Last year's Consultative Forum plenary meeting
Daphné Bouteillet-Paquet, Senior Legal Officer at the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, has provided us with an inside recap of the discussions and presentations that took place:
Need for a change in the consultation process
A low level of participation is to be noticed this year (in total 50 participants but mainly Maltese based administrations, embassies, UNHCR, NGOs and EASO/ EC staff members). Discussions were held in relation to the format and how to better involved NGOs and Marc Camillieri suggested to move towards thematic consultations to be held on the basis of mini-CF. NGOs can suggest a list of topics to be discussed and it would be good to reflect on this proposal. Hot spots and Relocation is the obvious one to take stock of on-going developments and establish a more substantial dialogue (see below). I would also think that the situation of children deserves more discussion and reflection beyond the technical meetings organised by EASO on age assessment and BIC. Please let me know if you have any other brilliant thought.
Hotspots and Relocation (Round Table 1)
The panel discussion were informative as far as it comes to the description of huge difficulties and challenges faced both by the Greek and the Italian administration, representatives of these countries and UNHCR insisted on the huge resources mobilized to relocate respectively 129 and 30 cases. The EC seemed to be under huge political pressure. The humanitarian situation in Lesbos were discussed at length but there was no real outcome in relation to the discussions on how NGOs should be involved/ selection process/ transparency of EASO activities. Not surprisingly, some NGos positioned themselves as a partner while others see themselves as independent watchdog. It is very difficult to predict how things will evolve and how ECRE should position itself in relation to the future of Dublin system. You have probably seen latest political development with Donald Tusk calling for the end of relocation programmes in interviews with 6 European newspapers, whilst on the same day Le Soir and Le Monde released information about a letter sent by EC Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis to President Juncker after his visit to Lesbos on 19th November where he describes the humanitarian disaster happening there and deplores the lack of coordinated EU response. The scenario of a mini-Schengen excluding Greece will be debated by the European Council on 17 and 18/12.
Western Balkans (Round Table 2)
EC insisted to look at WB both as Safe Countries of Origin and as (future) countries of destination. EASO confirmed the discrepancies in recognition rates of asylum seekers coming from WB and MS have been asked to provide very detailed information about their recognition practice, COI and type of protection granted. The EC acknowledged their lack of vision in the ENLARG process as access to international protection was not seen as a priority for the past 10 years and acknowledged a huge challenge in terms of capacity building (see below information on training modules). Both IOM and iCMC provided very detailed pictures of the humanitarian situation in the WB and dramatic prospects with the winter approaching.
Involvement of NGOs in annual publications (Round Table 3)
NGOs suggested more targeted questionnaires in order to avoid that consultation end up in a resources intensive frustration exercise. We also suggested that EASO should build more links with grass roots NGOs and publish the list of experts/organizations consulted on the different topics in order to have entry point to EASO. In view of the finalization of the work plan 2016, we provided input on the methodology for Information System and on COI activities based on the inputs provided by the Dutch Refugee Council. We got no answer from EASO on these two specific issues. On the AR, we raised issues of methodology but we had little feedback - EASO agreed on the poor quality of their AR but insisted that this should be seen as a compromise rather than as a perfect tool.
EASO Spokesperson Jean-Pierre Schembri stated after the conclusion of the Forum:
This year’s Consultative Forum was indeed a special one. This year we commemorated the 5 year anniversary of EASO and this was also the 5th Consultative Forum Plenary Meeting organized by EASO. This was therefore the right time to reflect on the past and think ahead together to sketch a common path on how we deal with the new challenges in the short, medium and long term.
We would like to thank Daphné and Jean-Pierre for their contributions and insights.