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UNHCR concerned about provisions in Slovenia's new asylum law

News Stories, 7 January 2008

© UNHCR/B.Szandelszky
Asylum seekers with special needs at a home in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana.

BUDAPEST, Hungary, January 7 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Monday expressed concern about provisions in Slovenia's new asylum law and added that many of its recommendations to improve the draft were ignored.

UNHCR submitted detailed comments and suggestions during the drafting and legislative review process of the Law on International Protection, which came into force last Friday. "Regrettably, most were not accepted," the agency said in Monday's press release.

"We now have a new law that in transposing European Union (EU) asylum directives is actually reducing legal standards below international levels and restricting the prospects of asylum seekers to find protection in Slovenia," said Lloyd Dakin, UNHCR's regional representative responsible for Slovenia.

UNHCR has previously warned that the EU directives had already set minimum norms some of them below international norms and it feared this could lead EU member states to lower their own national legal standards. "This is exactly what has happened in Slovenia, just as it assumes the EU presidency," said the Budapest-based Dakin.

Slovenia, which took up the rotating six-month EU presidency on January 1, has some of the lowest refugee recognition rates in Europe. Only one asylum seeker was recognized as a refugee in 2006, and two last year.

"Among the most worrying provisions of the new law is the increased substitution of accelerated procedures for full-scale asylum procedures. UNHCR believes accelerated procedures should only be applied in exceptional, specifically defined cases," Monday's press release said.

At some critical stages in the new asylum process, appeals do not have a suspensive effect. This means that even before their case has been properly evaluated, asylum seekers could find themselves returned to another country where their life or freedom may be threatened.

In addition, the law foresees the widespread use of detention for asylum seekers, with no exemption for persons with special needs such as families with children, UNHCR said.

Dakin noted that while UNHCR was generally disappointed with the new law, it also had some positive aspects. For example, he said, it introduced the possibility of resettlement of refugees to Slovenia from camps in other countries, something UNHCR is encouraging in EU member states.

The regional representative said UNHCR would continue its close cooperation with the government and other interested stakeholders to ensure that everyone who deserved international protection in Slovenia received it.

By Melita H. Sunjic in Budapest, Hungary




UNHCR country pages


Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women

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