Nice but also aggressive. Immigration experience in Slovakia often depends on the officers handling it

Ombudswoman looks at the Foreigners' Police. She sees room for improvement in personal capacities, general information in foreign languages, language skills of officers and use of the electronic system.

In front of the Foreigners' Police in BratislavaIn front of the Foreigners' Police in Bratislava (Source: SITA)

Visiting a branch of the Foreigners’ Police in Slovakia turned out to be an unpleasant experience for many new arrivals to Slovakia, and even foreigners living in Slovakia who just have a minor agenda to settle.

The Foreigners' Police, which is the immigration authority in Slovakia, has put in place many improvements over the past few years, following some harsh criticism of clients and human rights watchdogs. In 2020, clients can take advantage of their electronic ordering system, which improved the notoriously criticised queues. Nowadays, much like before, the experience of clients often depends on their specific case, the department and the individual police officer they are dealing with.

That stems from the 42-page-long report conducted by the Public Defender of Rights’ office published in early July. The ombudswoman's staff conducted their own research. In October and November 2019, they paid visits to Foreigners’ Police departments in Bratislava, Trnava, Dunajská Streda, Nové Zámky, Nitra, Trenčín, Žilina, Banská Bystrica, Rimavská Sobota, Prešov, Košice and Michalovce.

Office of the Public Defender of Rights focused on interviews with foreigners as well as employees of the branches without notifying them in advance. They also ask foreigners about their experience in an online questionnaire, which returned over 500 answers.

Not enough police officials

“The Foreigners’ Police faces insufficient personal capacities,” Martina Tymková, a guarantor of the research from Public Defender of Rights’ office, told The Slovak Spectator. She said that other problems arise from this issue.

The report said that the only fully personally occupied branch of the Foreigners’ Police is the one in Prešov. The others do not have enough workers, the most significant lack of employees was in Dunajská Streda.

Most vacant positions are in those branches of the Foreigners’ Police that face the biggest strain of clients in the long term, due to the presence of foreign companies and significant foreign investors in the territory they cover, the report reads. The shortage of human resources is then mirrored in the length of the proceeding in each individual case.

“Currently, there is also no vast interest in working at the branches of the Foreigners’ Police,” Tymková noted.

All the staff at the departments are police officers, which means that police officers also fulfil such tasks as sorting out mail and issuing IDs.

The client centres running under the Interior Ministry that issue IDs and other official documents to Slovak citizens, in contrast, employ civil servants who are not police officers.

Some are nice, others aggressive

Foreigners have various experiences at the branches of the Foreigners’ Police – ranging from positive to very negative. Several foreigners evaluated the approach of a police corps member as arrogant, impudent, unwilling to help, aloof, the report noted.

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