The Basque ombudsman, Manuel Lezertua, the Greek Ombudsman, Andreas Pottakis and the Dutch ombudsman, Reinier van Zutphen, spoke with two commissioners of the European Commission on Tuesday 19 March. The topic was the integration of asylum seekers and refugees and relocation.
The three ombudsman form the Steering Committee of the IOI European region on refugees and asylum seekers. At the request of the IOI European Board the committee conducts a large investigation into the way ombudsman institutions in Europe deal with complaints from refugees and asylum seekers. The aim is to identify standards that are supported by all institutions.
The discussion paper on integration and the paper on relocation were adopted by the IOI European Board during their meeting in Athens on 20 February 2019. These papers and the recommendations were the main topic the three ombudsman discussed with Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos of Migration and Home Affairs, and Commissioner Frans Timmermans of the European Commission and first vice president.
Both commissioners were very pleased with the documents and encouraged the ombudsman to continue their good work. Mr Timmermans explicitly asked the ombudsman to use the actual stories of the people in their investigations. These stories give a real face to refugees and asylum seekers and can provide a vivid picture of what these people are running up against. In this way the ombudsman can be an important counter force against populism that dehumanises the refugees and asylum seekers.
The Steering Committee will continue their work on the topics of reception and application, unaccompanied minors and forced returns. They intend to finalise this project by the end of the year and prepare it for the IOI World Conference in May 2020.
Source: National Ombudsman, Netherlands