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The Human Rights Ombudsman and his deputy deliver two 2021 annual reports to the Minister of the Interior

Today, 13 July 2022, Slovenia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina held a getting-to-know-you meeting with Minister of the Interior Tatjana Bobnar. Accompanied by his deputy Ivan Šelih, he delivered the 27th annual report of the Human Rights Ombudsman and the 14th annual report of the National Preventive Mechanism, of which Šelih is also the head.

They discussed human rights violations and some of the most pressing issues identified by the Ombudsman when dealing with initiatives in areas concerning the work of the Ministry of the Interior and the police. Mr Svetina highlighted the fact that cases involving foreign nationals were among the demanding ones dealt with last year, in terms of both number of cases and the complexity of the issues involved. The Ombudsman drew attention on a number of cases of questionable practice by competent authorities when it came to the rights of foreign nationals to a family life. They also discussed violations of migrants’ right during procedures at the Slovenian border, and agreed that migration and asylum arrangements, and the implementation of those arrangements, had to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people on the move to the fullest possible extent. Minister Bobnar pointed out that an advisory body for migration had already started working at the ministry. Made up of representatives of state authorities, NGOs, international organisations and civil society active in the field of migration, its name, ‘Varna, solidarna in vključujoča družba’, reflected the values of safety, solidarity and inclusiveness. ‘Together we will create a new approach to migration and asylum and embark on changes to legislation that take fullest account of the recommendations made by institutions overseeing the area, particularly the Human Rights Ombudsman,’ said the minister. ‘The advisory body will be based on three pillars: dialogue with civil society, upgrades to the integrated migration management strategy, and an overhaul of sectoral legislation.’

Mr Svetina recommended that the Ministry of the Interior and the police make public at least the main findings produced by the monitoring of the return of foreign nationals under police escort, in order to increase the transparency of return procedures and of police operations in this area.

With his deputy he also apprised the minister of some of the initiatives they had dealt with regarding the accommodation and treatment of foreign nationals at the Aliens Centre. The Ombudsman expressed his regret that past recommendations on the accommodation and treatment of unaccompanied minors at the centre had not been implemented, but expressed his expectation that they would be in future.

Regarding police procedures, the Ombudsman and his deputy praised the response of the competent authorities. The Ombudsman’s office dealt with a number of initiatives last year that addressed the work of police officers, and issues remained regarding the effectiveness of existing mechanisms for complaining about and supervising the work of security guards and wardens. Mr Svetina highlighted the specific issues affecting the homeless, and recommended that municipal wardens exercise greater care when issuing sanctions and fines.

He also drew attention to the length of time foreign nationals were having to wait for work and residence permits, and to the large number of breaches of the principle of good governance: his office established 88 such breaches last year in the course of its work, which was the highest number to date.

As in previous years, the ministry and the police will, to the fullest extent possible, comply with the recommendations of supervisory bodies such as the Human Rights Ombudsman and ensure that human rights are respected. The minister invited the Ombudsman to take an active role in the police law and powers council, which the ministry is reviving as an advisory body after more than two years of inactivity.