Monday, 29 October 2012

Executive Director meets Dutch Immigration Minister

We've just received a press release from the European Asylum Support Office on today's meeting between the Executive Director, Dr. Robert K. Visser, and the Dutch Minister for Immigration, Dr. Gerd Leers.

Friday, 26 October 2012

JHA Council...thesis on EASO...upcoming ERA conference

A few updates for weekend reading:

  • Read the Press Release from the current 3195th JHA Council meeting, although the references to EASO are rather scant;

  • The recent thesis of Miriam Schimannek entitled 'The establishment of the European Asylum Support Office and its impact on EU asylum policy', referred to us by our friends at Forced Migration Current Awareness blog;

  • As reminder of next week's ERA Annual Conference on EU Asylum Law, where EASO's Executive Director will be delivering a presentation together with other high-profile academics and practitioners.  We'll be participating, and reporting EASO-related documents and elements.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

EASO's October newsletter

A few days ago we received EASO's October newsletter, giving updated information on the Agency's activities and recruitment opportunities.

The newsletter (in .pdf) can be downloaded here.

Monday, 15 October 2012

EASO's 2nd Consultative Forum: where is Civil Society?

Some days ago the European Asylum Support Office announced the organisation of its 2nd Consultative Forum.  A a quick refresher, the founding Regulation requires EASO to engage in dialogue with those members of civil society that are active in the area of asylum.  'Civil society' is here to be interpreted widely to include NGOs, academic institutions and networks, trade unions and other entities that feel they can contribute to the work of the EU's asylum agency.  

To see all earlier posts relating to the Forum, especially those commenting on its first gathering (December 2011), you can use our post tags to search the blog (or just click here).

So, the 2nd meeting will be held in Valletta (Malta) on 25th and 26th November.  On the 25th there will be an informal dinner, followed by a full day session that will follow the agenda (in draft form here.)

As with last year's meeting, only those organisations registered with EASO are eligible to attend.  We recently caught a glimpse of the registered organisations and, to be totally honest, it's a very sad sight!  Some MS aren't even represented on the list!

We've been having a discussion with several entities, including EASO itself, on how to further engage civil society in the Agency's workings.  Several considerations emerge from the discussion, yet it looks like the key issue revolves around the question: Why bother?  

Why should busy NGOs, already stretched to their limits, frustrated at the short-comings in the EU's efforts at truly protecting asylum-seekers and refugees, engage with an Agency that seems to be essentially run by the 27 MS? What difference could it make? Why bother?

We think this remains EASO's main challenge, and unless tackled immediately runs the risk of being the primary cause of civil society alienation from the Agency. It is not a challenge that can or should be ignored.  

To date, the Agency's performance in terms of civil society dialogue has been far from great. Last year, during the first Forum meeting, we were presented with the 2012 Work Programme when this was already discussed, finalised, adopted and sealed. 

A few months ago, the first Annual Report was published.  On the basis of the Regulation's provisions, we all thought this would be a comprehensive document that looked at the state of asylum in the EU and gave us all - including the EU institutions - a clear understanding of where we really stand.  Some of us provided NGO reports to try to ensure a more objective and fair picture. It looks like NGO reports were not given much least ours wasn't!  

Yet given the Agency's young age, many NGOs thought it best to limit criticism and instead to recommend alternative strategies, to suggest improvements.  So we asked for a timetable of operational dates, a timetable in which NGO input could be a manner that would be relevant to the Agency before finalising key documents as the Work Programme and the Annual Report. 

But then we see that the 2013 Work Programme has already been discussed, finalised, adopted and sealed. And we still don't quite know how we fit in the Agency's systems.  

So really, why should we bother? Why do we, as a Malta-based NGO, actually bother?

Ultimately, because it's now or never. The way we see it, timing is crucial.  We either manage to get into the system and do our best to change and improve it when it is still being shaped and formed, or before we know it we will have a full-functioning system with which we simply cannot function.  

If we want our expertise to be taken seriously...on children, LGBTI claims, procedural issues, detention, entitlements, gender, housing, access to territory...then now is the time to tell EASO that we do have the expertise and that we expect it to be taken into account.  

So go on, register with EASO and tell it what you have to offer.  It's a free no-strings-attached there's really no excuse!  Go to EASO's site, About us, and scroll all the way down for instructions.

We hope to see you in Malta!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

EASO Work Programme for 2013

A new and interesting document has just been brought to our attention: EASO's Work Programme for 2013.  It was presented by EASO Executive Director Dr. Robert K. Visser to the Council on 2nd October.

We haven't yet had time to go through it, so we'll be sharing our comments in the coming days.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

ECRE & EASO, Unaccompanied Minors, Syria...

Updates for the European Asylum Support Office (EASO):

  • A 23rd July press release from the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union refers to EASO's involvement in discussions on Syrian refugees.  We haven't read much about this involvement, but we're very interested in getting an idea of what EASO's thinking.  A serious concern is of course the situation of Syrian refugees in countries neighbouring Syria, and here the EU's role would be primarily one of solidarity in it broad sense, yet we're particularly concerned about the disparate levels of protection granted to Syrian refugees here in the EU and what it says about MS commitments to a true Common European Asylum system with harmonised standards; 

  • On the latter point, and on many other current issues involving CEAS and EASO have you read ECRE's recommendations to the Cyprus Presidency, here.