Conditions in Regional Centres are monitored, inter alia, by the Ombudsman, who visits the centres on a regular basis.
State of the facilities
The Regional Centre Timișoara
The Regional Centre is located in the same premises as the Emergency Transit Centre (ETC) operated by UNHCR, where refugees evacuated from other countries stay before they are resettled to another country. 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. The second building (“Building C”) only accommodates families. Therefore, while the ETC has a total capacity of 200 places, the Regional Centre has a capacity of 50 places. Since May 2018, the available places for asylum seekers have been reduced to the initial capacity of 50 places, down from 150 places available in 2017. The director of the Regional Centre Timsioara mentioned that maybe in 2020 the ETC will move to other premises.
At the time of the author’s visit on 17-18 October 2019, there were 20 asylum seekers and 16 asylum seekers were transferred.
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 two, four or six beds. 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).
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 has been converted into an accommodation facility in order to increase reception capacity.
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’.
The rooms have a maximum capacity of 12 beds. Generally, 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.
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. At the time of the author’s visit on 18-19 June 2018, it was noted that toys were thrown all over the playground in the courtyard. Old bed frames made of steel were deposited near the playground, representing a risk for the children. It seemed that the bed frames had been left there for a long time as grass had grown on them.
In 2019 it was reported by the JRS representative that the situation inside the centre is the same, the playground in the courtyard was refurbished by Save the Children and most of furniture stored in the courtyard has been collected.
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.
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 and 2019, 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.
Hygienic conditions are relatively good in Galaţi and Şomcuta Mare, although the former Ombudsman expressed concerns about the state of the toilets, lack of cleanliness and water flowing on the floor. According to the JRS representative, the centre is cleaner since the project implemented by AIDRom. If the asylum seekers are urged by the NGO staff to clean, they do so. In Galaţi it was reported that the centre was painted, and repairs and disinfection were made.
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. During the author’s visit to the centre in 2018, a female Iraqi beneficiary of international protection, who was accommodated together with her husband and three children in two rooms of the centre, shared some of their experiences. The family had to buy a crib for their baby born in Romania, as there was none in the centre. They also bought in a fan in order to help her husband, who has a health condition, during the hot summer days. She also complained about bed bugs. According to the JRS representative, the situation did not change in 2019. 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.
In Giurgiu, during the author’s visit on 21 of June 2018, poor conditions were noted in the showers, even though the integration officer mentioned that the centre had been sanitised two weeks prior to the visit. In the men’s showers, the wall between the sinks and showers had a big hole, the curtains were black from mould and/or dirt, and it was noticed from the hall that the men’s toilets were not clean. According to the legal counsellor in Giurgiu, after the author’s visit the conditions of the centre improved. It was sanitized and the toilets have also been disinfected, as far as possible. There is also a plan to entirely renovate the centre. In 2019, 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 the video explaining the rights and obligations of asylum seekers, is broadcasted. Efforts were made in 2019 to improve the reception conditions in the centre.
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. 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 bed bugs, even though disinfections were made.
In Timișoara, residents still complain about bed bugs, fleas, the poor condition of mattresses and plumbing in the showers and toilets. For a while the door of the women’s bathroom could not be locked and they were complaining that people were entering the bathroom while they were inside. AIDRom representatives bought a new lock. The JRS representative reported that asylum seekers who were re-accommodated in the centre did not receive bed linen, while new arrivals did. If the asylum seekers are transferred within 1-2 days from their arrival in the centre, they do not receive bed linen; nobody informs them that they can receive bed linen. The flux of new asylum seekers arriving in the centre is also a reason for the lack of cleanliness in the centre, according to AIDRom representative. Even though IGI-DAI carried out 8 disinfection operations in 2019, asylum seekers still complained about insects. The issue of bugs and insects is 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 in 2019 in the building where asylum seekers are accommodated, while the building that accommodates the refugees from ETC has new windows.
There have not been any protests related to the conditions in the centres.
Activities in the centres
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.
Social and community workers in the centres organise different activities for both adults and children.
Save the Children Romania is running the project “Integrated services for asylum seeking and refugee children”, self-funded, in 5 Regional Centres, with the exception of Giurgiu, where the number of children (accompanied or unaccompanied) is low. In 2018 Save the Children renovated and furnished accordingly a room for children in Giurgiu, where Romanian classes are held.
The project forsees the following activities:
– social services, counselling, support to access different social services and benefits (state child allowance);
– material assistance for children and vulnerable adults, which is meant to cover food, hygiene products, medicine, medical services, school supplies for children, instalment packages. The material assistance is obtained through private donations. In comparison with 2018, when Save the Children only used donations to top up the needs for clothes.
– recreational and educational activities in regional centres, both in the Children’s Room and outside the centres;
– psychological assistance in the Regional Centre from Bucharest.
In Timișoara, Galaţi, Rădăuţi and Şomcuta Mare, AIDRom organises cultural, educational and sports activities for adults and children such as football and table tennis, visits to the museum, zoo, city walks. They also organise Romanian language courses for children, which are also attended by adults.
In Timișoara: AIDRom has a social educator, who organises educational and recreational activities and teaches Romanian language to children and adults. In addition, he organises the cleaning program. The same is done in Şomcuta Mare.
In Bucharest, Save the Children organises activities for children in the centre and there are also Romanian language courses for adults.
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.
According to the stakeholders interviewed by the author in Şomcuta Mare and Rădăuţi, the staff shortage was no longer an issue in 2019 as the number of the asylum seekers accommodated in the centres decreased considerably from last year. Recruitments also took place in Şomcuta Mare, Timișoara and Rădăuţi, Galaţi. In Galaţi, no shortage of staff was reported. A psychologist was hired in 2019. In Şomcuta Mare: 3 case officers were hired. IGI-DAI also organised a recruitment process for a psychologist. In Rădăuţi, IGI-DAI recruited a psychologist, officers within the procedures department and within the logistics office. In Timișoara, the Ombudsman reported that 12 positions were vacant (3 officers, 2 agents and 7 contract staff).
However, the JRS representative of Bucharest mentioned that even though a few months ago (end of 2019) IGI-DAI supplemented its staff, there is still staff shortage.
According to JRS, IGI-DAI staff is trained internally and externally by NGOs and UNHCR Romania on different topics.
Ombudsman, Report 44/2019, 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.
Situation in 2018: Save the Children Romania is running a project entitled “Integrated services for asylum seeking and refugee children”, funded by Save the Children UK, in all Regional Centres except Giurgiu, where the number of children is low. However, Save the Children renovated and furnished a room for children in Giurgiu accordingly, where Romanian classes are held. The project foresees the following activities:
– Social services, counselling, support for having access to different social services and social benefits e.g. state child allowance;
– Financial assistance for children and vulnerable adults, which is meant to cover food, hygiene products, medicine, medical services, school supplies for children, instalment packages, kindergarten and afterschool fees if where. For each of these categories the allowances are as follows:
o 250 RON / 54 € for food and clothes; Save the Children uses donations to top up the needs for clothes;
o 100 RON/ 21 € for medical assistance;
o 200 RON/ 43 € for school supplies for children;
– Recreational and educational activities in the children’s room and outside the centres;
– Psychological assistance in the Regional Centre of Bucharest.
The financial allowances may be supplemented where necessary.
Ombudsman, Report of the visit to the Regional Centre Giurgiu,29/2017, 6.