General information on rights, obligations and the procedure
The Asylum Act provides that the asylum seeker has the right to be informed, at the time of submission of the asylum application or later, within 15 days from the filing of the application, in a language which he or she understands or is reasonably supposed to understand, regarding the procedure, his or her rights and obligations during the asylum procedure, the consequences of non-compliance with these obligations and the lack of cooperation with the competent authorities, as well as the consequences of an explicit or implicit withdrawal of the asylum application.
Competent officials are also obliged to inform asylum seekers about how they can contact non-governmental organisations and UNHCR, and how to obtain legal assistance and representation.
The information has to be provided in writing by the official responsible for receiving the asylum application, according to a template established by order of the Director-General of IGI. Where necessary for the proper understanding of the information, this may also be communicated orally at the preliminary interview.
In practice, the modalities of information in the different Regional Centres are as follows:
Timișoara: IGI-DAI provides information when the asylum application is filed and when the asylum seekers are fingerprinted and photographed. Unfortunately, there is no interpreter at this stage and, if the asylum seeker does not speak English, the whole interaction is limited to sign language and direction on where to sign different documents drafted in Romanian. The director of the Regional Centre stated that the information is provided orally in Romanian and in writing when the asylum application is registered and in their language through the leaflets. IGI-DAI has leaflets in 10 languages and posters are displayed in the building where they are accommodated. The director also mentioned that there is no interpreter at this stage as there is no need for it because they receive the leaflet in their language. He also mentioned that in case of larger groups of new arrivals, integration officers hold an information session with the newly arrived applicants, without an interpreter. However, according to the JRS representative, as far as she knows there was no information sessions of this kind in 2019. She mentioned that the NGOs are providing the information and that the asylum seekers are not using the information leaflets provided by IGI-DAI.
With regard to children, the JRS representative reported that she has not seen any difference in interactions with IGI-DAI compared to adults. The director stated that children receive the same leaflets as the adult asylum seekers.
On the other hand, the NGO representatives stated that they are not aware of information sessions being held by the integration officers for new arrivals. They only know of a weekly meeting with all the residents and the NGO. During this meeting the integration officers inform the asylum seekers of the rules of the centre and their obligation to clean their rooms and common spaces.
CNRR also distributes leaflets on the asylum procedure, including rights and obligations. It also developed leaflets on the specially designed closed spaces of the centre (see Place of Detention).
Şomcuta Mare: Asylum seekers receive leaflets with their rights and obligations in the centre. The leaflets are available in Romanian, English, French and Arabic, but not in Kurdish, which concerns the majority of asylum seekers in the current period. In 2019 no information sessions were held with asylum seekers. Unaccompanied children are counselled by an IGI-DAI officer together with the legal representative and with the help of an interpreter at the preliminary interview and, as far as she knows, children receive the same leaflets as adults. Counselling is used to explain to children the fact that they will benefit a legal representative and the scope of the representative’s mandate. However, the legal representatives do not provide detailed counselling on the asylum procedure, as they are social assistants and not legal counsellors.
Rădăuţi: In the previous years, once asylum seekers arrive at the centre, they received leaflets on their rights and obligations together with the house rules (ROI). The stakeholder was not aware whether asylum seekers received leaflets. In general, asylum seekers are referred to NGOs by IGI-DAI staff. In 2019, 2 information sessions took place according to the JRS representative. Subsequently, the information about asylum seekers’ rights and obligations and the procedure is provided by the NGOs individually or during a group counselling session, as the case may be.
Galaţi: Asylum seekers received leaflets on the procedure, including their rights and obligations upon registration. These leaflets are user-friendly and easy to read. In previous years, in cases of groups of asylum seekers arriving in the centre, the director of the Regional Centre or other officers gave general information on the procedure, rights and obligations, with the assistance of an interpreter. In 2019 this was not done. In case of asylum seekers who are not arriving in groups, the general information is provided with the help of a person accommodated in the centre who speaks English. In 2018, the IGI-DAI still informed NGO representatives of new arrivals. In 2019 they did not inform them. However, within 3-4 days of their arrival at the centre, the NGOs are holding an information session where they present each NGO and the services provided, the rights and obligations and ROI.
Bucharest: In 2019 as it was in 2017, in the Regional Centre Stolnicu, the JRS representative reported that the obligation of IGI-DAI to inform the asylum seekers is not respected in practice, as asylum seekers state that the information they receive is minimal and not necessarily related to the procedure. Due to an explicit lack of interpreters, IGI-DAI cannot provide information to each beneficiary, especially when asylum seekers speak different dialects. Therefore the information provided after lodging an asylum application is limited to: the obligation on the individual to present him or herself at the interview or to extend their visa, the fact that he or she will be accommodated in the Bucharest Regional Centre or that he or she must go through the medical check-up, which often does not take place. Whenever this information is provided, it is given orally and often with the help of other asylum seekers present in the centre who are available to help out or with interpreters who are there for the interview and have free time.
JRS Romania developed a platform on the asylum procedure in Romania, with general and specific information on seeking asylum in Romania, the different procedures (e.g. Dublin, border procedure, etc.) and information for minors. The platform is available in several languages: English, French, Arabic, Pashtu and Kurdish. In 2020 information will be added in Turkish, Farsi and Somali. Practitioners mainly use the platform, but it might also be helpful for literate asylum seekers.
In 2019, unaccompanied children were counselled by the integration officer regarding the fact that they will have a legal representative, that a social investigation will be conducted, and that they may or may not be moved to a DGASPC centre. In addition, NGOs provided them with more information and monitored them as vulnerable persons in need of more attention.
IGI-DAI previously had leaflets, which were prepared by UNHCR or CNRR. However, these have not been distributed for more than two years. There are also posters with rights and obligations related to the asylum procedure, translated into several languages, but in most of the cases asylum seekers did not seem to read them.
NGOs provide information through counselling sessions, posters and sometimes leaflets. However, due to the fact that the asylum seekers in most of the cases are not reading the leaflets, NGOs are focusing on individual or group counselling.
Giurgiu: According to the legal counsellor, during the sessions in which she participated, asylum seekers receive leaflets on their rights and obligations in English or Arabic after going through medical check-up. During the preliminary interview, asylum seekers are offered general information regarding the asylum procedure, including their rights and obligations. According to the legal counsellor, JRS brought a monitor that plays the rights and obligations in different languages; this is placed in the hallway. JRS, ICAR Foundation and AIDRom representatives organise collective information sessions when a new group of asylum seekers arrives in the centre and a few times integration officers or logistics personnel attended these meetings.
The majority of respondents pointed out that the written information they receive from IGI-DAI or NGOs is not very effective as most asylum seekers are illiterate or have difficulty reading through information which is lengthy, complex and, consequently, difficult to comprehend. Thus, asylum seekers prefer face-to-face counselling with an NGO representative in order to understand the steps of the asylum procedure. The information leaflets are not adapted to the asylum seekers’ level of education or knowledge. Usually the leaflets reiterate the provisions of the Asylum Act.
In contrast, the JRS representative of Bucharest considers that the leaflets are useful because they are written in a specific language and some asylum seekers only know their mother tongue, therefore these leaflets provide a minimum of information before the counseling provided by the NGOs and IGI-DAI.
In practice, respondents reported that there is no specifically tailored information provided to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. In most of the cases they are informed in the same way as adults, while they are also informed that they will have a legal representative. In general, unaccompanied children do not understand what this means. UNHCR also stated that there is a lack of accessible and adequate information materials for asylum-seeking children. The JRS representative confirmed that this problem persists as of 2018.
Information on the Dublin procedure
IGI-DAI has the obligation to inform the asylum seeker of the content of the common leaflet drawn up by the European Commission. The competent officer of IGI-DAI communicates the information contained in the common leaflet, drawn up according to Article 4(3) of the Dublin Regulation. If the applicant is an unaccompanied minor, the designated officer shall provide him or her, in a manner appropriate to his or her level of understanding, with the information contained in the special information leaflet drawn up by the European Commission, supplemented with additional specific information for Romania.
Bucharest: The information provided on the Dublin Procedure is basic, as IGI-DAI lacks staff, time and interpreters. The information is provided by the integration officer. In 2019, asylum seekers received more detailed information about the Dublin procedure from NGOs.
Giurgiu: Asylum seekers receive the common leaflet at the preliminary interview and, if they have questions regarding the Dublin procedure, the officer answers them. They are briefly informed on the way the responsible Member State is determined and are told that they have to wait for a period of 1-3 months for a final answer. However, asylum seekers request more information about this procedure from NGOs.
Şomcuta Mare: Asylum seekers are informed at the beginning of the asylum procedure about the Dublin procedure, what it entails. Generally, information is provided when a specific issue arises. Information is provided orally as the legal counsellor did not receive any written documents from the asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are informed about the Member State to which a request was sent.
Rădăuţi: Asylum seekers receive the common leaflet and an information note in Romanian stating that the Dublin procedure was triggered and the Member State to which a request was sent.
Galaţi: The JRS representative reported that the majority of the asylum seekers are well informed about the Dublin procedure. They receive general information about the Dublin procedure and the common leaflet upon registration. Asylum seekers subject to the Dublin procedure are provided with the common brochure. In addition, information about the Dublin procedure is also provided by the NGOs. Where family unity criteria are applicable, asylum seekers are informed by IGI-DAI of the documents they have to present. If they require more information, they are referred to NGOs.
In practice, asylum seekers in most of the Regional Centres are informed orally and in writing of the fact that the Dublin procedure has started, and they are handed the common leaflet. The information is provided with the help of an interpreter in all the centres. In Bucharest asylum seekers are informed about the country to which a Dublin request was addressed in this regard. The JRS representative in Bucharest stated that for this kind of procedure IGI-DAI usually use an interpreter from the NGOs.
In Timișoara, if after checking the fingerprints in Eurodac, IGI-DAI finds a match with the data introduced by another Member State, the asylum seeker is informed orally that he or she is subject to the Dublin procedure. IGI-DAI mentions which country has been contacted. They also receive leaflets, which according to the Director of the centre often end up in the bin. They are also informed by the NGOs and receive leaflets from CNRR. As regards the unaccompanied children IGI-DAI always takes the responsibility to assess their asylum claim, according to the director of the Regional Centre Timișoara.
In Şomcuta Mare, asylum seekers are also informed orally of the beginning of the Dublin procedure and the State contacted. In Rădăuţi, during the preliminary interview IGI-DAI informs asylum seekers in writing that they are subject to the Dublin procedure, provides them the common leaflet, and specifies the Member State which has been contacted, with the assistance of an interpreter. In Giurgiu, they are also informed orally of the fact that a Dublin procedure has been initiated, while the authorities also mention the country contacted. In Galaţi, however, asylum seekers are informed orally and in writing about the time frame of the procedure, the possibility to appeal the decision and about the country what has been contacted.
If the applicant is an unaccompanied child, the appointed official shall apprise him or her, in a manner appropriate to his or her level of understanding, of the information contained in the special information brochure drawn up by the European Commission according to Article 4(3) of the Dublin Regulation, supplemented with additional specific information for Romania. The legal representative of the unaccompanied child confirms by signature that the information has been provided.
Şomcuta Mare: The JRS representative reported the case of 2 brothers from Afghanistan, who only declared that their father lives in another Member State at the personal interview. The case officer asked them additional questions at this point. The JRS representative was not aware if they were informed about the Dublin procedure before the interview, as they did not declare that they have a relative living in another Member State.
In Galaţi, in one of the most recent case, IGI-DAI, the JRS representative and legal representative were all present when the information about the Dublin procedure was provided to an unaccompanied child. The child was informed about the necessary documents. The JRS legal counsellor also discussed in advance with the legal representative. The legal representative also explained to the child what the Dublin procedure entails and what documents he or she has to present to the authorities.
Rădăuţi: The information is provided in the presence of the legal representative, because he has to sign the notification. The legal representative does not explain to the child what the procedure entails. The case officer explains some of the aspects of the procedure with the help of an interpreter. The legal representative is only present when this information is provided, without giving any other information. Subsequently, the unaccompanied minor turns to the legal counsellor for further information. At the preliminary interview, the unaccompanied children are informed about the fact that they will be transferred to the responsible Member State.
Save the Children mentioned that information on the Dublin Regulation is mainly provided to children by the NGOs in the Regional Centres. NGOs are trying to support the unaccompanied minors to better understand the consequences of the Dublin regulation as well as their rights (e.g. family reunification is the primary right granted to them based on the Dublin regulation).
 Article 17(1)(f) Asylum Act.
 Article 2(2) Asylum Decree.
 Article 2(1) Asylum Decree.
 Asylum Procedure Platform, available at: https://bit.ly/3d2dZQK.
 Article 118 Asylum Act.
 Article 118(1) Asylum Act.
 Article 118(2) Asylum Act.