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Slovakia: Detention Increases as Country Continues Migrant and Asylum Crackdown

Migrants board a van after being detained by Slovakian police close to the Slovakia-Hungary border in the village of Chl’aba, Slovakia, September 15, 2023. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/ File Photo

Slovakia has been among the more outspoken opponents of the EU Migration Pact, adopted in April 2024, with the country’s new populist Prime Minister Robert Fico stating that Brussels “cannot order a country that it must accept, in the Slovak case, up to 300 migrants you know nothing about, or pay 20,000 euros for each migrant. That is not solidarity, that is a dictate.”

The country’s rejection of the pact marks a continuation of the country’s hardline stance on migration, which reached a fevered pitch in mid-2023 during the election campaign as Fico’s SMER-SSD party promoted an anti-migrant platform. “The government lets in every illegal migrant. We know nothing about them, they have no documents, they make up names, dates of birth, but the government allows them to stay here,” Fico said at a news conference shortly before the election.

A key focus of attention is Slovakia’s 655-km border with Hungary, which the previous government argued was impossible to fully close. However, as the campaign heated up late last year, so did the numbers of detentions along the border as well as elsewhere in the country.

According to a 20 September 2023 reports from Reuters: “The number of illegal migrants detained in Slovakia … increased ninefold from a year ago to more than 27,000. … Police discouraged Reuters from trying to speak with a group of migrants they had just rounded up, but the increased popularity of this route into western Europe appears linked to the Slovak law that allows Syrians and Afghans – deemed to be refugees fleeing war – to register. This, experts say, gives them a measure of assurance that they cannot be deported from the EU and then they typically leave their detention centres and continue westwards, via Slovakia and the Czech Republic to Germany.”

Official detention statistics, however, do not account for the thousands of people who may be detained in border procedures. According to police statistics, detention numbers count only those confined in one of Slovakia’s two detention centres, ÚPZC Sečovce and ÚPZC Medveďov. As a result of this restrictive accounting, Slovakia reported only 810 detentions in 2023, far below the numbers reportedly detained along the border with Hungary last year (“more than 27,000” as of September 2023). In 2022, Slovakia reported 1,662 migration orders, and in only 269 in 2017.

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