Slovakia is becoming a final destination for foreigners. In the past 10 years the number of foreign citizens living in the country increased from 32,000 in 2006 to some 85,000 with registered stay in 2015. This represents about 1.56 percent of the total population.
Of this number, about 12,000 foreigners from 100 countries found help at the Migration Information Centre (MIC) opened by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Bratislava in 2006.
The centre helps foreigners to overcome the initial problems they face when coming to the country.
“If any of us decided to live in a new country, spoke the language and could communicate with offices and locals, was informed about the new society and had a possibility to continue in education, the start of a new life would be easier; he/she could become part of the society and get a job,” said Zuzana Vatráľová, head of the IOM office in Bratislava, as quoted in a press release.
The main objective of the centre is to help foreigners achieve this status, she added.
The MIC focuses mostly on nationals from countries outside the European Union who legally stay in Slovakia. Among their clients are mostly citizens of Ukraine, Russia, the USA, India and Serbia, said Vatráľová.
“These are mostly people in productive age with secondary or university education,” Vatráľová told the press in early May.
Among the most frequent services is legal consulting. The MIC has offered more than 23,000 consultations during the 10 years of its operation. Foreigners ask mostly questions about residency permits, the uniting of families, employment and education, as well as health care. They also want to know how to get various documents and permits or how to communicate with officials, employers and locals.
“Our clients appreciate about the centre that they receive the information necessary for life in Slovakia in one place,” Vatráľová said.
Courses not only for migrants
Except for consulting, the centre also organises various courses. It prepares foreigners for job interview or teaches them Slovak language for free. The latter courses, opened in 2008, have been attended by more than 3,000 foreigners in the past 10 years.
Some courses also provide foreigners with basic social and cultural information about the life in Slovakia. This type of course has been attended by 575 foreigners so far.
Another form of help is requalification courses. The MIC employees try to assess whether such courses are needed if foreigners want to get a job. They are organised throughout Slovakia.
In addition, MIC has also organised several courses for state administration employees who are in direct contact with foreigners, including police officers, to teach them how to behave with foreigners. They also organised multicultural courses to teach them the basic information about foreign cultures and the differences between them and Slovaks, Vatráľová said.
The courses also focused on regions where the employees of several offices met at one course. They appreciated the courses as when they trained for specific situations, they were able to solve specific problems and learn from the mistakes for the future, she continued.
MIC is also active in working with communities of foreigners, though on a rather informal basis. It started cooperation with several so-called cultural mediators who create a kind of bridge between the organisation and the members of the community and ease the communication, Vatráľová explained.
The representatives of communities have organised a total of 153 multicultural and informative events attended by more than 13,000 people in cooperation with IOM. During the happenings, they introduced their culture to the public.
Many foreigners in Slovakia have a good life. They have their own businesses, including restaurants or cosmetic salons. Some of them work also as doctors or foreign languages lecturers.
Where: Grösslingova 35, Bratislava
Open: Mon, Tue, Thu 9:00-17:00, Wed 13:00-17:00, Fri by appointment only
Phone number: +421 (0)850 211-478