The deportation of a Syrian asylum seeker, Ahmad Shamieh, to Croatia, has been halted by the Slovenian government. In his press release on Tuesday, Prime Minister Miro Cerar stressed the exceptional nature of the case due to Mr. Shamieh’s successful integration and contribution to the local community. To his and his supporters’ relief, Mr. Shamieh is therefore allowed to stay in the country until the government decides whether or not it is in the national interest for him to be granted a temporary resident status, invoking Article 51 of the Aliens Act. The decision of the Ministry of Interior to deport Mr. Shamieh to Croatia has therefore not been revoked, only paused.
Mr. Shamieh at work on Tovarna Rog, Ljubljana
Ahmad Shamieh entered the EU by crossing from Serbia to Croatia, and claimed asylum to Slovenia in February 2016 after being stopped from crossing the border into Austria. The Ministry of Interior dismissed his claim on the grounds of the Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that the first country of entry to the EU is responsible for examination of an asylum claim. Mr Shamieh then appealed to the courts in Slovenia, as well as to the EU Court in Luxembourg, and after his case was heard and rejected by the Slovenian Constitutional Court, the Ministry of Interior had no legal impediments to carrying out its decision to deport the man. The beginning of the procedure was scheduled on Tuesday, November 14th at 05:45.
Human rights activists, who were fighting to prevent Mr. Shamieh’s deportation, were joined in this by several politicians, including Premier Miro Cerar, who one day before the scheduled deportation had already appealed to the Ministry of Interior to put the action on hold.
On the deportation day Ahmed Shamieh, in response to the Ministry’s request, arrived at the Asylum Home Vič, Ljubljana, in early hours of the morning. At the main gates he was joined by a group of activists and supporters, as well as two members of parliament, Miha Kordiš in Jan Škoberne. Eventually the two MP’s accompanied Mr. Shamieh into the Asylum Home for a formal discussion, and after this they took him to the Parliament building, in what appeared to be a way of helping him avoid the police. This move has been heavily criticized by several other MPs, including the Prime Minister himself, as an unacceptable interference with the work of the authorities.
President Borut Pahor responded to media questions by stressing the importance of respecting the courts’ decisions and added that if any alternative solution to this issue is adopted, then the decision has to be justified in the most convincing way, so that a precedent is not created that could cause problems in the future.
With the Presidential Elections now behind us, the next big political event in Slovenia is the National Assembly elections in 2018, and there are fears among commentators that the controversy over Ahmad Shamieh’s case could be politicised as the polls draw closer.