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On the occasion of World Refugees Day, the Ombudsman calls for a proper immigration policy and the pursuit of the integration concept

World Refugee Day is an international day dedicated to all refugees around the world. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina points out that this day is also an opportunity to understand the hardships of refugees and their efforts to restore a sense of normality to their lives.

The Ombudsman Institution has already identified several violations of refugees’ rights in matters concerning the implementation of procedures at Slovenian borders, and has also established that border regimes force refugees to resort to increasingly dangerous ways of travelling. "Such border crossings have ended tragically on several occasions, which is why it is crucial to reduce irregular migration with the establishment of a more appropriate immigration and asylum policy. First and foremost, we must address this issue by ensuring effective protection of refugees, including through the implementation of legal routes and effective protection of refugees in third countries," says the Ombudsman.

"It is also necessary to reinforce the activities of human rights defenders and other supervisory mechanisms, and to take an uncompromising stance to put an end to all measures and practices with which state authorities violate refugees’ human rights," adds Mr Svetina.

"Protecting Slovenian identity by welcoming people in distress, with clearly defined rules that do not discriminate against anyone, is the way in which humanity is demonstrated. It is in times of crisis, when there is a greater tendency to restrict or abolish human rights, that humanity is put to the ultimate test," remarks the Ombudsman. In times of crisis, it is even more important than ever to engage all a country’s citizens. During the pandemic, it was particularly striking that many refugees and EU citizens with a refugee background contributed to society through employment in key industries and were often exposed to the negative effects of the pandemic.

The Ombudsman hopes that the latest EU action plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021­–2027, adopted in November 2020, will result in more humane treatment of people leaving or fleeing their homes, since various reports on the inhuman and degrading treatment of refugees persist.

He also points out that the flow of immigration, which has been going on since time immemorial, cannot be stopped. "There are no fewer crisis hotspots, but environmental ones are emerging as well, forcing people to flee famine and natural disasters in search of new hope. It is impossible to build a dam that would stop the flow of immigration, nor can immigration be stopped with barbed wire. It is, however, possible to consider the benefits that these global social processes can bring to our society, which is open to newcomers, to consider how the processes can benefit them, and to develop better immigration policies," clarifies the Ombudsman.

"Only by caring for all those who, due to different circumstances, live on the margins of society or come to our country from different parts of the world with their hardships, can we put Slovenia on the list of inclusive countries. Slovenia must strive to achieve such status. After all, it has committed itself to doing so through its own legally defined rules, as well as by signing many international human rights documents," underlines the Ombudsman.

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