22 February 2016 – At the height of the migration crisis and few days after the closure of the Balkans route, the People’s Advocate of Albania, Mr Igli Totozani, in the capacity of President of the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen (AOM), paid a visit to Tabanovce in Macedonia, in a Reception Center and transitional point of migrants / refugees at the border with Serbia. The President of the Association was accompanied by the Ombudsman of Macedonia, Mr Ixhet Memeti, the Spanish People’s Defender, Mrs Soledad Becerril, as well as representatives of the French Defender of Rights, as AOM Secretary General.

“This is a fact-finding mission on the ground, to monitor whether the treatment and conditions of migrants / refugees are in line with international standards,” said the President of the AOM, adding that “the countries members of the AOM will come up with a joint declaration on the situation of migrants transiting the territory of the Mediterranean countries, in the coming days. “

The President of the AOM appreciated the work of the Ombudsman of Macedonia, reassuring him of the necessary support of the Association. He also highlighted the efforts of the Governments of the countries of the region to deal with this extraordinary urgent situation.

In the last seven, this transitional point has already seen 700 000 migrants / refugees pass to Serbia and then enter the territory of the European Union members. During the visit, the center sheltered 617 people from Afghanistan.

Mr Totozani underlined the importance of cooperation and better coordination between the different actors at local, regional, European and international levels, since this migration flow causes a situation which requires a full involvement of actors to ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of those in need.

The Mediterranean region currently faces mixed migratory flows of asylum-seekers fleeing war, as well as economic migrants, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied children, etc. The presence of categories of vulnerable persons requiring specific protection obliges Ombudsmens in all countries to work with their governments to better address the challenges of identifying and protecting individuals.

In 2017, the AOM defined its strategy and action plan , on the basis of the Tirana Declaration, adopted on September 08th, 2016. Thereafter, several visits were organised aiming with the aim of the strengthening and the defense of this legal framework protecting the rights of the migrants and the refugees, and the implementation of the Tirana Declaration commitments.