Regular procedure

Slovenia

Country Report: Regular procedure Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

General (scope, time limits)

The determining authority has to take a decision in the shortest time possible but no later than six months from lodging the application. If it cannot make a decision in six months, it needs to inform the applicant in writing about the delay, the reasons for the delay and the time frame in which he or she can expect a decision. If it cannot make a decision in the estimated time frame, it can again inform the applicant in writing about the reason for the delay and set a new time frame in which he or she can expect the decision.[1] In practice the reasons in writing are only given in very broad terms, e.g. “the authority is working on pending cases that were submitted earlier and on priority cases of vulnerable persons.”

The determining authority can extend the 6-month time limit for no longer than 9 months: (a) if the applicant does not fulfil his or her obligations regarding the asylum procedure; (b) if the authority is faced with complex legal and factual questions; or (c) in case of a large number of applications for international protection.[2] It can further extend this time limit for no more than 3 months under justified circumstances and in order to ensure proper and comprehensive examination of the application.[3]

The determining authority may suspend the procedure if due to an uncertain situation in the country of origin, which is expected to be of temporary nature, it cannot be expected from the determining authority to make a decision in any of the above mentioned time frames. In this case the determining authority needs to review the situation in the country of origin every 6 months, inform the applicant about the reasons for suspending his application and inform the European Commission about the suspension of all procedures regarding this country of origin. The maximum time period in which the application needs to be examined in this case is 21 months.[4]

There are no consequences set out in law for not respecting the time limit. In practice the time limits are not respected, and duration of procedures is one of the biggest shortcomings of the Slovenian asylum system. This was not as apparent in 2014 and 2015, for example, when the numbers of asylum applications were very low (385 in 2014, 277 in 2015). However, due to a relative increase in 2016 (1,308 applications) and 2017 (1,476 applications) the length of procedures became a major problem. In the second half of 2016, more than one third of asylum applicants in Slovenia had been waiting for a first in-merit decision for more than six months and this trend continued in 2017.

In 2018 the number of applications for international protection continued to increase with 2,875 applications being lodged. According to the official statistics the Ministry of the Interior took 237 in-merit decisions in 2018. As of 31 December 2018, the number of pending cases was 290. By way of comparison, 1,476 applications were made in 2017 and 274 cases were pending by the end of 2017.

Although at the end of 2018 some applicants were still waiting for their first instance decision for more than six months and up to two years, the informally acquired data shows that in comparison with the previous year the number of asylum seekers who have been waiting for a first instance decision for more than six months has decreased.

3,821 applications were lodged in 2019. At the end of the year the cases of 329 asylum seekers were pending. In 2019 the number of people waiting for the first instance decision increased with approximately 30% of asylum seekers waiting for their first instance decision for more than six months.[5] According to the official statistics, the average duration of the procedure in 2019 was 44 days,[6] however this includes procedures that were stopped due to the absconding of the applicants and Dublin procedures. Due to a high absconding rate (93%) and Dublin procedures the number is significantly lower than the actual duration of the regular procedure.

 

Prioritised examination and fast-track processing

 

According to Article 48 IPA the Migration Office must prioritise cases of vulnerable persons with special needs or cases in which the applicant has been detained in the Asylum Home or the Aliens Centre, however this is often not respected in practice.

In practice, procedures with applicants that came to Slovenia through the EU relocation scheme from 2015 to 2017 were fast-tracked and decided within a few months from application. According to the official statistics provided by the Migration Office, 60 asylum applications were processed in a fast-track procedure in 2019 out of which seven applications were lodged by unaccompanied minors.[7] Official statistics on the number of prioritised applications is not gathered by the Migration Office.

 

Personal interview

 

The law provides that the Migration Office conducts the personal interview before taking a decision both in the regular and accelerated procedures.[8] The personal interview can be omitted if:[9]

  • The Migration Office can grant the applicant international protection on the basis of evidence at its disposal;
  • The applicant cannot participate in the procedure on his or her own due to a temporary or permanent mental disorder or illness or reasons which prevent him or her from understanding the meaning of the procedure.

In practice, following the lodging of the asylum application all asylum applicants are invited for a personal interview, which is carried out by the officials of the Migration Office that have previously carried out the application procedure. This normally occurs within one month of the lodging of the application. During this interview (“first in-merit interview”) the applicant is expected to provide detailed grounds for asylum. Until June 2016, the first in-merit interview regarding grounds for asylum was conducted together with the lodging of the asylum application. Since then, this has been separated into two discrete phases in an attempt to make procedures more efficient, considering that about half of the applicants abscond soon after the lodging of the application and about 20% have their applications dismissed in Dublin procedures, meaning that many lengthy interviews regarding grounds for asylum were conducted in vain.

Following the first in-merit interview, the case is referred to a “decision-maker”, who organises another in-merit interview before he or she takes an in-merit asylum decision on the case. In some cases this interview is omitted when the decision-maker can grant the applicant international protection on the basis of evidence at their disposal or reject the application as manifestly unfounded. Before the final decision is issued, it has to be authorised by a responsible official of the sector for international protection procedures.[10]

Although there is no official statistics on the number of personal interviews, the Ministry of Interior estimates that approximately 250 personal interviews were conducted in 2019.[11]

 

Interpretation

 

The IPA states that the assistance of an interpreter must be provided to a person who does not understand the official language during the lodging of the application and during the personal interview. In other justified cases the assistance of an interpreter can be approved by the competent authority.[12] According to a recent Supreme Court decision, applicants are also entitled to an interpreter if required for communication with their refugee counsellor in preparation of the legal remedy.[13]

According to the IPA, the interpreter is bound to respect the rules of the Code of Conduct for interpreters and translators in the international protection procedures which is adopted by the Minister of the Interior. The Ministry also needs to inform the interpreters on the rules and specifics of interpreting in the international protection procedures and on their role in such procedures.[14]

The quality of interpretation varies considerably and, in some cases, does not meet required standards.

Interpreting can be conducted through video conferencing if secure data transfer is guaranteed.[15] In practice this is used only for the interpretation of languages for which an interpreter cannot be provided in Slovenia and has so far only be done in a few cases. The Ministry of Interior can also ask for help with the interpretation from another Member State, the institution of the European Union or other international organisation.[16]

Recording and report

A report is drafted during the lodging of the application and during personal interviews. According to the law, the interview can also be recorded with audio/video electronic devices. In this case, the competent authority needs to ensure that the recording is attached to the official record which needs to contain a note that the recording has been made.[17] In practice the audio/video recordings are not used.

The applicant’s statements are not written down verbatim; instead, the interviewer rephrases the translated answers so as to include their important elements. At the end of the application or personal interview the interpreter orally translates the contents of the report to the applicant, who can then add comments. When the applicant signs the minutes after lodging the application he or she officially obtains the status of an applicant for international protection in Slovenia. Further changes cannot be made to the report at a later time.

 

Appeal

 

The legal remedy available to asylum applicants is judicial review, which is initiated by filing a lawsuit against the Ministry of the Interior.[18] In the proceedings that follow, the applicant for international protection acts as the plaintiff and the Ministry as the defendant. The Administrative Court of the Republic of Slovenia, with headquarters in Ljubljana, decides on the application for judicial review. The general rules of procedure are set out in the Administrative Dispute Act, while specific provisions particular to judicial review in international protection procedures are included in the IPA.

If the application was rejected in the regular procedure the deadline for lodging the judicial review is 15 days. The Administrative Court needs to decide on it within 30 days,[19] yet court procedures are usually much longer in practice, sometimes taking up to one year or longer. The length of the procedure mostly depends on the complexity of the case.

An application for judicial review against the rejection of an application in the regular procedure has automatic suspensive effect.[20] The review includes an assessment of both facts and points of law.

In practice, most asylum applicants that receive a rejection decision file for judicial review. They are represented by an appointed refugee counsellor (see Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance) and do not face serious obstacles in accessing this legal remedy.

The Administrative Court reaches its decision on the basis of written documentation and does not hold an oral hearing, except in rare cases. When hearings do occur, they are public. Decisions of the Administrative Court are published, with information on identity of applicants removed. [21]

In the vast majority of the cases where the Administrative Court finds faults in the first instance decision, it annuls the decision and returns the case to the first instance. In some cases the court replaces the decision of the Ministry with its own so as to grant international protection.[22] When the case is returned to the first instance, the Migration Office is obliged to issue a new decision within 30 days.[23] However, this is not respected in practice. Instead, the repeat procedure in front of the Migration Office again takes an excessively long time, which can bring the duration of the entire asylum procedure since the lodging of application to several years.

The decision of the Administrative Court is final and can only be challenged with extraordinary legal remedies, including an appeal to the Constitutional Court which needs to be lodged within 15 days since the applicant was served the decision of the Administrative Court.[24] Prior to the entry into force of the IPA on 24 April 2016, judicial review comprised of two instances, meaning that the Administrative Court decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia. This option now only exists for old pending cases where the asylum application was lodged prior to 24 April 2016.[25]

 

Legal assistance

 

Legal assistance at first instance

Although the IPA does not provide free legal representation for applicants in the first instance procedure, this is provided by a non-governmental organisation financed by AMIF, under which most funding is provided by the European Commission and a smaller part by the Republic of Slovenia.

The NGO responsible for legal representation during the first instance is Legal-informational centre for non-governmental organisations (PIC). PIC provides legal representation throughout the whole first instance procedure which includes provision of legal information to asylum seekers before the application, representation during the application and all subsequent personal interviews, legal assistance throughout the asylum procedure, preparation of country of origin information and help with accessing refugee counsellors when judicial review needs to be lodged.

PIC has an office in the Asylum Home in Ljubljana, the accommodation facility where the majority of applicants reside during the international protection procedure. In the Asylum Home, PIC lawyers are available to asylum applicants every working day between 8 am and 3 pm. Additionally, they also visit the three branch facilities for accommodation of applicants according to a set schedule: Kotnikova twice per week, Logatec once per week and Student Dormitory Postojna once per month.

Legal assistance on appeal

Legal assistance in the appeal procedure is provided to applicants by refugee counsellors.[26] They are graduate lawyers, selected by public tender and appointed to the position by the Ministry of Justice for a term of 5 years. Before starting work, they have to pass an exam and participate at a seminar on law of international protection for a minimum duration of 10 hours.[27]

There is no “merits test” on the basis of which the applicant can be refused legal assistance.

Applicants therefore have access free of charge to refugee counsellors who initiate judicial review on their behalf and represent them in court. The quality of legal assistance is considered to be good and asylum seekers do not experience problems with accessing refugee counsellors. As of December 2017, the list of refugee counsellors included 27 lawyers, out of which around eight were active and took on cases.[28] In 2018 a new public tender was finalised, and a new list of refugee counsellors was drawn up. The list now includes 44 refugee counsellors who are appointed for five years.[29]

The financial compensation of the refugee counsellors is half the amount of the official attorney’s fee.[30] The remuneration and reimbursement of expenses for their work are granted by the Ministry of the Interior.[31] The refugee counsellor is not entitled to financial compensation if the applicant has left the premises of the Asylum Home (and not returned) three days before the appeal was lodged before the Administrative Court.[32]

 


[1] Article 47(1)-(2) IPA.

[2] Article 47(3) IPA.

[3]  Article 47(4) IPA.

[4]  Article 47(5)-(6) IPA.

[5]  Unofficial statistics from  PIC.

[6] Official statistics provided by the Migration Office, February 2020.

[7] According to Article 41(1) of the IPA, in the fast-tracked procedure the application can only be rejected as manifestly unfounded.

[8]  Article 46(1) IPA.

[9] Article 38(1) IPA.

[10]  See also AIDA, Asylum Authorities, An overview of internal structures and available resources, p. 54, available at: https://bit.ly/2wiDmgo.

[11]  Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, February 2020.

[12]  Article 6(1)-(2) IPA.

[13]  Supreme Court, Decision I Up 226/2017.

[14]  Article 6(10)-(11) IPA.

[15]  Article 6(13) IPA.

[16] Article 6(12) IPA.

[17] Article 37(7) IPA. 

[18]  Article 70(1) IPA.

[19] Articles 70(1) and 71(1) IPA.

[20]  Article 70(3) IPA.

[21]  Decisions can be found at: http://www.sodnapraksa.si/.

[22] In 2019, the Administrative Court granted refugee status in 9 cases.

[23] Article 64(4) Administrative Dispute Act.

[24] Article 72 IPA.

[25]   In 2019, 15 appeals were submitted to the Supreme Court.

[26] Article 9(1) IPA.

[27] Article 12 Rules on knowledge testing of candidates for refugee counsellors and on the training of refugee counsellors at the Judicial Training Centre.

[28] Ministry of the Interior, Imenik svetovalcev za azil / begunce, available in Slovenian at: http://bit.ly/2BDREcc.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Article 5(1) Rules on the access of applicants for international protection to refugee counsellors and on the remuneration and reimbursement of the expenses of refugee counsellors, Official Gazette of RS, No. 22/17.

[31] Article 11(1) IPA.

[32]  Article 11(2) IPA.

 

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the first report
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation