OSF Serbia, Executive Director Jadranka Jelincic
Keynote address at the opening of the international conference
“Ombudsman/National Human Rights Institutions – Challenges to Human Rights in Refugee/Migrant Crisis”.
November 23rd – 24th 2015, Belgrade, Serbia
Mr. Ombudsman, Your Excellencies,
Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me welcome you to Belgrade. I wish you a pleasant and safe stay.
Bearing in mind that this meeting takes place under the shadow of the dramatic events in Paris and worrisome developments in Brussels, the mentioning of safety is of no surprise.
But, you are all Ombudsmen whose prime aim is to protect human rights and civil liberties. The instruments and tools introduced to fight terrorism and reestablish safety may have disruptive effects for liberal democracy. This is an order whose main feature is a high level of guaranties and human rights and civil liberties and their effective protection. It seems that right now we all in Europe are putting ourselves the question - where is that fine point of balance between safety and human rights? Could liberal democracies as such ensure the level of safety citizens are striving for or expecting? At which point of curtailing the human rights and civil liberties does one society cease to deserve being called a liberal democracy? I hope that you will take your time in Belgrade to reflect upon all those issues. I also hope that some of your reflections will find their place in the final Declaration of this meeting.
Indeed, it is not possible to find appropriate answers to the issues which are the prime subject of this Conference - the rights of migrants and refugees - without resolving the first. So much more so, if we have in mind that the current migration/refugee crisis is rather the Völkerwanderung which changes the map of the world, if it is true that 58 million people are in search for a new home.
It is also important for this Conference to notice that it takes place immediately after UNGA passed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which is for the first time universal in its nature. It explicitly says: “(23) People who are vulnerable must be empowered. Those whose needs are reflected in the agenda include……refugees and internally displaced persons and refugees… We resolve to take further effective measures and actions, in conformity with international law, to remove obstacles and constraints, strengthen, support and meet the special needs of people living in areas affected by complex humanitarian emergencies and in areas affected by terrorism.”.
It further continues, “(29) We recognize the positive contribution of migrants to inclusive growth and sustainable development”. We also recognize that the international migrations are a multidimensional reality of major relevance for the development of countries of origin, transit and destination, which requires coherent and comprehensive responses. We will cooperate internationally to ensure safe, orderly and regular migrations involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status, of refugees and internally displaced persons. Such cooperation should also strengthen the resilience of the communities hosting refugees….”.
The present conference is an opportunity to explore how to put the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to work in this respect; and what is the role of the human rights institutions in each of the countries. The latter is in line with the Goal 16 of the SDGs, which strives - among others - to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. By tackling the rights of migrants and the refugees in line with the international law you will act toward fulfilling this Goal.
At the end, I would like to remind ourselves that at this moment the European countries - members of the EU and other European countries - have divided migrants/refugees into two groups: those who are coming from war-torn countries; and the so-called economic migrants. The first are recognized the right to movement; to the other group this right is denied. Here we must put the question not only whether this approach is just, but rather is it in accordance with the international law. The right to asylum is an individual human right. Do our countries alter the nature of this individual human right by applying the group treatment? Are entitled to do so? I wouldn’t agree. You are the institutions for the protection of human rights, and it is up to you to provide all of us, including our governments, with a clear answer.