Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting access to asylum procedures to foreign nationals and stateless persons who express their desire for protection by the government in the form of refugee status, subsidiary protection status, and temporary protection. The law on asylum, based on EU legislation, prohibits the expulsion, extradition, or forced return of any asylum seeker at the country’s border or from within the country’s territory and excludes granting international protection to aliens and stateless persons who planned, facilitated, or participated in terrorist activities as defined by international instruments to which the country is a party.
Authorities accommodated asylum seekers in open reception centers. The government operated a 100-bed reception center in Giurgiu, a 320-bed center in Bucharest, a 250-bed center in Galati, a 100-bed center in Somcuta Mare, and a 100-bed center in Radauti. The UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, and the government operated a 250-bed emergency transit center in Timisoara.
The aliens’ law regulates the regime of aliens and stateless persons in the country except for those applying for asylum and those benefitting from a form of protection. Authorities take aliens who no longer have a right to stay in the country into public custody (administrative detention) pending removal from its territory. The government operated a 100-bed detention center in Otopeni and a 50-bed center in Arad.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The law provides for the concept of safe countries of origin, and asylum seekers coming from such countries have their asylum applications processed in an accelerated procedure. The government considered EU member states safe countries of origin, as are other countries that meet criteria concerning the number of asylum applicants granted protection; observance of human rights; observance of democratic principles, political pluralism, and free elections; the existence of operational democratic institutions to monitor human rights; and the existence of factors of stability. The law also permits officials to take other evaluation criteria into consideration. They reject as unfounded the asylum applications of individuals coming from safe countries of origin under accelerated procedures except where the factual situation or evidence presented by the applicant shows the existence of a well-founded fear of persecution. The law does not provide exceptions for serious risks of harm that warrant the granting of subsidiary protection. According to the UNHCR, there were no known reports of rejection of asylum applications based on the application of this concept of safe country of origin per se.
The law also includes the concept of a safe country of transit, which applies to aliens who transited a safe country before arriving in Romania and had the opportunity to contact authorities of that country and apply for protection, or who received an offer of protection from the authorities of that country. In such cases Romanian authorities may deny access to the asylum seeker if the safe country of transit agrees to readmit the applicant and grant him or her access to asylum procedures. While the country of transit must meet certain conditions, including respect for the principle of nonrefoulement and the prohibition against torture, inhuman, or degrading treatment, the law lacks explicit reference to protection against serious risks to life or bodily integrity.
Refoulement: The government generally provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries of origin where their lives or freedom would be under threat based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Similarly, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection generally received protection from expulsion or return to their country of origin or habitual residence if they faced certain serious risks defined by the asylum law. An antiterrorism law establishes exceptions to the principle of nonrefoulement following a declaration of a person as “undesirable,” for example, when classified information or other “well-founded indications” show that aliens support terrorism or intend to commit terrorist acts. Authorities took asylum seekers they found to be “undesirable” for reasons of national security into public custody until the completion of their asylum process and then deported them.
Employment: Asylum seekers have the right to work for one year after they have submitted their first asylum application. This period begins again if the alien obtains access to a new asylum procedure. Even when granted the right to work, many asylum seekers had problems finding legal work, mainly due to the limited validity of their identification documents and lack of awareness among potential employers of their right to work.
Refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection may seek employment. However, a scarcity of jobs, lack of language proficiency, absence of educational credentials, and lack difficulty in obtaining recognition of foreign academic credentials often resulted in unemployment or job seekers resorting to under-the-table employment without the protections of a legal contract.
Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers were accommodated in six open reception centers throughout the country, but were free to reside outside these centers should they have the necessary means to do so pending a final adjudication of their asylum claim. During the year the occupancy rate at these reception centers was lower than in previous years, because most Syrian asylum seekers chose to stay with relatives and friends rather than in the reception centers.
Reception conditions improved in certain respects over previous years, mainly due to the decrease in the number of asylum seekers living at the reception centers. The UNHCR remained concerned that the financial and material assistance provided to asylum seekers was insufficient to meet basic needs, particularly for asylum seekers with special needs or vulnerabilities. Limitations imposed on asylum seekers’ right to work made the situation worse. The government did not provide asylum seekers with sufficient options for meaningful activities, such as language classes, cultural orientation, skills training, or social, psychological, and medical assistance, especially for victims of trauma and torture.
According to the law, persons granted refugee or subsidiary protection status enjoy the same rights as citizens, apart from the right to vote. This includes access to all levels of education, housing, lifelong learning, employment, public health care, and social security. Nevertheless, effective access to, and exercise of, these rights varied throughout the country.
Durable Solutions: Refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection continued to face challenges accessing housing, employment, education, vocational training adapted to their specific needs, counseling programs, and information on citizenship interviews. Persons granted refugee status may apply for citizenship after five years of continuous legal residence in the country. These favorable conditions do not apply to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, who are required to have eight years of continuous legal residence in the country prior to applying for naturalization.