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Refuge and Asylum | Romania |

Romania Background Information Historical Trends Immigration/ Emigration Citizenship Refuge and Asylum Irregular Migration Current Issues Future Challenges References

Refuge and Asylum

István Horváth

/ 3 Minuten zu lesen

Throughout the Communist era, particularly in its final years, Romania was a major source of asylum-seekers. A considerable number of Romanians submitted asylum applications in Hungary, as well as in West European countries, the USA and Canada.

Romanian refugees and asylum seekers

They applied with rather high chances of recognition, as the basic policy assumption of the West in relation to asylum seekers coming from the Communist world was that there was no possibility to send them back. By the second half of the 1980s, the number of asylum applications submitted by Romanian citizens in Western countries had doubled or even tripled compared with the beginning of the decade.

Figure 1: Asylum applications by Romanian citizens in OECD countries, 1980-1989 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

In the early 1990s, Romania continued to be a major source of asylum-seekers in Europe. Romanians represented the second largest group (after citizens of the former Yugoslavia) applying for asylum in Europe in that time period with 402 000 applications submitted. A total of 350 000 of these applications were submitted between 1990 and 1994, three quarters of them in Germany. This large-scale flight was above all a reaction to the hardships and deprivations endured by the country's population during Communism. The liberalization of travel opened a window of opportunity for many to seek a better life elsewhere. For many, the institution of asylum seemed to offer the only legal means through which to acquire an initial legal status in another country. On the other hand, the transition from a Communist regime to a consolidated democracy has been rather problematic in Romania. In the first years of this process, the use of political violence by those in power, human rights violations, abuses of authority targeted at (ethnic, religious and gender) minorities and even mob violence directed against Roma were common.

In the case of certain minority groups, particularly the Roma, asylum migration was motivated by a sense of insecurity and increased vulnerability. For example, 17 cases of mob violence directed against local Roma communities were registered between 1990 and 1995, in which ten Roma people were killed and 295 houses belonging to Roma destroyed. The hesitance of the authorities to prosecute the perpetrators, or to take steps to prevent similar occurrences, lent passive support to the violence. In this context, a large number of refugees of Roma origin applied for asylum, most of them in Germany. In response to pressure from various international organizations (such as the European Council, OSCE, NATO) and the EU, Romania has improved its minority policies considerably over time, advancing anti-discrimination legislation and initiating large-scale integration programs. However, the Roma are still faced with prejudice and various forms of institutionalised discrimination. A considerable part of this population still lives in a marginal situation and is thus inclined to migrate.

Refuge and asylum in Romania

Figure 2: Asylum in Romania, applications submitted and approved, 1991-2006 (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

In 1991 Romania ratified the UN Convention (1951) and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1967). The asylum system in Romania underwent modifications in 1996 and 2000, before being harmonised with EU standards in 2006. The number of asylum applications has fluctuated from year to year, with 15 605 applications being received between 1991 and the end of 2006. The number of persons applying for asylum in Romania each year has decreased considerably, from 1 150 asylum requests registered in 2002 to 380 applications in 2006. This trend is in line with a Europe-wide decrease of the number of asylum applications and may be attributed to the relatively low rate of acceptance of claims in Romania, which may discourage applications.

The number of asylum applications might increase in the near future, due to EU regulations, which assign responsibility for asylum applications to the state where an applicant first entered EU territory. Given the fact that approximately two-thirds of Romania's borders are with non-EU countries (Moldova, Ukraine and the former Yugoslavia), it is likely that a large number of asylum-seekers will enter through its territory. The Romanian authorities are already prepared for such a change; the National Office for Refugees (the Romanian governmental unit in charge of the implementation of asylum policy) has established new transit and accommodation centres for asylum applicants. In 2006 six such centres were operating, offering shelter for 1 312 asylum applicants, and another two such centres were due to open.



  1. See Appelyard (2001).

  2. See UNHCR (2001).

  3. See Diminescu (2006).

  4. See MIRA (2007).

  5. See UNHCR (2007).

  6. See Field and Edwards (2006).

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