Conditions in Regional Centres are monitored, inter alia, by the Ombudsman, who visits the centres on a regular basis. However, in 2020 no visits were conducted by the Ombudsman, except the one in Stolnicu Regional Centre, in order to assess the situation of unaccompanied children.
State of the facilities
The Regional Centre Timișoara
The Regional Centre was until 1st December 2020, located in the same premises as the Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) operated by UNHCR, where refugees evacuated from other countries stay before they are relocated to another country. ETC moved to another facility as of 1st December 2020. The facility is located 20 minutes by bus from the city centre. The facility was repainted and the doors and windows were repaired in December 2017.
The entire facility is split into four buildings, of which two are designed for accommodation. Each of these two buildings contains 12 rooms with 12 beds per room. One building (“Building B”) is separated into two parts through a built-in wall: six rooms are dedicated to asylum seekers and another six to ETC refugees. Until December 2020 ETC had a total capacity of 200 places, the Regional Centre has a capacity of 50 places. According to the director of Timișoara Regional Centre during the year, asylum seekers were also accommodated in the spaces of ETC. The highest number of asylum seekers in 2020 was 450, the director reported.
At the time of the author’s interview with the director on 29 January 2021, there were 260 asylum seekers.
Each building where persons are accommodated has a kitchen. However, “Building B” dedicated to families only has 2 refrigerators. “Building B” has two bathrooms, each equipped with two squat toilets, two urinals, three sinks and three showers.
The Regional Centre Şomcuta Mare
The Regional Centre is located not far from the city centre and 25km away from Baia Mare. The centre consists of a three-storey building. Rooms are located on the second and third floor, each floor containing 22 rooms with 8-10 persons sleeping in a room. There are two bathrooms on each floor, separated by gender. On the hallway of the first floor, there are 6 refrigerators, while the ground floor has two isolation rooms for medical purposes. The basement has a kitchen with ten stoves, a dining room and a laundry room with four washing machines but only two are functional. The basement also contains a specially designed closed space (see Place of Detention). During the pandemic, newly arrived asylum seekers were accommodated in this specially designated closed space for 14 days. Food was provided by the municipality and IGI-DAI was doing their grocery shopping.
In 2018 the bathrooms were renovated; tiles and doors were changed. Save the Children Romania has set up a playground and a room dedicated to mothers and children. According to the Ombudsman’s report, repairs and paintings were made in 2019.The Ombudsman also reported that the centre does not accommodate the needs of small children, as there is no adequate toilet or furniture for them.
The Regional Centre Rădăuţi
The Regional Centre is located at the entrance of the city, not far from the city centre. There are rooms with eight and ten beds. There are two bathrooms, one for women and one for men, each with three toilets and showers. There is a common kitchen, which lacked refrigerators and dishes at the time of the Ombudsman’s visit. The gym room and prayer room (in 2020) have been converted into an accommodation facility in order to increase reception capacity. Each room has a refrigerator, which serves 20 persons.
The Regional Centre Galaţi
The Regional Centre is located in the city, with easy access to public transport. The centre has three buildings: two for administrative purposes and one two-storey building for accommodation. On each floor of the accommodation building, there is one bathroom for men and one for women: each comprising of three showers and seven sinks. There is only one normal toilet for women per floor; the rest are ‘squat toilets’.
In 2020, 2 tents were set up in the courtyard, as a preventive measure, in case the number of asylum seekers would increase. However, they were not used in this scope, but for medical screening of asylum seekers who made an asylum application directly in the regional centre.
The rooms have a maximum capacity of 12 beds. Generally, if there are available places asylum seekers are accommodated depending on nationality. Families are accommodated in the same room, separately from single men.There are two kitchens on each floor with three stoves and three sinks each, as well as one refrigerator for 12 people. In 2020, the clubs and the gym were transformed into accommodation rooms. Specially designed closed spaces were used as accommodation rooms. The prayer room still exists. In December 2020 there were 247 asylum seekers accommodated in the regional centre.
The Regional Centre Bucharest
The Regional Centre is located 20 minutes by bus from the city centre. The building accommodating asylum seekers has four floors. It contains a total of 80 rooms, each with four beds, a toilet and a shower. On each floor there are two kitchens, each with two refrigerators, two stoves and two sinks. When assigning asylum seekers to different rooms, IGI-DAI takes into consideration their religion, nationality and gender. Families are accommodated together. The renovation project of the regional centre, which should have started in 2020, was suspended, due to influx of asylum seekers.
The Regional Centre Giurgiu
The Regional Centre is a former barracks located in the outskirts of the city and repurposed in 2011, without any refurbishment beyond repaint. As a result, technical problems often occur. The capacity of the centre is 100 places arranged in seven rooms. At the time of the Ombudsman’s visit in June 2017, the capacity of the centre had been increased by 70 places, as the gym and prayer room had been converted into bedrooms. Each room has 20 beds equipped with one refrigerator each, and there are two kitchens with stoves and sinks. There are two bathrooms, one for men and one for women, with five ‘squat toilets’ and five showers. The centre has a small courtyard but is not accessible as it is surrounded by a fence. In 2020 tents were set up in the courtyard for medical screening.
Food and hygiene
The Asylum Decree prescribes the necessary daily amount of nutritional value based on which the daily allowance for food is calculated in the Regional Centres. Asylum seekers may cook for themselves, using the kitchens available in every centre.
In all regional centres asylum seekers are obliged to clean their rooms, kitchen and bathrooms on a rotation basis. The number of toilets and showers are sufficient in all facilities during regular occupancy.
In 2018, 2019 and 2020, AIDRom implemented a project providing asylum seekers with cleaning products and they were also encouraged to clean their rooms and common spaces every week. All the interviewed stakeholders observed an improvement of hygienic conditions in the centres throughout 2018.
Galaţi : Hygienic conditions were described until 2020 as relatively good. As of 2020, JRS reported that the premises are filthy, beyond description; the toilets are clogged 3 times a week; bathrooms are rusty; asylum seekers are not cleaning their rooms and common spaces, even though it should be done once a week; some of the mattresses were changed, but soon after were infested with bed bugs; disinfections have no results; beds, blankets and bed linen are old and worn down; the kitchens are open according to a schedule from 6 to 14 and 17-23 and the ones of ground floor are closed due to gas leaks.
Şomcuta Mare: hygiene conditions have deteriorated due to the high influx and increased number of accommodated asylum seekers. Asylum seekers complained about bed bugs and other insects, even though they received repellent spray from UNHCR. For a week the heating was not working and the residents complained that it was cold. A refugee reported that people were also sleeping on the floor, due to the lack of mattresses. The state of the bathrooms did not change since last year when the former Ombudsman expressed concerns about the state of the toilets, lack of cleanliness and water flowing on the floor. Moreover, it got worse, the painting is falling because of water infiltrations, and the toilets are clogged. The kitchen is filthy; some of the stoves are not working. It was also reported that newly arrived asylum seekers do not have clothes.
In Bucharest, residents complain about the cleanliness and state of mattresses and bed sheets, as well as the lack of beds for children and the shortage in refrigerators. The hygienic conditions are not satisfactory. There are bedbugs in the rooms, even if disinfections were periodically done; the gym room is closed, there is a prayer room and a room where a TV was installed. There is an approved budget for the rehabilitation of the accommodation centre, however there is no information when this will start. The poor hygienic conditions of the reception centre were also pointed out by the Ombudsman. During the visit, the Ombudsman’s team did not see any modifications compared to the situation witnessed in 2018: the doors of some rooms were damaged, the floor surface was in an advanced stage of usage, similar to bed mattresses; broken windows in kitchen spaces and staircases were not fixed; some bathrooms were damaged and did not ensure necessary privacy; faulty electrical installations were also observed as well as unsecured sockets (in a room where a single mother and her two children were staying, these were ripped out of the wall, the monitoring team requested that this should be fixed urgently), deteriorated electrical panels; in some hallways metal beds were stored (which constituted a safety hazard for children) etc. Some rooms were repainted, but at the date of the visit there were clear signs of water infiltration in the walls, probably from a recent malfunction of the piping system. The prayer rooms and the club were up and running, but the spaces were not furbished and the chairs were broken.
The JRS representative reported that Stolnicu Regional Centre is filthy. The hygienic conditions of the centre were better until summer 2020, because there were not so many asylum seekers accommodated in the centre. Asylum seekers are complaining about bed bugs, even though multiple disinfections were carried out; the mattresses are infested with bed bugs. The plumbing is worn out and leaking. There are infiltrations, even in the NGOs’ offices; there is mold and dampness. The kitchens are very filthy; asylum seekers are reluctant to clean.
In Giurgiu, repair works were done in the bathrooms and in some rooms. There were issues with bedbugs and fleas, even though one disinfection had been carried out in 2019. Save the Children renovated and furnished accordingly a room for children, where a video explaining the rights and obligations of asylum seekers, is broadcasted. In 2020 repair works were done in the bathrooms and kitchens; the equipment, plumbing and paint were repaired. Multiple disinfections have been made to eradicate bedbugs.
In Rădăuţi, at the time of the Ombudsman’s visit in the centre on 13 September 2019, it was noticed that the bathrooms were heavily worn out; the tiles were damaged and broken. The stoves were also heavily worn out, even though according to the IGI-DAI staff they were 2-3 years old. In 2020, 2 stoves were replaced, but they are already worn down. The cleanliness in the kitchen was lacking, there was no place were asylum seekers could deposit their food and the tiles and pavement in the kitchen was old, broken, and not sanitized. According to the Ombudsman the building did not provide adequate conditions for accommodation, cooking and storage of food. At the time of the author’s interview with the stakeholders from the centre, the doors were changed and the tiles in the bathrooms were replaced. According to them the renovation started in November 2019. The courtyard was also cleaned. The problem of the matrasses still persists; there are still bedbugs, even though disinfections were made.
In 2020, the state of the regional centre was described as filthy, there is an unpleasant odor; the kitchen is filthy. Asylum seekers complain about bed bugs. The mattresses are worn out. Even though the bathrooms were renovated last year, there is a lack of cleanliness.
In Timișoara, residents still complain about bed bugs, fleas, the poor condition of mattresses and plumbing in the showers and toilets. The flux of new asylum seekers arriving in the centre is also a reason for the lack of cleanliness in the centre. The regional centre was described by the JRS representative as a source of infections; asylum seekers do not want to clean; there is garbage everywhere. When the number of asylum seekers accommodated exceeded 100, the conditions were a disaster. It was impossible to enter the building where they were accommodated. AIDRom mentioned a lack of cleanliness due to the high number of asylum seekers and their unwillingness to clean their rooms and common spaces. The director of Timișoara Regional Centre confirmed a lack of cleanliness, and that the state of the kitchens and bathrooms is bad; the appliances are worn out, due to the high number of asylum seekers.
Even though IGI-DAI carried out 2-3disinfection operations in 2020 and they also received sprays from UNHCR, asylum seekers still complained about insects. The issue of bugs and insects is still a major problem in the Regional Centre of Timișoara. The Ombudsman also noticed this problem in 2018 and reported the existence of cockroaches in the kitchen. The residents still complain about the existence of the cockroaches. The director of the centre mentioned that no repairs or renovations were made, neither in 2019 nor in 2020, except that they changed the water taps. He also mentioned that there is a rehabilitation project of the centre, which has to be approved.
There have not been any protests related to the conditions in the centres.
Activities in the centre
Asylum seekers are allowed to go outside whenever they want, until 22:00. All Regional Centres except Timișoara have a prayer room where residents can practice their religion.
AIDRom stated that the Romanian language classes were held mainly in physical format, respecting the preventive measures and social distancing. They continued in this format due to limited possibilities of asylum seekers to have access to a mobile phone for online courses. Where beneficiaries had access to an electronic device, the courses were held online.
Social and community workers in the centres organise different activities for both adults and children. In 2020, these activities were held in smaller groups and outside, when possible.
Save the Children Romania offers as part of the “Protecting the Children of Asylum Seekers and Refugees” program, educational and social services addressing the specific needs of asylum-seeking children and refugees, including unaccompanied minors. The activities are running in 5 Regional Centres, with the exception of Giurgiu.
The project forsees the following activities:
- Daily educational-recreational program for children in accommodation centers
- Facilitating access to education and cultural accommodation
- Services to ensure their basic needs
- Facilitating access to social and medical services
- Social counseling for children and adults.
In 2020, Save the Children provided educational and social services to 677 children (including 410 accompanied minors) and 1,077 adult asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection. Save the Children provided material support for 545 children and 737 adults (food, clothing, medicine, hygiene, social vouchers), educational services and recreational activities for 236 children, psychological counseling for 36 children and 8 adults.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Save the Children continued to provide its services, social workers being present in reception centers to provide material support and counseling – respecting all preventive measures. They provided tablets with internet connection for children to be able to participate in online school classes and also other educational materials, sanitary products, clothing, food and social vouchers.
JRS reported for 2020, that no activities with children were organised in Timișoara. Mainly food packages, hygienic products, clothes and toys were distrubuted.
Rădăuţi: activities with children took place but in smaller groups and more rarely. During the state of emergency all the group activities were avoided and as far as possible NGOs were providing their services in open-air.
Şomcuta Mare: it was reported that activities with children were organised. Romanian language classes were held, but not constantly.
In Bucharest, activities for asylum seekers started during the summer. Romanian language classes were resumed during the state of alert.
Galaţi: activities were held during 2020. When the weather allowed it these were organised in open-air. Inside activities were organised taking into account the preventive measures. Romanian language classes were also held but in smaller groups.
In Giurgiu, AIDRom and ICAR Foundation provide activities for adults and children, even though the centre has no interior or exterior recreational spaces where such activities may be organised. The lack of playgrounds for children and places for sports activities has been highlighted by JRS and by the Ombudsman. Many activities were carried out online.
 Ombudsman, Report 44/2019, 4.
 Ibid, 3-4.
 Article 55(1) Asylum Decree.
 Ombudsman, Report 44/2019, 5.
 Ombudsman, Report 75/2019, 10.
 Ombudsman, Report 46/2019,5.
 Although the Ombudsman states that there is a confession room in Timișoara where Romanian classes are held, this is a hallway leading to the NGO offices rather than an actual room.
 Information provided by AIDRom, 4 March 2021.
 Ombudsman, Report of the visit to the Regional Centre Giurgiu,29/2017, 6.