STA, 14 April 2022 - Foreigners in Slovenia have problems because of lengthy procedures at administrative units (Upravne enote), warned participants of a round table debate hosted on Thursday by the Legal Network for Protection of Democracy, an NGO. The delays occur because of understaffed offices for foreigners, inefficient organisation, and the nature of administrative procedures.
The delays in administrative procedures involving foreigners in big cities, especially Ljubljana, go beyond what is reasonable and justifiable, said the participants.
Currently, 15,000 applications by foreigners are waiting to be processed at the Ljubljana administrative unit, which said that it would introduce special staffing measures to process them within six months.
Ukrainian refugees who have requested temporary protection have further increased the workload.
Different categories of foreigners are in a tough spot because of the lengthy procedures, including students (some 4,100 in Ljubljana and 15,000 in Maribor) as well as guest lecturers and researchers, the University in Ljubljana said.
Vice-chancellor for student affairs Ksenija Vidmar Horvat said the "system was completely out of control", as people were not notified of the phase their application was in, received false information, and the proceedings were lengthy. She reported of financial and emotional distress and the feelings of stigmatisation.
She warned that this damaged the university's reputation. "We at the university see them as our ambassadors. Sooner or later they will signal to their environment that things are not organised well here," she stressed.
Vice-chancellor for internationalisation and quality Boštjan Markoli echoed this, saying the problem was affecting the university's quality assessments and was causing it to drop in rankings and preference lists. Problems are emerging in winning and implementing projects with time restrictions, he said.
Matija Urankar from the Senica Law Firm said that many foreign investors had cancelled their projects amid administrative procedures because they were too slow and the staff unresponsive. He believes damage was being caused to Slovenia.
According to him, the general administrative procedure act is a big problem, because proceedings based on it are rigid. For example, foreigners must submit documents that do not even exist in their country, he illustrated.
Goran Lukić from Delavska Svetovalnica, an NGO specialising in the rights of migrant workers, said foreign workers waited months, even years for their applications to be processed. He said that in recent months there had been increased interest in employers in Germany, while Slovenia lacked labour force.
Andrej Šter, the head of the Foreign Ministry's consular service, admitted there were problems. "In Slovenia, a foreigner is directly and indirectly considered a security problem and is treated as such. They need to be read, their background checked. Clerks are told to do detailed investigation on them," he said.
State institutions should understand that the "situation as it is now cannot be solved". He proposes several changes, including processing of foreign parties in Slovenia rather than "sending them to be fingerprinted in Ankara". Another problem is an "unbalanced and meagre diplomatic network".
The head of the Trade Union of State Bodies, Frančišek Verk, who was in the audience, said that pay was low, state bodies understaffed and employees under pressure. He was critical of the politicians who he said had in the past ignored warnings that the situation would get worse.