IWB for refugees: Slovakia
Is the country following all the European/ International legislation on this matter?
Due to Slovakia’s history of closed borders during the communist era, foreign migration is rather a new occurrence. Before the fall of communism and secession from the Czech Republic, Slovakia was a country of emigration. In 1993, the statusquo changed into that of a country of transit, and after joining the European Union in 2004, it has been slowly becoming a country of immigration. Nevertheless, Slovakia is still one of the EU countries with the lowest numbers of foreigners as only 1.3% of the populations is foreign.
The Immigration Office in the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic is the administrative body that consider asylum situations and subsidiary protection of foreigners. It proceeds in accordance with the provisions of the Act on Asylum number 480/2002, which mainly incorporates
the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the New York Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees from 1967 as well as relevant European directives and regulations regarding international protection. 
Officially, the criteria for granting refugee status corresponds to the definition of the 1951 Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol. According to UNHCR, the ability to learn/speak Slovak is a serious requirement. That is a reason why many refugees recognized are “in situ” refugees, for example, students from former Communist countries who arrived before 1990 and hold Slovak academic degrees.
Slovakia has also readmission agreements with all neighbouring countries (Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic) and with Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia. They include provisions on the return of their own citizens and those of third states.
In comparison with other countries, Slovakia scores very low on integration policies. In the 2015 MIPEX evaluation, Slovakia was ranked 34th out of 38 evaluated countries. Slovakia did particularly badly especially with respect to the integration of migrants into the labour market (21 points), political participation of migrants (16 points), education (24 points) and the access to nationality (27 points).”
L. Keriova: Refugee life in Slovakia, United Europe, p1
 The Migration Office of the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic, http://www.minv.sk/?migracny-urad-mv-sr
 Migration and Asylum in Central and Eastern Europe: Slovak Republic, p2
 Ibid 3
Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) 2015 at http://mipex.eu/slovakia
Number of people with a refugee status (give or take)?
The overall number of asylum seekers in Slovakia has been decreasing in last few years. From January to October 2015, only 154 people have sought asylum of which 8 have been granted, while 41 others have been given subsidiary protection. If this trend continues, the year 2015 will be an historic year with the lowest number of asylum seekers since the existence of the Slovak Republic. Since the establishment of the Slovak Republic in 1993, there has been 58 000 asylum seekers. 653 people have been granted asylum, and 672 people have been given subsidiary protection. Of the number of people with refugee status, 235 have been granted Slovak citizenship.
As regards to socio-demographic characteristics, young men dominate both asylum seekers and refugee categories for in 2013, the statistics was 83 percent (308) men and 17 percent women(66).
Top 5 countries they are coming from?
Afghanistan, Ethnic Kurds, Vietnam, Ukraine, Somalia (2014)
The refugee status was granted on the grounds of:
The Geneva Convention, humanitarian grounds, Family reunion
How much state allowance does a refugee receive a month?
The seekers, who have been granted asylum, are assigned to an integration program. This entitles them to a financial contribution of 290Euro a month, for six months. If the contribution is for the refugee family with members living together, then the amount is higher, this being based the same way as social welfare contributions. For example, an adult living with 1 to 4 children in the same household is entitled to 570 Euro a month.
The conditions for the financial contribution are the attendance of Slovak language classes and acceptance of employment offered by an intermediary of the integration programme (the refugee has a right to decline only two job offers). If the refugee does not meet these conditions, then he/she is disqualified from receiving financial contributions for that given month.
If the refugee does not secure employment within six months, and he/she has no other source of income, then he/she registers as a job seeker at an employment office and starts to receive social welfare. The money from social welfare is much less than the money from the integration programme.
What are the living conditions of refugees (for example housing)?
The choice of housing influences stabilisation and settling down of refugees. The workers of the Immigration Office, NGOs and refugees themselves have identified housing as a key problem in the integration process. Service organisations help refugees with housing, rent payment and basic equipment for the first six months after being granted refugee status. For vulnerable groups, such as families or mothers with children, the time can be prolonged.
The current situation with housing relates to the general lack of rental apartments owned by state or towns/villages together with high rent, high deposit, etc. These problems affect all Slovak citizens. Rent is generally disproportionate to the earnings or social welfare. However, unlike other Slovak citizens, refugees are in a specific situation – they lack social networks (family or friends) they can rely on when needed. That’s one of the reasons why it is impossible for refugees to become independent – even after obtaining employment, they are unable to simultaneously secure housing as it is so expensive.
In 1996, a housing programme was established in Slovakia in collaboration with the UNHCR, which provided 52 residences for people with international protection. However, the programme was unsuccessful due to the poor location of the residences in the area with high unemployment rate. In 2000, 10 housing units were established in Bratislava, of which in any case was rather suitable for individuals than families. These units were sporadically used without any explanation.
In 1999, 17 flats were renovated in Kosice as a result of collaboration of the local authorities, the immigration Office, UNHCR and local non-governmental organisations. A number of families were also housed in residential homes in Kosice until 2014. These homes are currently unavailable as the rent paid by the immigration Office has been exhausted. The families were moved to municipal social flats after an agreement among Marginal (an NGO), the Migration Office and the town of Kosice.
The integration centre in Zvolen has the capacity of accommodating approximately 40 people and was originally aimed to house people with international protection after they leave refugee camps. They could live there for six months with a possibility of a 12 month extension. This centre has not been used since 2011, and there are no specific explanations.
A number of workers and refugees agree Slovakia lacks integrations centres, or integration housing where refugees could move to after being granted the refugee status for first few months.
Service organisations provide certain financial help to refugees with moving, painting, furnishing, etc. The amount of money provided depends on budget of the organisation.
Currently, refugees are placed in one of the three locations – Bratislava, Kosice or Zilina where they are provided with integration services. The location is usually chosen without consulting refugees.
The recent survey found all current refugees are living in rented accommodation. They found the accommodation either through NGOs or through their friends. 
Are the people with an official refugee status allowed to work? If yes, is there assistance for finding employment? Are refugees offered language lessons?
Once asylum is granted, refugees gain permanent residence in Slovakia, and after 4 years, they can apply for a Slovak citizenship. As they have permanent residence, they have the same access to the job market as Slovak citizens, hence legally; there are no formal obstacles in entering labour market. However, they may face different difficulties:
- Language barrier- during the asylum proceedings, the applicants are allowed to leave the camps of the Migration Office only for a short time and are thus not able to learn the language through common interaction with people. The language courses in the camps are insufficient, provided mainly by the non-governmental organisations or even volunteers, thus making them unsystematic.
- Reduced social capital – asylum seekers spend months waiting for the decision of the proceedings in the camps (applicants are not allowed to work until they receive the decision of their application. If the proceedings last longer than a year, they are allowed to work legally after a year) and are thus unable to develop their social capital, for example establishing social networks outside the community of asylum seekers
- Frustration, depressions, etc – long-term waiting for the decision of their asylum application often lead to frustration, demotivation, mental difficulties that make it harder to actively and independently search for a job, educate themselves, etc. Psycho-social support for asylum seekers is unsystematic in Slovakia.
- Prejudice of employers – in spite of there being no research on this matter, anecdotal evidence show employers are prejudiced to employ foreign workers. Muslim women that wear hijab are basically unable to find employment.
In general, refugees themselves are left with the task of integration. Non-governmental organisations carry out various integration projects for refugees, however, these projects are supported by the former European refugee fund now referred to as Asylum Migration Integration Fund. However, they do not receive any systemic support. It happens that if a non-governmental organisation has a one year project, upon the project completion, the organisation receives no more funding. Many NGOs thrive by adopting a volunteering format until they obtain funds for their activities.
The state fails not only in providing financial and infrastructural support for the integration mechanism, but also, the overall vision of what integration should involve. Even though the integration projects that were supported within the framework of the European refugee fund provides for important services (social work, department accompaniment, legal help, language courses), however, the state does not support empowerment of refugees, their independence and skills development that would allow them become fully-valued part of the society. Neither is there any education and awareness raising for public to be acceptant and respectful of refugees.
Is there a maximum amount of time that a refugee can stay in the country in which it seeks asylum? Also receiving a legal refugee status?
If a seeker is granted asylum, he/she also gains permanent residence in the country and can thus stay indefinitely. They can also apply for Slovak citizenship.
People with subsidiary protection are given temporary residence for one year that can be prolonged for two years. After five years, they can apply for Slovak citizenship.
Do refugees or their children have the right to attend schools, universities, etc?
Is the state obliged to provide asylum seekers with healthcare?
Yes, healthcare provision is guaranteed to both groups of people with international protection, refugees, as well as people with subsidiary protection, in the same way as for Slovak nationals. Refugees are insured by the State via the state-owned General Health Insurance Company. This fact is considered a good practise by members of the communal sector as well as service organisations.
It is different for people with international protection who are not insured by the General Health
Insurance Company, even though medical procedures are covered by public sources of the Company. A health card (often referred to as “pink card”) is issued by the Migration Office and the procedures are covered only after complicated bureaucratic proceedings. This is considered the most serious problem regarding healthcare, since the scale of services is guarantee. Excessive
Bureaucracy, together with administration is so grave, doctors are not interested in participating, or they do not have knowledge of this category of insurants.
Service organisations assist people with international protection during doctors’ visits. There is more to this assistance. Social workers help people orientate (mainly if it is shortly after being granted asylum) .They are also often interpreters, who provide the nurses and doctors explanations of specific administration proceedings needed for medical procedures. As the number of people with subsidiary protection is small, approximately 300 people, it is obvious GPs and even specialized doctors are not aware of administration proceedings. Therefore service organisations prefer visiting doctors they have already been to, and who are aware of this group of patients. However, It is not always possible.
Do refugees experience obstacles with regard to issues like social life, personal well being, freedom, etc? Please illustrate briefly.
In comparison to other groups of voluntary migrants, the refugees’ situation is not only different, but also more difficult in many aspects. After coming to Slovakia, they have to overcome many barriers. They are also often separated from their family and face mental and psychological problems resulting from the traumatic events they experienced in the country of their origin as well as during their journey. 
While they get support from the Migration Office and non-governmental organisations to integrate into society, they may not be very well received by Slovaks themselves.
Research results have shown Slovaks views on migrants and refugees are based on false ideas, wrong information and stereotypes. It may be due to the fact the country had being closed off during the Soviet occupation; however, otherness, diversity is not supported in Slovakia. Refugees are often perceived as a possible threat to Slovak cultural identity, ones who will take over available jobs and disease carriers. This factual ignorance forces people to be wary of foreigners, especially those of other religious aside Christianity.
“Some migrants have indicated that they don’t feel safe in Slovakia where there have been racially motivated attacks – verbal and physical – on them. The more different (physiologically, linguistically) they are, the more they are confronted with problems. As a consequence, they avoid public places and stay home in the evening.”
 Supra note 6 at 111-113
 Supra note 6 at 82-90
 Information provided by A.Chudzikova
 Information provided by S.Trencikova
 Supra note 6 at 123-125
 Supra note 6 at 111
 Supra note 1 at 2
Describe the legal process of acquiring a refugee status, from the moment of entering the country of refugee as an asylum seeker until the point of receiving a legal refugee status.
Application for asylum is assessed by the Immigration Office at the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic (Immigration Office). Admission and residence of asylum seekers is regulated by different legal norms than any other categories of migrants.
There are no particular admission requirements for asylum seekers. If a foreigner who is on the Slovak territory or at the border applies for asylum, he cannot be automatically returned. Slovakia does not have a pre-screening system as some other member states of the EU, neither are there any integration measures required before entering the Republic. It is impossible to apply for asylum outside the country, for example at the embassy. 
The Immigration Office is in charge once a refugee enters the country and applies for asylum. The Immigration Office also provides social help during the seeker’s stay in camps until the end of asylum application process. Social help for asylum seekers is regulated by the provisions of the Act on Asylum.
The asylum applications are admitted by the asylum department of the Alien and Border Police. The department also provides access to asylum proceedings. Interview with the applicant is conducted by the Immigration Office. 
Asylum applications are assessed by the Immigration Office. Once the applicant submits his/her asylum application, he/she is placed in an interceptive camp (specialized facility of the Immigration Office) in Humenne. Primary operations are provided for here are; health examination and temporary housing (usually up to 30 days). During the quarantine, the applicant is not allowed to leave the camp. The only condition of applicant’s residence in the camp and the following movement on the Slovak territory is satisfactory health condition. 
At the interceptive camp, the applicant is registered, has his/her photo taken and is issued an asylum seeker card that serves as identification during the applicant’s stay in Slovakia. The applicant is provided accommodation, food, urgent medical care, social and psychological counselling, pocket money, material and hygienic items in the camp. He/she can leave the camp only on by a permit issued after a satisfactory result of medical check up. The permit to leave the camp is issued by the camp manager or an employee authorized by the manager. At the moment, there is only one interceptive camp in Humenne in eastern Slovakia. The applicants are subsequently transferred to temporary camps. 
The applicant resides at the temporary camp, which is also an establishment of the Immigration Office until the end of asylum proceedings. If the applicant is granted asylum, he can stay in temporary camp indefinitely.
The applicant is provided basic care, social activities and Slovak language classes (once a week). The applicants can also attend retraining programmes and other activities supplied by non-governmental and international organisations. Children of pre-school age can attend the facility directly in the camp. School-aged children attend schools in the camp. There are two temporary camps in Slovakia – Opatovska Nova Ves and Rohovice. 
During the asylum proceedings, the applicants remain in the Slovak Republic legitimately. Their movement within the Republic is restricted by reporting for duty in the camp or alien police. As already mentioned, the applicants are issued an asylum seeker card that serves as an identification card until the finalization of the asylum proceedings. In case the applicants want to leave the camp, they have to apply for a short-term permit. It is issued by the administration employees of the camp for the maximum of a week. In case the applicant wants to live outside the camp, he/she has to apply for the long-term permit which is issued by the deciding officer of the Immigration Office. The applicant has to exhibit housing contract and sufficient financial coverage, or another person has to submit declaration on word of honour stating that the applicant will be living with that person and that he/she will cover all expenses. The declaration on word of honour must be verified by a notary public. The long-term permit is issued for one month. Once granted, the applicant is required to report his/her residence to the alien police within three working days. Long-term permits can be repeatedly extended. 
The length of asylum application processing varies as it is treated on case by case basis. According to law, the Immigration Office is required to issue the decision within three months (90 days) from submitting the application. If the decision is negative, the applicant has the right to appeal at the Regional Court in Bratislava or Kosice, demanding a review in the legality of this decision. If the Regional Court confirms the decision, the applicant can request to have his case reviewed by the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic. The applicants can thus await a final decision several months, even more than two years in some cases.
Once the Immigration Office’s decision is in favour of granting the applicant asylum, the applicant’s integration into society follows.
The Immigration Office may not grant asylum, however, it may grant subsidiary protection for one year. If the conditions which was the basis for granting the protection remains, the protection may be granted for another year. The subsidiary protection provides the applicant with temporary residence, pocket money, accommodation, food and entitlement to work.
If the Immigration Office grants neither asylum nor subsidiary protection, the department of the alien police assesses possible obstacles to administrative expulsion. If there is any obstacle to administrative expulsion, it is possible to apply for a permission of tolerated residence at the department of the alien police. This permission is granted for the maximum of 180 days. The applicant is not allowed to work during this time.
If the Immigration Office does not grant asylum or subsidiary protection, and there are no obstacles to administrative expulsion, the applicant can appeal at the Regional Court in Bratislava or Kosice.
M.Gulicova, Z.Bargerova Organisation of the Asylum and Migration Policy in the Slovak Republic, National Study for European Migration Network, 2008, p30
 Ibid 31-32
 Ibid 32
 Ibid 33
 Ibid 33
 Ibid 33-34
 Ibid 34
 Ibid 34
 Ibid 34
Interview with the Non-governmental sector
S works as a legal advisor in a Slovak NGO on a project dealing with the integration of foreign nationals, their associated refugee status and subsidiary protection. It focuses on providing complex services including social consulting, legal advice, help with accommodation, teaching the Slovak language and other services.
1. Can you summarise what your work entails, what a typical day looks like for you?
S provides legal advice through consultations with clients. Her days could be hectic, as she has set appointments, but also sees clients on a drop-in basis. Most of her work is focused on how to help refugees obtain permanent residence; understand labour regulations and school/university attendance.
2. Was it a conscious choice to work with refugees? Or more of a natural course? : What led you to this job/work in this field?
S graduated with a law degree, and was interested in human rights related issues. She worked on human trafficking with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). A job opportunity in this field of endeavour was consequential towards her current employment.
3. Which in your view is the most pressing issue with regard to refugees in this country? International or EU level?
S believes the most pressuring issue as regards refugees in Slovakia is the negative change in the government’s attitude towards the admission of fresh wave of refugees. As such, it has consquentially affected public opinion about refugees.
On the international level, there should concerted efforts in resolving the reasons for the refugee crisis.
4. In your experience, what is the general opinion about refugees in this country? Both in the public and political sense.
Politically and in the public sense, the overriding opinion is quite anti-refugee. Most people react negatively when they find out that her work is pro-refugee. Sometimes, she prefers saying she works as a legal advisor without giving any further details.
She however pointed out how people were generously donating clothes, tents, etc for refugees collections.
5. What are the most significant changes you have experienced, over time, in the way refugees are treated and perceived?
As she has only been in her current position since May, no changes noticed so far.
6. Which refugee issues could benefit most from more strictly enforced EU-level regulations and laws?
S believes the responsibility should be better shared by countries and the rights of refugees should be more protected. However, she does not feel qualified to comment on this.
7. What are your future expectations for policy change as regards to refugees on national and EU level?
Expectations are very low. The government relegates responsibility to others, usually NGOs
8. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your job? And what do you find rewarding about your job?
Challenge: Communication. This means translations are provided by other clients, and this, in turn, trivializes the translation of core legal terms, as most refugees are not schooled in local phraseology.
Most times refugees heed the legal aid given, some do nothing afterwards, and rarely follow up on the advice given.
Rewards: The best reward is ensuring the happiness of the clients. Having unexpected success in dealing with the migration office and the alien police, are yet other sources of rewards.
Can they return to their country?
Yes, after receiving the negative decision on asylum, the seeker can return to his/her home country. The relevant police department (of the Alien Police) issues a decision on administration expulsion from the Slovak Republic. The seeker can also request assisted voluntary return, which involves securing the travel to his/her home country and his/her integration in the country of origin. 
Can they go to a different EU country?
The asylum seeker can be deported to the member state he has been granted to stay in. He can also enter another member state according to the Order of the European Parliament and Council, number 604/2013 from the 26th of June 2013, the so called Dublin Regulation, or by international treaties (re-admission with some of the member states).
Will they be deported?
After receiving a decision denying asylum, the asylum seeker’s presence on Slovak territory becomes illegal, and will be administratively expelled if the country of origin issues a temporary travel document of return. The police nevertheless have the duty to administratively expel such a foreign national.
The time frame the denied seeker is permitted to stay in the Slovak Republic varies. During this period, the administration of expulsion still proceeds, as does the realisation of assisted voluntary return, the transfer in accordance with the Dublin Regulation or return pursuant to the re-admission agreement.
 E-mail communication with the Headquarters of the Border and Alien Police of the Slovak Republic
Is there national media attention for refugees and refugee issues?
Before the current refugee crisis, there was very little media attention for refugees and refugees issues in the national media.
How are asylum seekers presented by the media?
The so called “opinion forming” newspapers such as SME, Pravda, Dennik N, Tyzden, bring balanced and actual coverage, present facts, and they even published numerous articles debunking myths and hoaxes regarding refugees in Europe. The newspaper SME for example published an article titled “38 questions and answers to everything you need to know about refugees”. Some articles of this particular newspaper are locked online, however, they unlocked this one in order to be reached and read as widely as possible.
Numerous editors of these newspapers met with refugees either in Hungary, Serbia or even in Italy in order to provide human dimension of the issue.
The tabloid newspapers, which are very popular in Slovakia, present the crisis in two ways.
They notice the tragic side of the crisis – informing about the number of drowning victims in the Mediterranean, about the attacks on refugees in the camps in Germany. Their articles attempt to be of explanatory character, however, it is not predominant. They do focus on stunts and portray refugees in a rather negative and dangerous way – “A fight in a refugee camp: Police had to intervene”; “A policeman attacked with knife in an asylum centre: They stabbed him in his stomach”. The articles are to increase readership, rather than provide objective information.
Is being a country of refuge presented in a negative, neutral or positive way?
As already explained in the answer to the question above, the opinion forming newspapers provide platforms for articles and interviews, etc, favouring refugees settling in Slovakia. However, the tabloid newspapers constantly present the public with hoax articles spreading fear and intolerance. As I am currently not living in Slovakia, it is difficult for me to judge the population’s mood, however, based on observation from the social media, I believe the majority of Slovak people are scared of the idea of refugees arriving in Slovakia, and are opposed to it.
 Supra note 19
Slovakia refused the quotas proposed by the European Union, and is bringing legal action to the European Court in Luxembourg.
There are currently 149 refugees from Iraq (all Christians) being relocated to Slovakia, however, the number is much smaller than based on the quotas.
After the attacks in Paris, the Prime Minister (Robert Fico) strengthened security measures by monitoring every Muslim living in Slovakia and sending them a message:”Big Brother is watching you”.
Overall, there has been no change in either government’s policy or public’s respond.
As a Slovak brought up during the communist era and emigrated years after the Velvet Revolution, I am bewildered by Slovaks’ reactions to refugees. Being a mother of a toddler, I am heartbroken seeing images of refugee children and their families online and then reading heart rendering comments from Slovaks’ to those images on social media. As a well meaning human being and human rights activist, I am sickened and angered by Slovak politicians’ response to this crisis and the resultant support the public gives. In all, I am ashamed.
Slovakia is a small country in Central Europe. We were a part of Czechoslovakia since 1918 until 1992 (except the years between 1939-1945 when Slovakia became a client state of Nazi Germany – Slovak State). The Russian army occupied the country since 1968 until the fall of Communism in 1989. In 1993, Czechoslovakia was divided into two separate states, Slovak Republic and Czech Republic.
I do not currently live in Slovakia, but during recent visits, and observations from the social media, refugees in Slovakia never made sensational headlines prior to the current refugee crises. Slovakia is not as economically prosperous as western countries, and people struggle with their everyday lives often ignoring problems from elsewhere. There are a handful of foreigners living in Slovakia; the “other” ones (different race, religion) were slowly integrated, the “western” ones were quickly accepted. However, the numbers of foreigners are rather negligible.
Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, majority of Slovaks have reacted very negatively to their influx. Refugees have become a visible part of Slovakian society, and their teaming numbers cum “Racial/Religious difference” was seen as a threat.
Slovaks wonder how their government who being unable to provide sufficient monetary support to its low class citizens be responsible for the provision of accommodation, money and any other necessary help to refugees. “The war in Syria isn’t our fault, why don’t they sort it out there” – are among the questions I have heard numerous times.
Another issue is ignorance and fear. Many people in Slovakia believe every Muslim is a terrorist. Not merely in a sense of being a member of a terrorist organisation, but in a sense of coming into Europe and spreading Islam, refusing to adopt European law, culture and way of life. There is a belief among some Slovaks that refugees are coming into Europe for the main purpose of Islamizing and imposing Sharia law.
The prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, and his government acted accordingly at the initial stage of the refugee crisis. Slovakia first officially agreed to accept a small number of Syrian refugees, provided they were Catholics. After the quotas were proposed and discussed, Slovakia not only blatantly refused; it also warned the EU they would bring legal action to this regard at the European court.
At the moment, there are 149 refugees being relocated into Slovakia – all Christians. These refugees are not part of the quotas proposed by Brussels, they are the refugees agreed on and “picked” by the Slovak government.
They are being relocated into a number of villages on the south of Slovakia; however, the mayors of the mentioned villages are holding emergency meetings to protest the relocations. There was a letter from parents in one of the villages claiming they would withdraw their children from the local school if the school is attended by refugees’ children.
On the other hand, there are people giving their time, expertise, money and volunteering at different places, be it in Hungary, Slovenia or Austria. They go in groups or individually to places most in need, taking supplies and help in any way they can. When a truck with over 70 dead refugees was found on the Austrian/Slovak border, the ‘Appeal for Humanity’ was created, providing information, lobbying the government and supporting the course of refugees. Almost 12 000 people have joined. During the anti-refugee and neo-Nazis’ march organized earlier this year in Slovakia, the Appeal for Humanity held their own demonstration raising awareness and collecting donations for refugees.
As earlier mentioned, I feel very emotional regarding Slovaks’ response to the refugee crisis. We know what occupation feels like; we know why people leave their country, family and friends to flee an oppressive regime, as such, I cannot comprehend the Slovaks’ anger and denial of the struggle of these refugees. Perhaps it is due to our history and inexperience with foreigners, or due to our own tangible difficulties and scepticism regarding our government’s ability to cope. Nevertheless, this attitude makes us not only separate from the rest of the European Union, it also brings shame. The shame being our unwillingness rather than inability to help others.
I have thought hard and long about the possible solutions to this situation. First of all, the media needs to stop spreading fear and right wing propaganda. The Slovaks, due to their inexperience, are rather gullible and ready to jump on the train of appalling hoaxes and sensational news. The “paparazzi” newspapers need to realize the gravity of the situation and join some daily newspaper in providing objective and explanatory information.
Hateful and racist comments on social media should be banned in the same way they were banned in Germany a few weeks ago.
NGOs and civil organisation helping refugees and providing integration programmes could widen their activities to include educational workshops and meetings for Slovak people. There can also be lectures and discussions in schools to give students of all ages the opportunity to learn about the issue and understand.
Integration works both ways; in order for refugees to fully become part of a society, the society needs to be open and ready to accept them. Slovaks need to be educated and informed about various aspects of the refugee issue so as to recognise their fear for what it is – ignorance.
The government has to stop using people’s fear and confusion for the upcoming elections. Slovakia is part of the European Union and is bound by numerous international and European treaties. It needs to comply with their obligations. The proposed quotas has economic situation of Slovakia in consideration, as such, there is no reason to oppose it.
The government needs to also take responsibility on a national level. It must provide any support and help deemed necessary by NGOs in order to secure relocation, settling and integrating refugees into the Slovak society and way of life.