The purposes are to upgrade asylum agency with improved operational and technical powers; appoint a fundamental Rights Officer responsible for a new complaints mechanism; create a pool of at least 500 national asylum experts ready to be deployed.
The new year, 2022, began with a novelty in the area of migration management: on 19 January the new European Union Agency for Asylum (Euaa) started its job. It is, in fact, the strengthening of Easo, the European Office for Asylum Support, active since 2011 with headquarters in Malta, Valletta, which has acquired a more energetic mandate, becoming an agency. The European Commission highlighted that the new agency is “a key achievement under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum” presented in September 2020. The European Commission has specified that the Agency will help ensure that decisions in asylum matters are taken “quickly and fairly” and that “reception standards converge across the EU, bringing greater uniformity in decision-making and alignment between the asylum systems of the member states”. Nina Gregori is the executive director of Euaa, she took up her duties on June 16, 2019. Slovenian, Gregori worked for over 20 years at the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Slovenia, holding for over a decade the position of senior management of general manager, responsible for asylum, migration, integration, and internal business administration.
The new agency will receive 172 million euros of EU funds in 2022 and will launch 8 operations (in Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Spain) to support asylum and reception authorities in the Member States with almost 2 thousand employees.
Based on Easo’s previous experience, the new Agency is called upon to ensure that there are “more efficient asylum systems through greater operational and technical support to the Member States”, including training, especially for reception conditions; the preparation; information analysis, and information exchange.
Second, the Agency will have to see to it that there is improved assistance: a pool of 500 experts, including case assistants, interpreters, or reception specialists, will be ready to be quickly deployed as part of the support teams for the asylum at the request of the Member States. The Agency’s experts will have the mandate to prepare the entire administrative asylum procedure for the decision of the national authorities and to offer assistance in the appeal phase.
Third, the Agency will have to help ensure that the decision-making process is uniform across the EU and of high quality through the development of operational standards, guidelines, and best practices for the implementation of EU asylum law.
The fourth task for the Agency: to ensure that there is greater convergence of recognition rates by developing country guidelines on countries of origin that the Member States should take into account when evaluating asylum applications.
Fifth, the Agency will have to contribute to better monitoring and reporting on Member States’ asylum and reception systems, to be developed in the future, allowing the Agency to monitor the operational and technical application of EU asylum law to ensure more consistent practices across Europe, in line with EU law.
Sixth, the Agency will have to work for capacity building in third countries to improve asylum and reception systems and support EU and Member State resettlement programs, building on existing cooperation with UN agencies. Seventh and final task, an independent fundamental rights officer and a new complaints mechanism will ensure the protection of the rights of asylum seekers.
EU Council and Parliament
The Council of Internal Affairs of the European Union, that is the meeting of all the ministers of the interior of the EU countries, adopted the regulation establishing the EU asylum agency on 9 December.
According to Ales Hojs, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Slovenia, the country in December held the presidency of the EU Council now passed to France, “having a fully-fledged EU agency for asylum is an important step in building the common EU asylum policy “as” the Agency will be able to provide rapid and tangible support to the Member States wherever it is needed “. Furthermore, the Agency “will also contribute to our cooperation with third countries, demonstrating in a very concrete way the strength of our common action”, commented the Slovenian minister.
The Council emphasized that the regulation on the EU Asylum Agency facilitates the deployment of experts in the Member States who have requested operational support and intensifies support for cooperation between the Member States and third countries.
The European Parliament was satisfied, which definitively approved the text with 396 votes in favor, 92 against and 73 abstentions, last November 11, in the plenary session air. Parliament specified that it was thanks to the request of MEPs that the Agency will create a post for a fundamental rights officer, who will head the new whistleblowing system. The Fundamental Rights Officer will be in charge of ensuring that the Agency respects basic rights in the course of its activities. He will be more generally responsible for promoting respect for fundamental rights in EU asylum policy.
Furthermore, the Parliament stressed that the Agency will create a pool of at least 500 asylum experts from Member States (40 from Italy) who can quickly be employed as members of the asylum support teams alongside experts from the ‘Agency and provide operational assistance in the field. Finally, the deputies highlighted that from 31 December 2023, the Agency will assess how the countries of the Union are correctly applying the various procedures of the EU’s common asylum system, in order to identify any shortcomings. Monitoring may include, for example, verifying the application of the criteria used to assess the need for protection and the type of protection granted to asylum seekers, including respect for fundamental rights, guaranteeing the protection of children, and compliance with procedural and reception conditions.
For the rapporteur of the text, the Bulgarian Socialist MEP Elena Yoncheva, the Agency “marks a historic moment for the reform of the common European asylum system, marking the first step for a new system”. The MEP pointed out that “the negotiations have not always been easy” with the Council, that is, the member countries. This is the institution that is most closed to deal with the issue of migration and the one where it is most evident how the electoral issues of individual EU states negatively influence or even block, the start of a fully European political path, of sharing responsibility and solidarity. between countries, as regards the management of flows, respect for the human rights of migrants, and integration.
As for Easo, in the last 10 years, the Office has trained more than 40,000 people in all Member States, registered 40% of all asylum applications in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and Malta, carried out 80% of the ratings of best interest for children in Greece and supported all post-disembarkation relocations from Cyprus, Italy, and Malta.
Giulia Torbidoni – TIA