Legal immigration in Slovakia, like in most other countries, is a highly variable process. Migrant’s country of origin, purposes of their stay, and other legal and economic factors can either help or hinder this process. For example, migrants arriving from other EU member countries often have a quite easy time in obtaining residency in Slovakia. The process and requirements for these migrants are simplified and streamlined in keeping with EU law.
Perhaps, the most complex of cases is that of asylum seekers. This was certainly true for the young Turkish student Yunus. As he was nearing the end of his Erasmus program in Bratislava, his father was arrested on suspicion of participating in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Fearing that returning home would also put Yunus at risk for arrest, he decided to apply for asylum in Slovakia. The process was full of rejection and uncertainty, but finally after two and a half years his application was approved.
For temporary and permanent residents, their immigration difficulties often begin and end with the Foreign Police, the department that oversees their cases. Migrants often complain about a lack of English speaking officers and impolite interactions, to put it mildly. These communication challenges often require migrants to bring interpreters who may not understand the complexity of the immigration process. Sometimes these advocates are offered by employers, but others must hire a professional or request help from friends or family. This is true for Elle from Malta, who asked her Slovak partner’s cousin for assistance.
Unfortunately, the problems do not end with communication troubles. Obtaining the correct information and documents for each unique case can be quite difficult. Each Foreign Police officer may have differing interpretations of the law and request different documents, confounding even the most prepared. This is especially taxing when coming from a less developed country. Craig from the United States, who had just moved from Zambia, was sent to Berlin only to find out the document he needed was in South Africa. This, of course, is costly and simply impossible for some.
Thankfully, these problems are just temporary setbacks for most migrants. They celebrate the arrival of their id cards and focus on what they enjoy about life in Slovakia. For them, the heartaches and headaches of the immigration process are worth enduring for the chance to live in a country that offers freedom, a rich culture, and a high standard of living.
Thank you to my guests; Craig Williams, Yunus, Aubrey Mathis, and Elle Ibbotson.
This podcast and my series on migration is supported by Fjúžn, a program of the Milan Simecka Foundation, whose goal is to create a platform for migrants living Slovakia whose voice should be heard more in our society. Fjúžn hosts the Fjúžn festival and with the cooperation of migrants and their communities organizes other events around the country to showcase the art, projects, perspectives and stories of these lesser known people. To learn more about their events, hear the stories of other migrants in Slovakia and listen to this podcast series, visit www.fjuzn.sk
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