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UNHCR concerned about new asylum law in Slovenia

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UNHCR concerned about new asylum law in Slovenia

7 January 2008

Monday 7 January 2008

BUDAPEST, January 7 - UNHCR is very concerned about a number of provisions in Slovenia's new Law on International Protection.

The law came into force on Friday (4 January). During the drafting and legislative review process, UNHCR submitted many detailed comments and suggestions to improve the draft law. Regrettably, most were not accepted.

"We now have a new law that in transposing European Union 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 the UN refugee agency feared this could thus lead EU member states to subsequently lower their own national legal standards. "This is exactly what has happened in Slovenia, just as it assumes the EU Presidency," said Dakin.

Slovenia has some of the lowest refugee recognition rates in Europe. Only one asylum seeker was recognised as a refugee in 2006, and two in 2007. 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.

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.

While UNHCR is generally disappointed with the new law, it also has some positive aspects, Dakin said. For example, it introduces the possibility resettlement of refugees to Slovenia from camps in other countries, something UNHCR is encouraging in EU member states.

Dakin said UNHCR will continue its close cooperation with the government and other interested stakeholders to ensure that everyone who deserves international protection in Slovenia receives it.