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.
Authorities detained asylum seekers arriving without identity documents. Detainees could file asylum claims within two months of detention, and they remained in detention while their cases were processed.
Authorities reported that undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers spent an average of two months in detention. As of September, two persons were in closed centers.
Usually within less than two weeks after their 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.
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. The country normally granted humanitarian protection to those with rejected applications and appeals.
Authorities released all detainees whose cases were not resolved within 18 months, regardless of whether the police had initiated procedures 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. They were eligible for voluntary repatriation programs, but only a few chose to participate. As of September, 687 migrants lived in three open centers.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country denied asylum to applicants who arrived from an EU country.
Refugee Abuse: On February 6, 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 there were 12 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 transportation to their country of origin, plus financial assistance. The recent phase of the program (Restart V), begun in July 2014 and ended in June 2015, assisted 33 returnees.
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 September, the country granted subsidiary protection to 807 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.