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UNHCR doubts Slovakia's asylum system

THE OFFICE of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bratislava doubts whether Slovakia's asylum policy is prepared for European Union entry, the SITA news wire wrote.

The spokesman for the UNHCR Office in Slovakia, Zolo Mikeš, says the office is mainly concerned about the growing number of asylum-seekers that preceded Slovakia's European Union entry. However, the number of asylum cases granted has not increased.

In the first three months of this year, Slovak authorities did not grant asylum to a single applicant - a fact that the UNHCR considers an indication that the country is unable to respond to the EU demands of central European countries, whose borders are now the EU frontier.

As of May 1, when the Dublin agreement took effect, people who request asylum in Slovakia and then move on to Austria are to be sent back to Slovak territory.

Over the first three months of the current year, 2,531 immigrants applied for asylum in Slovakia, which is more than double the number from the same period of 2003 - when 1,249 applied.

The fact that no one was granted asylum might cast doubt on the functioning of the asylum system, said the head of the UNHCR Office in Slovakia, Pierfrancesco Maria Natta.

Of all European countries, he said, the Slovak Republic grants asylum to the fewest people.

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