent an important element of UNHCR's activities under the recently announced 10 Point Plan of Action for Eastern and South Eastern borders of EU.

The countries which make up the EU's eastern frontier Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia face significant irregular migration, often facilitated by smuggling and trafficking networks. While the region has traditionally served as a point of transit, certain countries are increasingly becoming destination countries for both migrants and asylum seekers. Monitoring of the eastern EU border, stretching over 2,610 kilometres, is one of the core activities of UNHCR in the region.

In 2006, a total of 9,900 new asylum seekers were registered in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, compared with 14,600 in 2005 and 22,100 in 2004.

With the mix of migrants and asylum seekers, as well as the criminal elements involved in the profitable human-smuggling racket, law enforcement bodies tend to focus on stopping illegal migration rather than assisting asylum seekers. The new agreements, as well as those in preparation, are designed to ensure that asylum seekers receive the help and protection they are entitled to under international law.




UNHCR country pages

Asylum and Migration

Asylum and Migration

All in the same boat: The challenges of mixed migration around the world.

Refugee Protection and Mixed Migration: A 10-Point Plan of Action

A UNHCR strategy setting out key areas in which action is required to address the phenomenon of mixed and irregular movements of people. See also: Schematic representation of a profiling and referral mechanism in the context of addressing mixed migratory movements.

International Migration

The link between movements of refugees and broader migration attracts growing attention.

Mixed Migration

Migrants are different from refugees but the two sometimes travel alongside each other.

Looking Back: When Hungary's Borders with Austria Opened for East Germans

It's not often that a single sentence can send a photographer rushing into action, but Hungarian photographer Barnabas Szabo did not have to hear more than that of then-Hungarian Foreign Minister Guyla Horn's televised announcement 25 years ago - September 10, 1989 - that at midnight Hungary would open its border with Austria and let East German refugees leave the country. "After the very first sentence I jumped up, took my camera, ran to my old Trabant and set off for the border," he recalled. The effect of Hungary's momentous decision was freedom for tens of thousands of East Germans who had been streaming into Hungary since May. At first they found refuge in the West German embassy, but as numbers grew, refugee camps were set up in Budapest and on the shores of Lake Balaton. The collapse of the Berlin Wall followed less than two months later. Communism was swept from Eastern Europe by the end of 1989. Another Hungarian photographer, Tamas Szigeti, who visited the abandoned refugee camp at Csilleberc the following day, recorded the haste in which people departed, leaving clothes, toys and even half-cooked dinners. No matter how uncertain the new life beckoning to them, the East Germans were clearly ready to leave fear and the Communist dictatorship behind forever.

Looking Back: When Hungary's Borders with Austria Opened for East Germans

Hungarian Crisis - 50th Anniversary

The spontaneous Hungarian uprising began on 23 October 1956. Two weeks later, the revolution was crushed by a Soviet military intervention, and by early 1957, 200,000 people had fled as refugees - 180,000 to Austria and 20,000 to Yugoslavia.

Hundreds of volunteers worked alongside international and local aid organizations to provide shelter and food, as the Austrians and the international community provided the refugees with an unprecedented level of support.

UNHCR was made 'Lead Agency' and, along with the Red Cross and ICEM, helped coordinate protection, assistance and a quite extraordinary resettlement programme.

Within two years, more than 180,000 Hungarians were resettled to 37 countries spanning five continents. The US, Canada, the UK, West Germany, Australia, Switzerland, France, Sweden and Belgium each accepted more than 5,000 refugees. Italy, the Netherlands, Israel, Brazil, Norway, Denmark, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina all took over 1,000. The rest were spread around a further 19 countries ranging from the Dominican Republic to Turkey. Some Hungarians were integrated in Austria (8,000) and Yugoslavia (700), while 11,000 returned home voluntarily.

More in Refugees Magazine Issue N° 144: Where Are They Now? The Hungarian Refugees, 50 Years On (published October 2006) here

Hungarian Crisis - 50th Anniversary

Arriving in Europe, refugees find chaos as well as kindness

Each day, thousands of refugees and migrants are risking everything to make the perilous journey to Europe. The majority - who come from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - are passing through Greece and then making their way to Germany. Transit countries have been overwhelmed by the influx, but volunteers and NGOs are stepping in to provide support along the route. In Hungary, where there is a large bottleneck of people trying to make their way onwards to places like Germany, UNHCR is mobilizing relief items, including tents, plastic sheets and thermal blankets. The refugee agency is also calling on officials there to streamline the registration process and allow humanitarian organizations to provide swift assistance to those in greatest need. UNHCR is also calling on EU Member States to work together to strengthen emergency reception, assistance and registration efforts in the countries most impacted by arrivals, particularly Greece, Hungary and Italy. UNHCR photographers have been on hand documenting the arduous journey.

Arriving in Europe, refugees find chaos as well as kindness

Hungary: Beginning to HelpPlay video

Hungary: Beginning to Help

Refugees and migrants continue to arrive from Serbia into Hungary in by the thousands. But now, thanks to requests from the Hungarian government,UNHCR is helping in bringing order and more speed to dealing with the newcomers.
Hungary: Stranded in BudapestPlay video

Hungary: Stranded in Budapest

Outside the Keleti train station in Budapest, over 3,000 refugees wait to continue their journey. For two days now, they have been stuck here after Hungarian authorities closed off the station, preventing all refugees from taking trains bound for Austria and Germany.
Italy: Maya's Song Play video

Italy: Maya's Song

Nawaf, his wife and children are used to the sea, they lived by it and Nawaf was a fisherman back in Syria. They never imagined they would be boarding a boat that was a one way passage out of Syria. Nawaf was on the run after brief time in detention were he was tortured. By the time he release, he was blind in one eye. Now safely in Europe the family is looking forward to restarting their life in Germany, to having their 6-year old daughter go to school for the first time.