Amid a rise in the number of irregular arrivals intercepted at the country’s border, the Slovenian government has introduced increased border controls along its Croatian and Hungarian borders and announced plans to establish a migrant “handling facility” at the Obrežje border crossing.
According to Slovenian police, 60,587 people were intercepted while attempting to enter Slovenia in 2023–almost double the number to be intercepted in 2022 (32,024). 96 percent of these arrivals entered from Croatia, which became a Schengen member on 1 January 2023. Previously, Slovenia had maintained a razor wire fence along some of its border with Croatia–but this was removed when Croatia gained Schengen membership.
The increased arrivals in 2023 prompted the Slovenian government to temporarily establish additional police controls along its borders with Croatia and Hungary (under Article 28 of the Schengen Borders Code) in October. These controls were later extended to remain in place until June. In a statement posted to its website, the government claimed that controls are necessary due to the “deterioration of the security situation in the Middle East. … ongoing Russian military aggression in Ukraine, recent developments in the security situation in Afghanistan as well as violent conflicts in several African countries.”
On 18 January the government also announced that it would be establishing temporary facilities for “handling migrants” at the Obrežje border crossing (which lies on a key road linking Zagreb and Ljubljana). Reportedly, this will include a fence, three accommodation “containers,” three tents, and two sanitary facilities. According to The Slovenia Times, the government agreed to this plan “because local police stations on the border do not have the capacity to process large numbers of third-country nationals.”
There is no official confirmation regarding the length of time that authorities will detain foreigners in this new facility. However, according to the State Border Control Act (Zakon o nadzoru državne meje), non-nationals can be detained at the border for a maximum of 48 hours. This measure can be imposed when a person intends to or has already crossed the border and suspicion exists that they have done so unlawfully and detention is deemed necessary for determining all relevant circumstances of the border crossing.
Slovenia’s Detention Practices
Most asylum seekers and irregular migrants are detained in the Postojna Foreigners Centre, which has capacity for 180 people. According to police statistics, 1,929 people were detained in the centre in 2022. Children are amongst those detained in the facility: in 2022, reports indicate that 172 accompanied children and 67 unaccompanied children were held in the facility.
Newly arrived asylum seekers are also de facto detained in the Ljubljana Asylum Home. According to the Asylum Information Database: “Upon arrival in the Asylum Home applicants are informed they are not allowed to leave the premises of the Asylum Home until they lodge the application. In general individuals had to wait from 3 to up to 20 days to lodge the application in 2022.” If asylum seekers leave the premises before lodging their application, they are instead considered as foreigners under the Foreigners Act. However in 2022, reports indicated that asylum seekers were not properly informed of this, and they instead lodged applications after leaving the Asylum Home and were subsequently detained by the Migration Directorate–prompting 12 to go on hunger strike.
In 2021, amendments to the Foreigners Act introduced the right for the National Assembly to restrict access to asylum in Slovenia in cases of “complex migration emergency.” In response, in 2023 the UN Committee against Torture urged authorities to consider amending or repealing the new provision, and to:
“ensure that effective and appropriate measures based on individualized consideration and vulnerability screening are in place for properly trained immigration officials to identify, as early as possible, all victims of torture, ill-treatment, gender ‑ based violence and trafficking among asylum-seekers and other persons in need of international protection during border procedures, and provide such persons with access to treatment for urgent conditions and with appropriate support.”