As winter is coming and the housing situation for refugees is not being properly addressed, the Refugee housing initiative is preparing it's first public event. Come to our traditional chestnut picnic and join the organisation fighting for our right to proper housing. We will launch our iniciative with some food and wine :)

As Slovenia is facing a severe housing crisis and people find it harder and harder to find affordable places to rent, the situation for refugees and asylum seekers searching for rooms has become almost unbearable. In this letter, we would like to address these urgent matters, as many of us are being forced into homelessness despite getting government subventions for rent. The current system of refugee housing is not working and we need a change.

1. The 15 days we are granted to find a private room before we must move form the asylum home after being granted refugee status are clearly unrealistic. Very few Slovenians can find a room in such a short time, but for foreigners, this is almost impossible. It is not enough to say we can move to the integration house in Maribor. As most of us have lived in Ljubljana during our entire stay in Slovenia, our jobs, education, friends and social lives are also in Ljubljana and for most of us staying here is very important. But if we can’t find a room in the 15 days, we are kicked out of the asylum home and have often ended up on the street, sleeping in friends homes or in Rog, just so we can continue our lives in Ljubljana.

The integration home in Maribor is also not a good system for begining an independent life in Slovenian society. By putting us in the same building, the state replicates all of the negative conditions we face in the asylum homes – isolation, ghettoization, and social stigma. Even Kotnikova provides better conditions then places after status.

2. Although it is a great help to receive 390 euros rent subsidies for those of us who are not working and are finishing education, the money does not cover the period in which we actually need to rent a place. Most landlords not only demand the money for the rent up-front, but also deposit/security money for at least an extra month’s rent. This means that the refugee must provide at least 800 euros (but more realistically 1000 or more) to sign a contract, as very few landlords are willing to wait for the first payment. But the subsidy from the Ministry comes only after 1 month after recieve our status, which makes it extremely difficult to get a room.

It is also unrealistic to find a private place in Ljubljana for this price, as rents for single room or studio appartments range from 500-800 euros a month plus expenses. In this way we are forced into student rooms or sharing flats with a large number of people, which is often difficult to arrange.

3. The current system does not provide us decent rooms, but it provides an opportunity to landlords for cheating. Many have found that they can crowd desperate refugees in tiny shared dormitories for which they would normally get 100 euros a month, but instead collect the entire 390 euros the ministry provides in rent subsidies. This has lead to a number of cases where up to 20 refugees are housed in very poor conditions, in dirty, cold and degraded houses, for which the crooked landlord collects several thousand euros from the ministry each month!

4. Clearly there is not enough rooms being privately rented to house even the small number of refugees who receive international protection each year. Associations like Odnos are burdened with searching for the rooms and some of the work is done by volunteers in Rog and other individuals, but the last years have proven that they do not have the recources to solve these problems. No matter how many calls they make, a few individuals and small associations can not change the suply of flats to rent in Ljubljana or affect the prices and decisions of landlords.

5. One of the outcomes of this system is open racial abuse, which refugees must face when searching for a room. The owners find themselves in a position where they can judge people by the color of their skin, their religion and culture. And they often do. Almost all refugees have the experience of racist remarks while searching for a room. Not only is such a process degrading and humiliating, but it is also illegal to decline services based on race! There is no excuse for the ministry to support such a system, which leads to an openly racially segregated housing system.

As you can see, the system is inefficient, expensive and racist. Although the ministry spends a large amount of money, most refugees will not get stable housing and many will end up living on the street, while a few owners profit. Fortunately, there are better solutions, which can be achieved with a similar amount of money and can be implemented immediately.

Our housing initiative would like to propose the adoptation of the system in Trieste Italy. There the ministry allocates money for housing refugees to the municipality, which has information on all public, municipal and private flats in the district. The municipality uses this money for long term rental contracts, then works with associations or non-government agencies which give the rooms to refugees and also asylum seekers (Trieste has no asylum homes but immediately provides private housing, leading to Europe’s best integration practices!). In this

In this way, the ministry creates a permanent pool of rooms for refugees, which they can give to different people when they need them. The money spent for rent is the same or smaller (rooms are checked by the associations before paying money), but refugees are spared the individual searching and immediately provided a stable and decent living situation, while the owners are provided long term stable financing from the governemnt. There is no reason for refugees to engage in the complicated and beaurocratized negotiations with individual landlords, while the government, which is actually paying the rent, has these resources and properies at its disposal.

The ministry can thus immediately work with the municipality of Ljubljana to sign 400 long term contracts for private or public rooms (they can also spend their large funds to buy appartments). If such measures are not taken, the situation forces us to search for other solutions and make use of the recources at our disposal. The refugee housing initiative of Slovenia will begin working on a refugee housing cooperative in Ljubljana’s empty houses and squats, where many of us are already forced to stay.

No more asylum homes, integration houses and bad shared private rooms. More public appartments in Slovenia for all!

Refugee housing initiative of Slovenia/ Stanovanjska iniciativa beguncev v Sloveniji