High level representatives from international organizations and specialized agencies, Ombudsman and Mediator institutions, as well as representatives from governmental authorities, the diplomatic community and the civil society gathered on 7th September in Tirana, Albania, at the two day conference “Challenges for Ombudsman Institutions with respect to mixed migratory flows”. The objective of the conference was to generate a common response to the situation of people in need of international protection.
The Ombudswoman and Chair of the European Network of National Human Right Institutions (ENNHRI) Lora Vidović participated as a panellist on the discussion on the fight against stereotypes and hate speech. She emphasised the how the discourse which focuses on religious and cultural differences between Muslims and the majority population, presenting them as having negative effects on social cohesion, are often followed by racist and xenophobic incidents. The discourse is more than ever present in the past two years, following the arrival of refugees and immigrants in large numbers across the EU on the one hand, and terrorist attacks in France and Belgium on the other. “Even though we as human rights experts would argue that terrorism and those horrific attacks should not be identified with refugee flow, that distinction is not so accepted in wider public”, said Ombudswoman Vidović, concluding how institutions should learn from each other and support each other, because together they can make the difference between hostile or positive reception of refugees.
The cooperation, in particular among NHRIs, Parliaments, Ombudsman institutions and other relevant stakeholders, was an emphasis of the speech Ombudswoman Vidović delivered on behalf of Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) on the second conference day. She reminded how, among other steps, NHRI’s affirmed their intention to turn law and policy makers’ attention towards protection measures for the most vulnerable among migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In addition, it is necessary to encourage governments, parliaments and every public servant to view and treat every migrant, refugee and asylum-seeker as an individual, having the right to have his or her case examined and reviewed individually.
The international conference was organized by AOM, AOMF, FIO and IOI.