Bills toughening conditions for asylum status, residence permit pass first reading
Ljubljana - The National Assembly determined on Wednesday in a 51:13 vote that changes to the foreigners act tightening up conditions for residence for foreign nationals in Slovenia as well as amendments to the international protection act aiming to prevent asylum law abuses are fit for further debate. Both bills were met with mixed reactions.
The first bill also transposes an EU directive that regulates the situation of foreign students and researchers in Slovenia and introduces a concept of a complex crisis, which has drawn criticism from the opposition.
Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the MPs on Tuesday that the complex crisis concept was a way of enabling a special temporary regime on the border in the event of mass migration in line with the 2019 Constitutional Court decision.
In 2019, the court annulled part of the 2017 contentious amendments, specifically sections of clause 10b of the foreigners act, explaining that they violated Article 18 of the Constitution, which guarantees the principle of non-refoulement.
Based on the latest concept, the government would be able to declare a complex crisis and effectively suspend the implementation of the law under special circumstances such as those seen in 2015 and 2016.
The changes also set down return policy in case of foreigners who are residing in Slovenia illegally and the extension of the deadline for reuniting families up to two years.
Moreover, Slovenian language skills have been made the new requirement for asylum seekers - a foreigner who is entering the country for the first time should have a basic knowledge of the language, whereas the A2 level is a threshold set for a foreigner who has been residing in Slovenia for a number of years.
The complex crisis concept has drawn criticism from the opposition, who believes the regime would pave the way for returning refugees without giving them an option of seeking international protection.
The Left said the measure was contrary to the 2019 ruling and the constitution, whereas the Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) described it as even worse than the 2017 controversial changes. On the other hand, the National Party (SNS) believes that the concept heeds the Constitutional Court's ruling.
The coalition New Slovenia (NSi) thinks that integration efforts should be stepped up and the ruling Democrats (SDS) think it necessary to prevent any abuse of the system.
The Modern Centre Party (SMC) also believes that Slovenia has the right and duty to adopt measures that would enable smooth functioning of the country in the event of disproportionate pressure on the asylum system as long as there is no agreement on the EU migration pact.
Meanwhile, the second bill that has been deemed fit to continue its journey through parliament aims to streamline international protection procedures in case of those who actually need such protection and strives to prevent any abuse of asylum law, according to Hojs.
The proposal envisages sanctions for obstructing the implementation of such procedures and violations of or failure to comply with relevant rules.
Those with international protection would be encouraged to integrate and movement restrictions would be made more effective.
Certain parties, including the SDS and SNS, wanted the regulations to be made even stricter, however that would not be in line with EU law, said Hojs when presenting the bill in parliament.
The NSi considers the changes necessary due to an increasing number of asylum seekers. The party said that some 80% of asylum seekers had left Slovenia for other EU countries, describing the situation as a security and social risk in the EU.
The SMC also voted in favour of the bill to pass the first reading. However, at the next stage the party would like to hear the opinion of the parliamentary legal service.
The opposition DeSUS backed the bill, lauding the proposal for what the party sees as efforts to prevent any abuse. The rest of the opposition parties are critical of the bill though, saying it restricts access to international protection or even makes it impossible to get asylum status.