Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Through late September 586 migrants arrived by sea in comparison with 2,008 arrivals between January and December 2013. Another 563 migrants arrived by commercial ferry or air.
The lengthy adjudication procedure for asylum seekers was largely due to the authorities’ need to establish the migrant’s identity, country of origin, and other vital information, since migrants typically arrived without identity documents. Authorities detained such migrants. Detainees could file asylum claims within two months of detention, and they remained in detention while their cases were processed.
Although migrants spent an average of two months in detention, some irregular migrants remained in closed detention centers for up to 18 months after their arrival when authorities rejected both their application for asylum and appeal. Since 2011 the country has normally granted humanitarian protection in such cases. As of September, 246 persons were in closed centers.
Detainees also included persons who had not applied for asylum or those whose asylum applications and appeals were rejected or under review. The government provided asylum applicants with free legal aid at the appeal stage of the application process. Prior to the appeal stage, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or the migrants themselves, paid for legal assistance.
Individuals awaiting decisions on their cases occasionally protested their detention or attempted to escape from detention centers. Within a matter of days (usually less than two weeks) after their initial detention, authorities moved “vulnerable individuals,” such as children, pregnant women, elderly persons, and parents with infants, to “open centers,” where they were free to come and go. Migrant children were eligible for all government social services and were assigned a caseworker.
Authorities released all detainees whose cases were not resolved within 18 months, regardless of whether the police had arranged to repatriate them. Authorities permitted such individuals to remain in the country in “open centers” or in the community at large and issued them work permits. EU law prohibited them from traveling to other EU countries or bringing family members to the EU. They were eligible for voluntary repatriation programs, but only a few chose to participate. There were no significant changes to this general pattern. As of September there were 889 migrants living in three open centers.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: As a member of the Schengen Zone, the country was subject to the Dublin III Regulation. The country denied asylum to applicants who arrived from an EU country.
Refugee Abuse: In some open and closed centers, high temperatures in the summer months and inadequate ventilation in prefabricated housing units contributed to uncomfortable living conditions. Delays in status determination and poor living conditions have led to riots among detained migrants.
An October 2013 UNHCR position paper on the country’s detention system for irregular migrants seeking asylum described the main problems as the lack of an effective judicial review process and substandard conditions. The paper concluded that the country was not in line with international and European law standards.
On February 6, the media reported that the police charged three detention service officials with the involuntary murder of a Nigerian migrant in 2011. The case continued at year’s end
Durable Solutions: The government rarely repatriated asylum applicants, although the option of voluntary return to their country of origin was available. As of August 19, there were 58 assisted voluntary returns.
The government, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, operated a program funded in part by the EU called Restart through which irregular migrants who agreed to leave the country voluntarily could receive free rail or airfare to their country of origin, plus financial assistance. From January to September 16, Restart provided benefits to 55 returnees and three children, who returned to their countries of origin with their parents.
Temporary Protection: The country provides “subsidiary protection” to individuals who do not satisfy the legal criteria for refugee status but cannot return to their country of origin due to risk of serious harm. From January to August, the country granted subsidiary protection to 653 persons. In accordance with EU guidelines, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection were entitled to remain in the country, move freely, receive personal identification documents including one-year renewable residence permits, and obtain travel documents in emergencies. They could be employed; receive core social welfare benefits; seek appropriate accommodations; and benefit from integration programs, public education and training, and essential medical care. Their dependents enjoyed the same rights and benefits. This status did not provide for family reunification, a path to citizenship, or other benefits of refugee status. Between 2008 and July 2014, most of the 9,785 persons granted subsidiary protection status or other humanitarian protected status originated from Somalia.