The Slovenia Times

Refugees in need of psychosocial aid, jobs


Unaccompanied minors are leaving the country in droves and are in danger of falling victim to human trafficking. Once granted asylum, refugees have trouble finding a job.

There are currently 241 asylum seekers in Slovenia, most of them from Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Of some 400 refugees who have already been granted asylum, most are Syrian nationals.

Asylum seekers are accommodated in the Ljubljana asylum centre or one of its branches, while some live at private addresses. Once the procedure is over, which takes on average 140 days, those granted the status move to an integration home for up to 15 months.

The integration houses in Ljubljana and Maribor have currently a total of 49 residents between them. The other 337 refugees with a status reside at private addresses and are therefore eligible for a financial allowance for three years.

Apart from accommodation and basic services, migrants in the asylum centre are also provided with free legal aid, the ability to follow the procedure in the language they understand, immediate healthcare and 18 euro in pocket money a month. They also get the right to education, with 55 currently involved.

Katarina Štrukelj, the head of the sector for reception and accommodation at the Government Migration and Integration Office, said the asylum centre residents are first enrolled in Slovenian language classes and later involved in various chores at the centre, so they can become independent as soon as possible.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to get an employment, unless their application has been pending for more than nine months. In such a case they get the right to work. In this way 14 asylum seekers work at the Revoz car assembly plant in Novo mesto, said Jurij Zaletel, who heads the integration sector.

Asylum seekers are eligible for immediate medical and dental care and women get gynaecological care. There is a surgery at the asylum centre with a nurse on hand daily.

However, NGOs say that basic immediate care is not enough, considering the specific issues faced by migrants. Slovenian Philanthropy warns that asylum seekers have limited access to psychiatric and psychotherapeutic treatment, even though many of them are traumatised.

Residents at the asylum centre now have access to psychosocial assistance once a week, but Štrukelj said that an effort would be made to expand the network of therapists to make them available to asylum seekers, in particular unaccompanied minors and families, on a daily basis.

Štrukelj also pointed to the role of cultural mediators. Apart from functioning as social workers, these also function as a bridge between the two cultures because they speak the migrants' language. "The more we understand each other, the lesser the problems," she said.

The most vulnerable group are unaccompanied minors. Data from the Interior Ministry shows that 244 such underage refugees asked for asylum in Slovenia last year and 138 this year, but the latest data shows that only 26 remain in Slovenia.

With most of the minors leaving the country, NGOs warn that these children and youths are an easy prey to smugglers and that it is not uncommon that while on their journey to other European countries, they are forced into prostitution and begging.

Although there are preventive mechanisms available, the government migration office said that more would have to be done to raise awareness and inform these children about the risks they face on the road.

"We need to tell them even more clearly that it's good for them to stay in Slovenia, that we'll take a good care of them and that they have opportunities in Slovenia," Štrukelj said, adding that the office thought the best solution for minors was to find them foster carers.

Meanwhile, the refugees with the status have a difficulty finding a job, the biggest problem being the language. Another major issue is their accommodation, due to the opposition from the locals.

The Migration and Integration Office believes the best solution is dispersed integration. Acting director Mojca Špec Potočar said that by being put in a local community, the refugees found it easer to integrate, learn the language and find a job.

To improve the refugees' chances on the job market, Špec Potočar mentioned on-the job training as one programme, with further to follow. But the office cannot say how many of the refugees that have been granted asylum have managed to find a job.

Even though refugees have in principle the same rights as Slovenian nationals, NGOs say that Slovenia lacks an integration strategy adapted to the new refugee situation, noting that one-off financial aid that came with the status has been abolished.

Refugees are also eligible for mandatory health insurance and education with currently 91 people with the status of refugee involved in education processes.

They are also involved in a three-month integration programme in which they learn about the life in Slovenia and get basic Slovenian language skills. Later they also get integration assistance in looking for private accommodation, learning Slovenian as well assistance from an integration adviser.

Many of the refugees who have already been granted asylum are involved in work with the asylum seekers, working in the asylum centre as translators, cultural mediators and volunteers.

Slovenia has so far admitted 199 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy under the EU relocation scheme, most of them Syrians. The country has thus met 35% of the commitment to take in 567 and Špec Potočar saif they would do everything in their power to fully meet the commitment.

Since 9 March 2016, when the last organised groups of migrants arrived in Slovenia before the borders were closed to mass migration, Slovenian police have registered 1,718 illegal migrants entering the country.


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