Asylum and migration is left to the technical level in the relevant Ministries, says EUROPEAN COMISSION

Asylum and migration is left to the technical level in the relevant Ministries, says EUROPEAN COMISSION

In the latest recommendation of the European Commission to North Macedonia, the migration issue is stile high on their agenda, and is discussed in several chapters of the report.

The several remarks are stated:

“Considerable efforts to ensure basic living conditions and services for all migrants staying in the country continued. The registration of migrants and adequate protection-sensitive profiling improved but needs to be carried out in a more systematic manner.

Legal and irregular migration Institutional set-up and legal alignment

The Resolution on Migration Policy adopted by the government in 2015 is the main policy document in this field. Although the new strategy for integration of refugees and foreigners was prepared three years ago, it is still pending adoption as there is no political will to move it forward.

Implementation and enforcement capacity

The country continues to plays an active role in the management of mixed migration flows. It remains on one of the main transit routes for irregular mixed movement. The contingency plan to manage large migratory flows still needs to be finalized and agreed upon. With the support of guest officers from EU Member States, effective control at the southern border has been ensured.

The country has still not set up a fully-fledged protection sensitive migration management system. Registration of all individuals apprehended in irregular movement for migration management purposes still needs to be carried out in a more systematic manner. Registration should be followed by systematic protection-sensitive profiling and referring anyone identified as being in need of international protection to national protection mechanisms. In the absence of a proper system for managing irregular movements, the practice of returning migrants outside of a legal and/or procedural framework reportedly continued. There is a systematic substantial discrepancy between the figures of reported illegal crossings and presence in the transit centers, which are often almost empty.

Both reception and transit centers on the southern and norther borders provide short-term accommodation for a total of 971 persons. Neither of the transit centers is suitable for long-term stays, and the authorities continue to be reluctant to allow for more than a temporary stay.

Asylum

Institutional set-up and legal alignment

The Law on international and temporary protection, adopted in April 2018 is largely aligned with the EU acquis. By-laws deriving from the law on international and temporary protection were adopted. A gap remains in the area of detention for people in irregular movements, as the current legislation does not provide alternatives to detention. The law provides the right for family reunification. Recognized refugees can benefit from it immediately but concerns remain on delayed family reunification for people under subsidiary protection, for 2 years following status recognition. Since subsidiary protection is becoming a prevalent form of protection granted in the country, including for unaccompanied children, such delays may significantly affect the right to family unity and, in the case of children, contravene the principle of the best interest of the child.

A new Law on foreigners entered into force in May 2019. Among other benefits it grants long-term residence to people who have enjoyed international protection, thus facilitating their local integration. However, they must still present proof of regular income and a registered place of residence to benefit from this provision. Given the extreme vulnerability of some applicants, there is a risk that this new provision remains only theoretical. Such requirements are especially difficult for Kosovo Roma who are still under subsidiary protection. Their status is reviewed every year and prevents them from acquiring long term employment.

Implementation and enforcement capacity

The asylum procedure still needs to be implemented fully in line with the EU acquis. Regular reception capacity remained unchanged and is adapted to current needs. The arbitrary detention of people apprehended in irregular movements in the reception center for foreigners in the Gazi Baba municipality to ensure their testimony as witnesses in court cases against smugglers continued. As of the end of November 2019, a total of 214 asylum seekers (48% of all asylum applications) were detained in the centre for foreigners in Gazi Baba before being released and admitted to the reception center for asylum seekers in Vizbegovo (close to Skopje). The safe house, previously operated by the Jesuit refugee service under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, is no longer available.

Consequently, the practice of generally not detaining women and children for migration related purposes changed and, as of the end of November 2019, a total of three women and 32 children, including 29 unaccompanied children, were detained in Gazi Baba, although for a short period of time. An alternative housing solution needs to be found for the most vulnerable. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Government decided that all new asylum seekers are to be quarantined for an initial period of 25 days in the transit center Vinojug, at the Southern border.

No individuals undergoing an asylum procedure were granted state-funded free legal aid. A positive development is the enrolment of asylum seeking children in the local schools, as of September 2019. This is in line with the new Law on primary education, which specifically provides for inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers in the national education system and sets up measures to facilitate such integration. Further improvements of the asylum system are still needed. Following a period when it was relatively high on the government’s agenda, developments are left mainly to the technical level in the relevant Ministries. “

Asylum and migration is high in the agenda for EU country, so, North Macedonia has to deal with this issue with serious manner if we intend to start the negotiation process.

The full report you can download here.