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The Ministry of the Interior, in cooperation with the Austrian Ministry of the Interior, is organising a two-day international conference about cooperation on return, focusing on the Western Balkans

The conference is organised under the auspices of the Joint Cooperation Platform, an Austrian initiative to strengthen cooperation in the field of migration. It was opened today in Ljubljana by the Assistant Director General of the Police, Jo┼że Senica.

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"Effective management of migration flows requires a comprehensive and common approach, including surveillance of the EU external border and enhanced cooperation with third countries," said Senica. One of the key aspects of migration policy where cooperation is of vital importance is the return of migrants who are not eligible for international protection to their countries of origin. "Our guiding principle here must be respect for human rights and respect for the international principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits returning individuals to countries that are dangerous for them," stressed Senica.

In order to make return of migrants who are not eligible for protection more effective, partner countries of the Western Balkans should assume their share of responsibility in managing migration. That region is a point of entry for some migrants, especially due to its visa-free entry regime. "In order to develop a sustainable and comprehensive migration policy, visa policies of the region and the EU should also be harmonised", added Senica.

"Return can only be improved through joint efforts and cooperation, and through sharing knowledge and best practice, which is the aim of this conference," concluded Senica, wishing the participants a successful exchange of views, experience and best practice.

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The Joint Cooperation Platform aims to improve cooperation with countries in the Western Balkan region, in particular by providing assistance in return, border management, asylum and the fight against migrant smuggling. This involves cooperation with EU agencies such as Frontex and the Agency for Asylum, and close coordination between participating countries.

The Western Balkans is a key strategic region for Slovenia, not only in view of migration management, but also in terms of ensuring security in the region and the EU. Supporting the region, also in managing migration flows, was one of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council in the second semester of 2021, and remains high on the EU agenda.

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The conference is being attended by over 50 representatives from 14 European countries and six partner countries from the Western Balkans, as well as by representatives from Frontex, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), and the Ljubljana office of the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance (DCAF Ljubljana).

Those topics will also be discussed at the Expert Council of the Ministry of the Interior, which is being set up and will be composed of representatives of state bodies, NGOs and civil society.