What do you picture under the notion migration? A boat full of people in life vests? Photos from refugee camps? Or a supermarket saleswoman, a production worker, or your doctor? Let's look at how we perceive foreigners in Slovakia and what are the facts about migration.

The inhabitants of Slovakia have relatively little personal experience with foreigners. We learn about foreigners mainly from the media, which provide information mostly about problems related to migration. According to a survey conducted by the Focus agency, almost half of Slovaks do not personally know any foreigner living in Slovakia.

Survey conducted by the Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK) in September 2020 confirmed that people with their own migration experience and contact with foreigners tend to perceive foreigners as a benefit to the country: This is true of  42% of people in Slovakia whose relative is a foreigner, in contrast with 11% of those who do not have foreigners among their relatives. It is similar for those whose neighbours or colleagues are foreigners (39% and 37% respectively, consider foreigners as a benefit).

The Europe-wide October 2017 Eurobarometer 469 Survey also indicated a significant relationship between the share of foreigners in the society and the perception of migration as a problem. In countries with a small proportion of foreigners, such as Slovakia, Hungary or Bulgaria, people perceive migration from outside the EU as a problem. On the contrary, people in countries with a high proportion of immigrants, such as Denmark, Sweden and Luxembourg, see migration as more of a benefit.

Concerns about the unknown thus affect the attitudes of the population towards migration and towards foreigners. In Slovakia, many people feel that there are too many migrants – foreigners living in Slovakia who take jobs from Slovaks, create a burden to the state budget and increase criminality.

"The overall picture of the Slovak population about foreigners and migration does not correspond to reality," said Zuzana Vatráľová, Head of International Organization for Migration (IOM) Office in Slovakia, which in the past conducted research on the attitudes of Slovak citizens towards migrants.

Facts matter. In this article, we disprove the following myths:

Myth: There is a large number of foreigners living in Slovakia

Within the European Union, Slovakia belongs to the countries with the lowest proportion of foreigners in the total population, only Poland and Romania have a lower proportion than Slovakia. According to the statistics of the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, at the end of 2020, 150,012 foreigners lived in the Slovak Republic, which is 2.75% of the overall country population. In comparison, 634,000 of foreigners lived in the neighbouring Czech Republic.

According to the 2017 Eurobarometer 469 Survey data, Slovak respondents estimated that foreigners from countries outside the EU form 8.3% of the population of Slovakia, which was nearly 14 times the actual figure.

"Statistically, a typical migrant lives in the Slovak Republic legally, comes from a non-EU country, is of productive age, came here to work, do business, study or for family reasons," explains Zuzana Vatráľová.

Did you know that:
About a quarter of all foreigners in Slovakia live in Bratislava and one third in the Bratislava Region?

According to the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, the numbers of persons detected in Slovakia without a valid residence permit in the country range between 814 and 1,317 since the migration flows to Europe in 2015. The numbers of persons detected when crossing the land border range between 135 and 348, while the numbers of persons detected at the border crossing when leaving the Slovak Republic are between 131 and 1,472. In total, there are only a few thousand people detected every year without a residence permit in Slovakia.

Refugees who apply for asylum in Slovakia make up a small part of the overall migration. The number of asylum seekers has been low for a long time and in recent years it has stabilized at several hundred per year. For example, in 2020, there were 282 applications for asylum in the Slovak Republic. Since 1993 until the end of 2020, Slovakia received 57,991 asylum applications and asylum was granted to 874 persons.

Did you know that:
The most numerous category of EU citizens living in Slovakia is formed by the citizens of neighbouring countries – the Czech Republic and Hungary. Out of the non-EU countries, the most numerous are Ukrainians and Serbians. If all foreigners in the Slovak Republic concentrated in one place, they would create a town with population like Prešov and Trnava together.

Myth: Foreigners take jobs from Slovaks

According to the 2020 CVEK Survey, 48% of Slovaks are convinced that foreigners are taking our jobs.

"The process of employing a worker from outside the European Union is demanding and protracted. It is much faster and more efficient for employers to employ a citizen of the Slovak Republic or another EU country. Foreign workers are not preferred at the expense of Slovak employees. The state grants permission to employ a non-EU citizen only once an employer is able to prove they are unable to find a suitable candidate from Slovakia. There are positions that could not be filled by Slovaks for a long time. Foreigners carry out work in areas where suitable candidates are missing, thus filling gaps in the labour market. If an employer finds a suitable foreign worker, they can keep jobs for Slovaks who work with him or her, they can sustain the production and apply for new contracts. The economy, employers and employees benefit from this, "adds Zuzana Vatráľová.

36% of foreigners – one in three foreigners – have set up a company in Slovakia and potentially created new jobs.

Every quarter, the Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic publishes a list of shortage occupations that cannot be filled by Slovaks.

Thousands of professionals are already missing in several professions. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, more than 10,000 foreign workers have left the Slovak labour market and there are no production operators or fitters of machinery and equipment. Trends also suggest there is an increasing demand for specialists in the field of IT, accounting, nursing or for pedagogical staff.

The Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic has estimated that by 2030 there will be a shortage of more than 3,000 doctors and almost 10,000 nurses. According to the National Health Information Centre, up to a quarter of doctors and one in three dentists in Slovakia are more than 60 years old.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Business Alliance of Slovakia and the INEKO Institute, 38% of the addressed companies were forced to reject contracts due to a lack of manpower. And every second company saw a solution in employing foreign workers.

Did you know that:
In 2020, the number of foreign employees in Slovakia was 69,012, thus there is one foreign employee per 35 national employees? Most foreigners – more than 27,000 – were employed in the Bratislava Region.

Myth: Foreigners are a burden to the state budget

The majority of foreigners in Slovakia are foreign workers from non-EU countries who come to the country at a productive age. Foreigners are obliged to pay taxes, and contributions to the social and health care system in the same amount as Slovaks. They all must have health insurance. If they come from a non-EU country, they have to submit proof of having sufficient amount of money to cover their stay in Slovakia together with their request for residence permit.

Once the conditions are met, foreigners living in Slovakia have the right to draw various social benefits from the state budget, such as parental allowance, child allowance or childcare allowance. However, only foreigners with permanent residence in Slovakia are entitled to certain benefits – for example childbirth allowance – after fulfilling the conditions.

The conditions for receiving unemployment benefits are the same for foreigners as for Slovak citizens. To receive this allowance, they must pay their unemployment insurance for the period stipulated by law and must be registered with the employment office as jobseekers.

In practice, for example, foreigners with a temporary stay for the purpose of employment or business in Slovakia will not receive unemployment benefits. If a foreigner terminates his business or if they lose their job and do not find a new one within the determined time, their residence permit is revoked and they are obliged to leave the Slovak Republic.

Did you know that:
According to the 2013 OECD data, the difference between the economic benefits of foreigners and the benefits they draw from the state budget of Slovakia was close to zero. As a result, the Slovak Republic does not pay any extra money for foreigners.

Myth: Foreigners are increasing criminality

Many people are afraid of an increase in criminality in relation to foreigners. However, long-term statistics prove the opposite as well: criminality of foreigners is declining year-on-year.

According to the General Prosecutor's Office of the Slovak Republic, number of accused foreigners remains at the same level – between 1,695 in 2007 and 1,271 in 2019. The overall number of foreigners in the Slovak Republic more than tripled in this period, so while in 2007 there were 41,214 foreigners in Slovakia and 4.1% were accused, in 2019 with 143,075 foreigners the percentage of accused was less than 1%.

Being new in a country and committing a crime, foreigners risk much more than the Slovaks. They may lose their work permit or be expelled from the country.

More information:

About migration in Slovakia.

About migration in the world.

Watch the video: Myths and facts about migrants

A clear and funny explanation in which you will learn the basic facts in 10 minutes (in Slovak):

  • Who are migrants and who are refugees.
  • How many and what kind of foreigners live in Slovakia.
  • Which requirements they must meet in order to live in Slovakia.
  • What is the explanation of the most common myths about migration in Slovakia.

The video was prepared by Zmudri.sk in cooperation with IOM Slovakia.

Take a quiz and use the methodological materials on migration for teachers created by Zmudri.sk (in Slovak): https://zmudri.sk/p/myty-a-fakty-o-migrantoch.

 Data as of 17 May 2021.