Later this month the Slovenian Parliament are set to vote on legislative amendments to the Slovenian Aliens Act proposed by the government. The amendments are entrusting the Parliament with the power to effectively close the borders for asylum seekers.
Such a closure can be imposed as the result of migrations posing a ‘serious threat to public order and security.’ However, the amendments contain no criteria for what constitutes a threat of this kind and the decision would apparently be left entirely to the judgement of the members of the Parliament. The amendments also represent a circumvention of the provisions of the Slovenian Constitution on “state of emergency”, which needs to be declared in order to impose limitation on constitutional rights.
The effect of a closure would be that all persons arriving irregularly and expressing an attempt for asylum in Slovenia would be forcefully returned without their asylum claims being heard. The only exceptions are predicted for persons in immediate danger of loss of life, persons who would be in danger of inhuman and degrading treatment in the country of return, persons whose return would not be possible due to medical reasons and persons assessed to be unaccompanied minors. The assessment of all of the above circumstances would be conducted by the Police in the field.
In view of national and international experts on asylum and migration the proposed amendments constitute a breach of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU asylum acquis. On 11 January 2017, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe expressed his concern with the amendments in a public letter sent to the Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar. Later, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks also raised serious concerns in a letter addressed to the Slovenian parliament. A previous (but essentially similar) version of the amendments has also been addressed in written recommendations by the UNHCR.
Slovenian NGOs are also concerned about the untransparent manner of adoption of the bill, which had not been disclosed to the public prior to its adoption. The proposed amendments follow a prior attempt by the Slovenian government at adopting provisions effectively closing the border, which took place in the course of adoption of the new International Protection Act in early 2016. Fortunately, those provisions were eventually scrapped, following opposition and advocacy from the civil society.
Photo:Slovenian Flag. (CC) Luigi Rosa.