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School of Law

School of Law, Queen Mary University of London Immigration LLM Annual Lecture 2021

Date: 17 November 2021

The current human rights crisis at Europe’s external borders involving state border guards engaging in pushing back, out of EU waters, little boats filled with people seeking international protection, violence against unarmed people crossing external borders irregularly and other human rights abuses has been on going at least since the arrival of more refugees than expected in 2015-2016. So far, the responses of national and EU political institutions have been less than satisfactory and the EU Coast and Border Guard Agency, Frontex, has consistently denied any responsibility notwithstanding extensive reports to the contrary in the New York Times, Bellingcat and elsewhere.

For this year’s Annual Lecture we invited one of the heros of human rights for migrants at borders who, as a public official, struggled and achieved much to bring human rights compliance and rule of law back into practices at the EU’s external borders of her state. As the (then) Ombudswoman of Croatia at the height of the 2015-2016 arrivals, Lora Vidovic stepped up to the challenge of ensuring human rights protection for migrants and refugees at Croatia’s EU external border (with Serbia) a main entry point to the EU on the so-called Balkan route. Her determination and courage standing up to authorities involved in the mistreatment of migrants is legendary in the Balkans and her leadership as Ombudswoman was decisive throughout her term in monitoring Croatia’s external EU borders and countering border violence. In this lecture she will examine the role of national human rights institutions in monitoring human rights for migrants.

About the Speaker:

Lora VidovićLora Vidović, (former) Croatian Ombudswoman, is an international consultant in human rights, equality and independent institutions.

In 2013 she was elected by the Croatian Parliament as the Ombudswoman for an 8 years’ term; leading the institution in all of its mandates: Parliamentary Ombudsman, Status A National Human Rights Institution, Equality Body, National Preventive Mechanism in accordance with UN OPCAT and the Whistle-blowers protection authority. Enhancing the credibility of the institution and securing its independence in promoting and protecting human rights and equality was achieved by working in key thematic priorities: economic and social rights, rights of national minorities, migration, environmental rights, post-conflict issues, enabling civic space. Her term covered the period of arrivals of Syrian and other refugees across the Balkan route (2015-2016) and her work in protecting the rights of people at borders at that time and subsequently was outstanding. Indeed, in acknowledgement of her overall work as the Ombudswoman in the protection of human rights and democratic values, this year she has been awarded the highest French order, the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Prior to being the Ombudswoman, Ms. Vidović worked as the Head of UNICEF Office in Croatia (2010 – 2013) and before that as Deputy Ombudsman for Children (2006 – 2010). Mrs. Vidović also worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration within the Human Rights Department and served as an attaché in charge of consular affairs and human rights in Oslo, Norway (1998 – 2006), as well as in the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (1997 - 1998). She has actively participated on numerous international seminars, conferences and meetings related to human rights and democratization, and has published a series of expert papers concerning the status of women in employment and children’s status in society and family. From 2014 until 2019, she was a member of the Management Board of EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA); from 2016 to 2021 she was a European member of the Bureau of Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), and from 2016 to 2019 she was the Chair of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI).

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