In the current political context, when there is a daily increase in the number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing war, a legal issue of particular importance is the status of refugees. In the following lines, we will present how to obtain refugee status and the legal status of those with this state, in order to provide an overview of their legal situation and to support for those who need it.
There are several meanings of the term “refugee”, the most relevant meaning in the context of the war in Ukraine, being that of “a person who for justified reasons that consists in persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or his political opinions, is outside the country of which he is a citizen”.
Relevant in this matter are the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, adopted in 1951 in Geneva, and the Government Ordinance no. 102/2000 on the status and regime of refugees in Romania. In times of armed conflict, in which Romania is not engaged, temporary humanitarian protection may be granted to persons coming from conflict zones.
PROCEDURE FOR GRANTING REFUGEE STATUS IN ROMANIA
The procedure begins with the personal addressing of a written request to the National Office for Refugees within the Ministry of Administration and Internal Affairs or to the territorial bodies of the Ministry of Administration and Internal Affairs. The application for refugee status shall be submitted as soon as the applicant has presented himself at a border crossing point, entered the territory of Romania or certain events have taken place in the applicant’s country of origin, which lead him to seek protection, in the case of a foreigner with the right to stay in Romania. An applicant for refugee status may not be expelled as long as this has not been expressly requested when the application has been rejected.
Upon receiving the application for refugee status, a provisional certificate will be issued to the applicant to take the place of a temporary identity document in Romania and he will be provided with free transport to the National Refugee Office.
If the applicant does not have the financial means, the National Refugee Office may establish a place of residence and provide the necessary financial assistance for the whole period in which the procedure will take place.
If the solicitant has previously transited through a secure third country (eg. an EU Member State) and has already been offered protection in that country or has had the opportunity, at the border or in its territory, to contact the authorities for protection, the National Refugee Office may decide to return the solicitant to that country without further review.
The general deadline for solving the application is 30 days, with the possibility of extending it by a maximum of 30, if additional documentation is required for solving the application. Following the analysis, the following may be decided: granting refugee status, granting diplomatic protection or rejecting the application, the last two decisions having to be reasoned.
The decision of the National Refugee Office can be appealed within 10 days from the communication, to the court located in the territorial area of the competent structure of the National Refugee Office which issued the decision, complaint and other necessary procedural documents being exempt from stamp duties. Also, the decision of the court can be challenged by an appeal, within a maximum of 5 days from the pronouncement, in this case suspending the execution of the order to leave the territory.
Persons who cannot obtain refugee status are: those who have committed a crime against peace and humanity or a crime to which the international conventions Romania is a party refer; those who have committed a serious crime outside Romania before being admitted to its territory as a refugee and those who have committed acts that are contrary to the purposes and principles set out in the Charter of the United Nations.
RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF PERSONS WHO HAVE ACQUIRED A CERTAIN FORM OF PROTECTION IN ROMANIA
Persons who have acquired a certain form of protection in Romania, whether they have refugee status or not, have the right to move freely within the territory of the state in which they are located and to choose a place of residence, with certain reservations that also apply to foreigners. Also, if they do not have a valid travel document, they can request the issuing of identity documents in this regard. Only refugees and persons who have been granted conditional humanitarian protection are entitled to a document for crossing the state border.
Regarding the activities that can be carried out by refugees on the Romanian territory, the refugee may be employed, may be engaged in unpaid activities, in free professions, perform acts and acts of commerce, as well as other legal acts, in compliance with the legal regulations. They will benefit from the most favorable treatment by law for foreign nationals, in terms of acquiring movable and immovable property, and their intellectual property will be protected.
The refugee has access to all forms of education, can recognize his studies, practice his religion, associate in non-political and non-profit structures and professional unions, under the conditions provided by law for foreigners. A refugee can also benefit from social assistance and social health insurance.
Refugees have free access to the courts and administrative assistance, and can, on request, receive reimbursable assistance for a maximum period of 6 months if, for objective reasons, he does not have the necessary means of maintenance. This period may be extended by a maximum of 3 months.
Also, the person who benefits from a form of protection in Romania cannot be expelled or returned, except for the cases imposed by reasons of national security or public order, and, if the expulsion decision is reached, the person in question cannot be sent to territories where his life or liberty would be threatened, on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. That is, a Ukrainian citizen cannot be sent back to the territory of Ukraine if there is an armed conflict on the territory of the state.
The person who benefits from a form of protection in Romania has a series of obligations, among which:
- the compliance with the Romanian Constitution, othe laws and the other normative acts issued by the Romanian authorities;
- adoptance a concrete and civilized conduct;
- compliance with the internal regulations from the centers of the Romanian Immigration Office, in case of falling in such a center;
- avoidance the provocation of any states of conflict or incidents with the population or committing deeds that may fall under the criminal law;
- obedience to the rules regarding the legal regime of foreigners.
In the current context, given the growing number of refugees in Ukraine, a number of new measures have been adopted to support them, such as: ensuring, on the basis of the border crossing document accepted by the Romanian state, foreign nationals and stateless persons from Ukraine of medical services, medicines, sanitary materials, medical devices and services included in the national curative programs, as well as persons insured in Romania.
It also allows the enrollment in schools and high schools in Romania of all children and young people who want this, regardless of the time of application. Young people from Ukraine can enter the university education system even if they do not have supporting documents, being enrolled, based on an assessment of their knowledge and equivalence, provided that the diplomas obtained in Ukraine are brought until the end of their studies. For refugees with Ukrainian citizenship, the studies will be funded from the state budget.
In conclusion, given the current situation facing our neighbors in Ukraine, we would like to emphasis the need to inform Ukrainian citizens about the bureaucratic procedures to be followed by them in order to ensure that we are with them in these difficult times.