Challenging period for Slovenia: coronavirus outbreak and the new right-wing government
Slovenia is the first state to declare the end of the COVID-19 epidemic within its territory. Nevertheless, it remain to be a challenging period for the country. Slovenia faced not only coronavirus threat but also further-reaching political changes as soon as the right-wing conservative opposition formed the new government.At the beginning of 2020, Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec resigned. The parliament approved a coalition government led by the Prime Minister Janez Jansa, leader of the anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party. The new government promised to implement stronger efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. How did anti-covid restrictions impact on migrants and asylum-seekers? Let’s have a look at what was done during the nationwide emergency.
On March 12 previous Slovenian government has announced a nationwide quarantine which came into force on March 13 – the same day when the new government comes into power. The preventive measures included closing state borders and lockdowns of majority of institutions and services as all educational institutions, client-servicing businesses, bars, restaurants and shops, excluding groceries and pharmacies, and certain share of companies. As soon as movement and travels to Slovenia was limited due to COVID, the Interior Ministry decided to strengthen the border with Croatia in aim to prevent illegal crossing. The Interior Ministry announced that nearly 40 km of temporary fencing will be erected during this year, but not specifying where.
Access to asylum application was suspended. People who stated their intention to apply for asylum to the Police were then taken to the special “reception” part of the Asylum home, where they remain in harsh conditions, basically detained. As social organizations warns the number of people detained increases every day as new asylum-seekers arrive to Slovenia. Although the authorities do not consider first-instance cases of asylum application, the Administrative Court continues it work on second-instance cases, issuing decisions – also negative ones. Although deportations were suspended, rejected asylum seekers find themselves in extremely precarious situation, losing permission to stay in reception centers or obtain public assistance. For example, on 27 March an asylum seeker who received a final negative decision from the court was kicked out of the Asylum home and told by the Police to leave Slovenia as soon as possible.
Permissions for stay
Implementing measures to defeat the COVID outbreak, the Government adopted on 20 March 2020, the Act on Provisional Measures in Connection with Judicial, Administrative and Other Public Law Matters for the Control of the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) (the Act on Covid-19). The document provided temporary solutions to regulate the status of migrants, who documents expired during the pandemic. Article 101of the Act on Covid-19 declared that: “Foreigners who had valid legal title for a lawful stay in the Republic of Slovenia until at least 13 March 2020 and who, for objective reasons, cannot leave its territory during the period in which measures to contain the epidemic apply, shall be allowed to stay in the country until containment measures objectively preventing foreigners from leaving its territory are lifted or until foreigners have obtained relevant legal title for a lawful stay.” The situation was unclear for those migrants lost their status before 13 March (or asylum seekers that were rejected before that day).
NGOs forced to suspend activities
What remains worrying is the situation of social non-governmental organizations. The new government used the rhetoric of fight against the pandemic threat to limit or stop projects run by Slovenian social organisations, also ngos that assist and support migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. For example, Legal Information Centre, the only NGO providing free legal aid, counselling and representation to asylum seekers and in certain cases also beneficiaries of international protection, had to suspend it’s activities. What mean that asylum seekers do not get any legal aid. Also all other migrants detained by the police and/or returned to Croatia now do not have any access to legal aid.
How the situation has changes as soon as COVID-19 is no more the nationwide threat we will write soon.
Many thanks to Maja Ladič from the Peace Institute (Ljubljana) for help and collaboration.
NIEM’s National Advocacy Officer
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs
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