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Slovenia: UN Concerned Over New Asylum Laws

Slovenia: UN Refugee Agency 'Concerned' Over New Asylum Laws

The United Nations refugee agency expressed concern today that police in Slovenia will be entitled to decide whether or not a person is qualified to seek asylum in that country under new laws proposed yesterday because the legislation would create a vague new category of unprotected persons.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has advised the Slovene Government that the proposed changes to Slovenia's Asylum Act undermine international law and go against the intention of the European Union to harmonize the European asylum system.

"This new category of 'a person who has expressed intent to seek asylum' is unheard of," UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said in Geneva.

"Such persons would have no safeguards against 'refoulement' and might easily be deprived of their human right to seek asylum," she said, referring to the international prohibition on returning refugees to their place of origin.

"Consequently, asylum seekers might be encouraged to move on irregularly within the EU instead of presenting an application in Slovenia," she explained.

UNHCR says it is continuing consultations with the government and appeals to members of the Parliament of Slovenia to iron out the shortcomings of the proposed new law.

The number of asylum applications received by Slovenia in 2004 was 1,174. In the first three quarters of 2005, the number of applications was 1,229, the agency said.

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