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Ombudsman Svetina meets with representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Today, 28 May 2021, Mr Peter Svetina received Mr Roland Schilling, Head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Central Europe (UNHCR), and Ms Romana Zidar, Senior Protection Associate for Slovenia. They discussed current asylum and refugee issues and the challenges facing European countries in the area of migration.

Ombudsman Svetina and Deputy Ombudsman Miha Horvat presented the activities of the Ombudsman’s institution in the protection of refugee rights, which have been affected by the COVID-19 epidemic in the last year and a half. For example, the Ombudsman, as early as in the first wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, called on the Ministry of the Interior to continue accepting applications for international protection despite the adopted anti-corona measures. The Ombudsman believes that the accommodation of a large number of persons in the reception premises of asylum homes or other accommodation facilities owned by the State may pose a health risk. He also pointed out to the competent authorities that consideration should be given to providing access to vaccination also for those who are not entitled to full healthcare, as this is in the interest of public health. Within the framework of the National Preventive Mechanism, the Ombudsman, among other things, is also competent for the supervision of detention facilities, which is why Mr Svetina also informed the UNCHR representative of his findings during recent visits to the Postojna Centre for Foreigners. He stressed that special protection is needed for unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable groups.

UNHCR representative Schilling touched upon some outstanding issues relating to asylum and foreigners legislation and said that their task was to manage and coordinate international activities for the protection of refugees. They strive to ensure that every individual has the right to apply for asylum and seek safe refuge in another country, while also providing assistance to stateless persons, he said.

Ombudsman Svetina also noted that the legal bases for dealing with refugees were sufficient and committed us to respecting human rights. However, he called for their consistent application, which means, in particular, that individuals must have access to procedures in which they can claim and assert their rights.