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Brussels, 26 November 2010

The European Asylum Support Office starts its activities

The first meeting of the Management Board of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will take place in Malta on 25 and 26 November. On that occasion, the first Executive Director will be selected, and regulations on the internal functioning of the Agency and the first priorities will be discussed.

How is the EASO going to work?

The EASO is established in the form of a regulatory agency. The EASO founding Regulation provides that the Office will be fully operational by 19 June 2011.

The planning and monitoring authority of the office is its Management Board. It consists of one member from each EU country, of two members from the Commission and of a non-voting member from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The term of office of management board members is three years, renewable.

The management board appoints the executive director from candidates selected via an open competition. The executive director is responsible for managing and acting as the legal representative of the office. The term of office of the executive director is five years, renewable once for not more than three years. The first Executive Director will be formally appointed early 2011 by the EASO Management Board after a hearing before the European Parliament.

The EASO may set up working parties composed of experts in the field of asylum.

A consultative forum is to be established for cooperation between the EASO and relevant civil society organisations and other competent bodies working on asylum policy at local, regional, national, European or international level.

The budget foreseen for the period 2010 – 2013 is around €40 million.

What is the mandate of the EASO?

The Regulation establishing the EASO contributes to the creation of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The mandate of the EASO is to strengthen Member States’ practical cooperation on asylum, to support Member States whose asylum systems are under particular pressure and to enhance the implementation of the CEAS.

  • Support for practical cooperation: the EASO is responsible for facilitating exchanges of information as well as identifying and pooling good practice on asylum matters in general. More specifically, the office is responsible for activities relating to the gathering of information concerning countries of origin of asylum seekers. This includes the development of a portal, as well as analysing and reporting on country-of-origin information. In addition, the office is to provide support for the intra-Community transfers of persons under international protection, for the training of relevant parties and for the external dimension of the CEAS.

  • Support for Member States under particular pressure: the EASO is to assist Member States that find themselves under particular pressure in particular due to their geographical or demographic situations or due to the arrival of large numbers of third country nationals that need international protection (relocation). It will coordinate the so-called support teams made up of national experts (see infra).

  • Implementation of the CEAS: the EASO is to contribute to the implementation of the CEAS, in particular by coordinating the exchanges of information between relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the instruments of the Union asylum acquis. For this purpose, the EASO may establish databases covering asylum instruments at national, European and international levels. In addition, it is to gather information on the processing of asylum applications and on legislative developments concerning asylum in Member States. The office is also responsible for drawing up an annual report on the European asylum situation and may draft technical documents, such as guidelines and operating manuals, on the implementation of the Union asylum instruments.

How will asylum support teams be helpful?

Upon request for assistance by Member States under particular pressure, the EASO may coordinate the deployment of one or more asylum support teams to their territories for an appropriate period of time. These teams are to provide technical assistance such as interpreting services, information on countries of origin and know-how on managing asylum cases.

The EASO will not only establish an asylum intervention pool made up of experts, from which the teams are drawn up, but will also draw up a list of interpreters. EU countries are to contribute to this pool with experts from their national pools and assist in the identification of interpreters. An operating plan is to be established.

The Common European Asylum System: What is the state of play?

The launch of the EASO is a major step towards the establishment of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) by 2012 (a deadline set by the Stockholm Programme). But it is only one element of a broader package, aiming at setting up a common area of protection and solidarity based on a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for those granted international protection.

The first generation of the CEAS instruments were adopted between 2000 and 2005. The EU is engaging in improving its asylum acquis with a second generation of legislation.

In order to complete the ongoing construction of the CEAS, six legislative proposals have to be negotiated. The objective of the current EU Presidency is to accelerate negotiations on four instruments (revision of the Dublin and EURODAC Regulations, the extension of the Long term Residence Status Directive and the Qualification Directive), with clear commitment to continue negotiations on the remaining two others (the Reception Conditions Directive and the Asylum Procedures Directive).

The extension of the long term residents directive to beneficiaries of international protection (COM (2007) 298 amending Directive 2003/109/EC)

This proposal is designed to extend the legal system for Non-EU Member Country nationals with long-term resident status to include persons with international protection. The Commission has proposed that such persons, who initially were not covered by Directive 2003/109/EC, may be granted the rights under long-term resident status after a period of five years' legal residence. The beneficiaries targeted are refugees under the terms of the Geneva Convention and persons enjoying subsidiary protection within the meaning of Directive 2004/83/EC.

Good progress has been achieved and a final compromise could be reached very soon between the European Parliament and the Council.

The Dublin II Regulation

With regards to Dublin II Regulation, a recast proposal was presented in December 2008 with the aim of increasing efficiency of asylum cases and offering better guarantees and legal protection to asylum seekers (IP/08/1875).

A number of issues still need to be resolved. This is notably the definition of family members, provisions on detention in relation with the Dublin procedure and the suspensive character of appeals against transfer decisions. The Commission is in favour of a common exceptional mechanism for the temporary suspension of transfers of asylum seekers to the first country of entry in the EU territory. This 'mécanisme d'urgence' would allow the EU to deal with exceptional situations where certain Member States would suffer from a heavy burden they simply cannot cope with on their own.

The EURODAC Regulation

EURODAC (the system collecting asylum seekers fingerprints) was the first instrument adopted in the field of asylum. It is a European flagship biometric IT system in support of asylum policy and for the proper implementation of the Dublin regulation. With its new proposal of 11th October 2010, the Commission aims at allowing for a rapid agreement by the co-legislators on the EURODAC Regulation, and thereby facilitate progress on the whole asylum package as well as the timely set up of the IT Agency (that should also be responsible for the management of EURODAC).

The Qualification Directive

The Commission submitted its proposal for the recast of the Qualification Directive in October 2009 (IP/09/1552). This proposal clarifies certain legal concepts, such as “actors of protection”, “internal protection” or “membership of a particular social group”, in order to enable national authorities to apply the criteria more robustly and to identify more quickly persons in need of protection. Furthermore, the proposal aims to approximate the rights granted to refugees and to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. The amendments concern the duration of residence permits, access to social welfare, health care and the labour market. This would entail a reduction of the costs and administrative burdens linked to the management of different protection statuses.

What other tool is there to help Member States implement the asylum acquis?

The European Refugee Fund (ERF)

The ERF is another tool supporting the efforts of Member States to apply fair and effective asylum procedures and to promote good practices in the field of asylum so as to protect the rights of persons requiring international protection. The ERF can provide all Member States (except Denmark; UK and Ireland have opted in) with financial assistance in a wide range of cases: structures and training to ensure access to asylum procedures for asylum seekers, legal assistance, material aid and medical or psychological care, social assistance, the provision of support services such as translation, training for the national staff, measures promoting the integration of beneficiaries of international protection into Member States' societies. Furthermore, the ERF also provides assistance to Member States which may face particular pressure.

The Temporary Protection Directive

The Temporary Protection Directive was adopted in 2001. It foresees the triggering of an emergency procedure in the event of a mass influx or imminent mass influx of displaced persons, the existence of which is established by an EU decision on a proposal from the Commission, in particular if there is also a risk that the asylum system will be unable to process this influx without adverse effects for its efficient operation. The temporary protection mechanism established by the Directive has not been used yet.

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

DG Home Affairs Newsroom:

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