Refoulement: The law establishes exceptions to the principle of nonrefoulement and the withdrawal of the right to stay following a declaration of a person as “undesirable.” This may occur, for example, when classified information or “well founded indications” suggest that aliens (including stateless persons), applicants for international protection, or beneficiaries of international protection intend to commit terrorist acts or favor terrorism. Applicants for protection declared “undesirable” on national security grounds were taken into custody pending the finalization of their asylum procedure and then deported. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of the end of November, 465 persons had been subjected to refoulement.
Access to Asylum: The law provides access to asylum procedures to foreign nationals and stateless persons who express their desire for protection, which may be in the form of refugee status or temporary “subsidiary protection” status in the EU. The asylum law prohibits the expulsion, extradition, or forced return of any asylum seeker at the country’s border or from within the country’s territory, but this was not without exception, particularly in cases that fell under the country’s terrorism laws.
There were several allegations of denial of access to the country or deviations from asylum procedures at the border areas and transit zones. Several applicants for international protection, including Syrian nationals who arrived via the Black Sea in 2015, were convicted of “illegal entry” and of smuggling family members into the country while their applications for protection continued to be rejected during the year. A court granted one Syrian national from the group access to a new asylum procedure, but his case was rejected once again at the administrative and judicial levels.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The law provides for the concept of safe countries of origin. This normally refers to EU member states but also includes a list of countries approved by the Internal Affairs Ministry at the recommendation of the General Inspectorate for Immigration. Procedurally, the government would normally reject applications for asylum by persons who had arrived from a safe country under accelerated procedures, except in cases 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 the serious risk of harm that would warrant the grant of subsidiary protection. Between January and July, three asylum applications by EU nationals were rejected at the administrative level of the asylum procedure; no information regarding the legal basis for the rejections was available.
The law also refers to the concept of a safe third country. The law extends to irregular migrants who transited and were offered protection in a third country considered safe or who had the opportunity at the border or on the soil of a safe third country to contact authorities for the purpose of obtaining protection. In such cases authorities may deny access to asylum procedures if the designated safe third country agrees to readmit the applicant to its territory and grant access to asylum procedures.
Freedom of Movement: The law incorporates four “restrictive” measures under which the internal movement of applicants for international protection may be limited. The first two establish an obligation to report regularly to the General Inspectorate for Immigration or to reside at a regional reception center (similar to placement under judicial control under the criminal code). A third restrictive measure allows authorities to place applicants in “specially arranged closed areas” for a maximum of 60 days, either to conduct the asylum procedure (especially if there is a risk of applicants’ absconding) or if the asylum seeker is deemed to pose a danger to national security. There was no case of placement in a specially arranged closed area through September of the year. Authorities may also place applicants for international protection in administrative detention in a public custody center if they are subject to a transfer decision to another EU member state under the Dublin Regulations or if they have been declared “undesirable” for reasons of national security, pending their removal from the country.
Under provisions of the law to limit “abuse to the asylum procedure,” irregular migrants who submit their first application for international protection while in public custody are released only if granted access to the ordinary procedure. The provisions raised concerns among UN agencies and civil society due to the ambiguity in the phrases “abuse of the asylum procedure” and “risk of absconding.”
The period of detention in a public custody center can be prolonged up to a maximum of 18 months.
Employment: Asylum seekers have the right to work starting three months after they submit their first asylum application, if the process has not been completed. This period begins again if the applicant obtains access to a new asylum procedure. Even when granted permission to work, many asylum seekers faced 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.
While persons granted protection have the legal right to work, job scarcity, low wages, lack of language proficiency, and lack of recognized academic degrees and other certifications often resulted in unemployment or employment without a legal contract and its related benefits and protections.
Access to Basic Services: Effective access by persons with refugee status or subsidiary protection to education, housing, lifelong learning and employment, public health care, and social security varied across the country, depending on the level of awareness of various public and private actors responsible for ensuring access to these services.
The government provides asylum seekers 16 lei ($4.10) per day in financial assistance, with slightly increased allowances for vulnerable persons. The allowance was low by the country’s living standards, and persons with special needs or vulnerabilities were particularly affected. Although supplementary financial support was provided under EU-sponsored projects, annual gaps between these projects regularly led to limits in funding availability. Applicants for international protection had limited options for meaningful activities, such as language classes, cultural orientation, and skills training. Romanian language classes were no longer available for adults. State-provided social, psychological, and medical assistance for applicants for international protection remained insufficient, with many dependent on NGO-implemented projects for such help. Proper identification and assistance for victims of trauma and torture was lacking.
Durable Solutions: In 2015 the country accepted a quota of 6,205 applicants for international protection for relocation from other EU member states, notably Greece and Italy. Relocations commenced in March 2016 and continued throughout the first half of 2017. Applicants arriving under the relocation program were channeled into the ordinary asylum procedure. As of September authorities had granted international protection to all relocated asylum seekers. An additional 11 Syrian refugees from Turkey were resettled to Romania in June under commitments made by the government. Relocated asylum seekers have the same rights as other asylum seekers in the country. Relocated refugees, resettled refugees, and newly arrived refugees were given priority for integration support.
Beneficiaries of international protection continued to face problems with local integration, including access to vocational training adapted to their specific needs, counseling programs, and citizenship information. Obtaining a legal work contract remained difficult for various reasons, including tax concerns. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection complained of problems regarding their freedom of movement to other countries due to the additional visa requirements.
Temporary Protection: The government did not grant temporary protection to any individuals during the year.