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Slovenia's Asylum Law Sparks Concern From UNHCR

Slovenia's new asylum law sparks concern from UN refugee agency

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has criticized Slovenia's new asylum law which it says could lead to people being deported even before their cases have been properly evaluated and to the widespread use of detention.

"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 which were below international norms. There was concern that this could lead EU nations to lower their own national legal standards.

"This is exactly what has happened in Slovenia, just as it assumes the EU Presidency," said Mr. Dakin. The new law came into force on Friday, just days after Slovenia took over the rotating presidency of the EU.

According to UNHCR, 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 agency's major concerns with the new law is the increased substitution of accelerated procedures for full-scale asylum procedures, which UNHCR believes should only be applied in exceptional, specifically defined cases. The use of such procedures means that asylum seekers could be returned to another country where their lives or freedoms may be threatened even before their case has been properly evaluated.

In addition, the new law could lead to the widespread use of detention for asylum seekers, regardless of whether they have special needs such as families or children.

Although generally disappointed with the new law, UNHCR noted that it does have some positive aspects, such as the fact that it introduces the possibility resettlement of refugees to Slovenia from camps in other countries, something UNHCR is encouraging among EU countries.

Mr. Dakin pledged UNHCR's continued cooperation with the Government and other actors to ensure that everyone who deserves international protection in Slovenia receives it.


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