Being a refugee: How refugees and asylum-seekers experience life in Central Europe
Participatory Assessment 2010 Report
This report of the UNHCR Regional Representation for Central Europe’s annual Participatory Assessment gives a summary of the situation for asylum-seekers, refugees and people with subsidiary protection in the region, as they reported it to UNHCR and other members of the research teams in 2010.
Participatory Assessments are part of UNHCR’s commitment to Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming (AGDM) and aim to include the voices and experiences of women, men, boys and girls of different ages and ethnic backgrounds into its planning and advocacy efforts. The process is about identifying needs, gaps and sharing good practices.
Multi-functional teams comprising representatives from governments, non-government organisations (NGOs) and UNHCR visited dozens of locations across seven countries in Central Europe. They carried out focus group discussions, individual interviews, and observed the situation and condition for asylum-seekers and refugees in various locations. In some countries, questionnaires were also completed by refugees.
Each team developed a national report including a list of recommendations on key areas to be addressed.
Since the process began in Central Europe in 2005, many problems reported by refugees and asylum-seekers have been addressed through concerted efforts of governments and NGOs who have acted on the recommendations of previous years’ reports.
Each country chapter includes a summary of key improvements made – testament to the commitment of governments to improve the way they fulfil their obligations to provide international protection to people fleeing violence and persecution, and to the efficacy of the participatory assessment process we have built up over the years.
In 2010, we saw better information for asylum-seekers and refugees on the asylum procedures and how to access medical and other services in some countries. The internet is now available in more reception centres, and there are more activities and playgrounds for children. We also saw some governments and NGOs proactively taking steps to build understanding among local host communities about the new people in their midst by organising cultural events or providing information on the opening of new reception centres. People with subsidiary protection in some countries can now access integration programmes or accommodation centres previously reserved for refugees.
Still, as the voices of refugees and asylum-seekers in this report show serious concerns remain. Access to housing and jobs remain key concerns in all countries in the region, and, in some places, refugees and people with subsidiary protection face serious risks of homelessness – even for those who have been living in Central Europe for several years. Across the board, there needs to be more systematic and coordinated programmes to support integration, involving different facets and coalitions of government, civil society including religious groups, businesses, and community organizations.
More and more asylum-seekers are being detained, whether through tougher policies at national levels or through the inadequacy of open accommodation facilities through which asylum-seekers are sent to detention facilities. At the same time, asylum-seekers and refugees struggle to make themselves understood in all aspects of their lives with the limited interpretation services available.
People granted subsidiary protection still face longer periods of uncertainty on shorter visas and can access fewer services, even when from countries with protracted conflict. Meanwhile, statistics show a growing trend to grant subsidiary protection over refugee status in the region – making the imperative to improve conditions for this growing number of people in the region even more urgent.
Regional Representation for Central Europe
Budapest, November 2011