Ombudswoman welcomes changes at immigration offices

The public defender of rights will continue discussions about the Foreigners Police with the new Police Corps president.

Some problems with the Foreigners’ Police continue. Some problems with the Foreigners’ Police continue. (Source: Sme)

Ombudswoman Mária Patakyová welcomes the fact that the new staff at immigration offices are civil servants rather than police officers.

The Office of the Border and Foreigners' Police, which also oversees immigration offices going by the name Foreigners' Police departments in Slovakia, has created 40 job positions for civil servants at the departments as of July 1. The Foreigners' Police have been understaffed, which they say is one of the reasons for long queues that give rise to many additional problems, particularly at the Bratislava department.

>>> Read all about the Foreigners' Police here

Language still an issue

When the ombudswoman first published her report in early July, one point that sparked controversy between her and the management of the Foreigners' Police was the lack of English language skills amongst the police officers in the departments. The management of the immigration offices reacted by saying that foreigners "should not expect servility".

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The ombudswoman subsequently sent her own reaction to the Foreigners' Police, as well as to the Police Presidium, saying that language skills should be standard and by no means perceived as servility. The Police Presidium, under the previous president, Milan Lučanský, upheld the opinion of the Foreigners Police, yet pledged to continue language training for the staff of immigration offices.

New information system expected

One of the less frequently mentioned problems that the ombudswoman highlighted in her recent report was that currently, departments can forward requests of clients between each other, which means clients sometimes need to travel more than a hundred kilometres if they want to look at their file.

The ombudswoman insists that to effectively observe the rights of clients, they should be allowed to see their file at the original department where they filed their request.

"I believe this will be possible thanks to the new information system that is to be procured and through which foreigners will get access to information about the state of their proceedings and which will allow broader communication with the foreigners' police," the ombudswoman stated on September 10.

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The acting head of the Office of Border and Foreigners' Police, Róbert Gucký, said in a recent interview with The Slovak Spectator that he expects the new system to be up and running within the term of the current government.

"If I wasn’t sure that the new information system for foreigners, complete with a new online booking system, would become reality, I would not be sitting here," he said. He then went on to claim that the current management of the Interior Ministry is supportive of the plan.

Patakyová will continue the discussion about the Foreigners Police departments with the new police corps president. Currently, the acting Police Corps President is Peter Kovařík.

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