Tag Archives: Asylum

New Blog to Follow EASO

Earlier this month, Dr. Neil Falzon launched a new blog, the EASO Monitor, which will be focused on the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).   Falzon is based in Malta and lectures International Human Rights Law at the Faculty of Laws and EU Migration and Asylum Law at the European Documentation and Research Centre at the University of Malta. 

(I have been off line for more than a month and am just getting back to work now that a new semester has begun here in all too warm Los Angeles.  A belated Happy 2011 to all.  -nwf)

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Filed under European Union, Malta, News

Eritreans Diverted from Libya Held by Human Smugglers at Egypt-Israel Border

Several organizations, including Gruppo EveryOne, are making an appeal on behalf of a group of 80 Eritreans who are reportedly being held by traffickers at the Egypt-Israel border. The Eritreans apparently departed Tripoli en route to Israel.  This incident provides anecdotal evidence that African asylum seekers are attempting to enter Israel because the Central Mediterranean sea route to Europe has for all practical purposes been closed by the Italian-Libyan push-back practice in effect since May 2009.

Click here (EN) or here (IT) for the Gruppo EveryOne appeal.

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Filed under Egypt, Eritrea, Israel, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News

ECRE Statement Re EU Conference on Quality and Efficiency in the Asylum Process

ECRE released a statement at the conclusion of this week’s EU Ministerial Conference on Quality and Efficiency in the Asylum Process:

“… Since its peak in the early 1990s, the number of asylum applications lodged within the European Union has experienced a sharp decline, despite the increase in some individual Member States. However, a difficult political and economic environment in Europe is fuelling little appetite for welcoming foreigners, which is translated into a slow progress at the table of negotiations to build a Common European Asylum System.

ECRE believes that initiatives to increase practical cooperation, such as this conference and the establishment of a European Asylum Support Office, which will soon be up and running in Malta, will help to make the asylum system fairer and more efficient. For instance, yesterday’s discussions have provided examples of how to improve the treatment of children or traumatised asylum seekers. Also, pooling resources with regard to information about the home countries of asylum seekers, interpretation services and training can contribute to better decisions.

Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE’s Secretary General, said: ‘The current EU asylum system is failing both Member States and people who arrive to Europe fleeing war or persecution. Practical cooperation is part of the solution but will not be enough. European Member States also need to resolve the impasse in the negotiations and work together to agree on fairer common asylum rules’.

Asylum seekers still have hugely different chances of being granted international protection depending on the EU country that will examine their application. For instance, in 2009, virtually no Iraqis were recognised as refugees in Greece, while in Germany, 77% of Iraqi asylum seekers were granted international protection and could rebuild their lives. A harmonised asylum system with higher standards of protection would not be only fairer; it would also be more efficient and less costly in the longer term.”

Click here for information on the Conference organised by the Belgian Presidency.

Click here for Commissioner Cecilia Malmström’s statement at the conference.

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ECRE’s Recommendations to the Belgian EU Presidency

ECRE issued last week a letter and memorandum setting forth its recommendations to the Belgian EU Presidency in regard to the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), and other related legislative files that will be considered during the Belgian Presidency.

Among the several important recommendations made by ECRE are the following:

“Access to protection – … [C]ooperation between the EASO, FRA and FRONTEX provide opportunities to develop mechanisms at EU level to guarantee that border control mechanisms are protection-sensitive in practice. The recently adopted guidelines for joint sea operations coordinated by FRONTEX restate the international human rights framework governing interception at sea and reaffirm the obligation of Member States to ensure that “no person shall be disembarked in, or otherwise handed over to the authorities of a country in contravention of the principle of non-refoulement, or from which there is a risk of expulsion or return to another country in contravention of that principle.”  They also explicitly require that “the person intercepted or rescued shall be informed in an appropriate way so that they can express any reasons for believing that disembarkation in the proposed place would be in breach of the principle of non-refoulement”. Whereas the guidelines merely restate these principles, they need to be implemented in practice. Given that the actual disembarkation of persons intercepted or rescued in the context of FRONTEX operations is dealt with in the non-binding part of the guidelines, it remains to be seen how effective this tool will be in order to ensure effective access to protection.

Recently the Commission proposed the third substantive revision of FRONTEX’ mandate. The Commission proposal unambiguously asserts that relevant EU standards, as well as international human rights and refugee law, are applicable to all border operations carried out by Member States under the auspices of Frontex and to all other activities entrusted to the Agency, which ECRE welcomes.

At the same time, while the intention of the Commission is to further clarify the role and responsibilities of FRONTEX vis-à-vis the Member States, the fundamental ambiguities about accountability for possible human rights violations during border control operations coordinated by FRONTEX are not resolved. ECRE believes that the respective roles and responsibilities of Member States’ guest officers, host Member State border officers, observers from third countries and FRONTEX personnel in those operations must be clearly established to avoid “accountability shifting” between the various actors involved. The enhanced role of FRONTEX in coordinating joint operations necessarily adds to FRONTEX’ responsibility and therefore further amendments to the Commission proposal are required to reinforce the Agency’s accountability.

Moreover, the proposed expansion of the role of FRONTEX in cooperating with third countries in border management, including through the posting of Immigration Liaison Officers, raises a number of concerns from a fundamental rights perspective, in particular regarding the ability of individuals to flee and find protection from persecution. Consequently, ECRE believes that additional safeguards are needed to ensure that FRONTEX activities will indeed not “prevent access to protection systems by persons in need of international protection” as required by the Stockholm Programme.

ECRE calls upon the Council and the European Parliament in particular to:

  • Support the proposed amendments to the FRONTEX Regulation reasserting the obligations under EU law and fundamental rights which are incumbent upon Member States when taking part in the Agency’s operations.
  • Establish mechanisms to reinforce FRONTEX accountability in view of the increasing responsibilities placed on the Agency.
  • Introduce the necessary safeguards to ensure that FRONTEX enhanced capacity to cooperate with third countries does not prevent access to protection systems by persons in need of international protection.”

Click here for the ECRE Memorandum.

Click here for the ECRE Letter to the Belgian EU Presidency.

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Filed under Belgium, Communiqués, European Union, Frontex, Statements

EUROSTAT: 2009 EU27 Asylum Statistics and Characteristics of Asylum Seekers

Excerpts from the EUROSTAT asylum statistics press release issued on 18 June 2010:

The EU27 Member States granted protection to 78 800 asylum seekers in 2009 compared with 75 100 in 2008.

The largest groups of beneficiaries of protection status in the EU27 were citizens of Somalia (13 400 persons or 17% of the total number of persons granted protection status), Iraq (13 100 or 17%) and Afghanistan (7 100 or 9%).

In 2009, 317 500 decisions on asylum applications were made in the EU27, of which 228 600 were first instance decisions and 88 900 final decisions on appeal. Decisions made at the first instance resulted in 61 700 persons being granted protection status, while a further 17 100 received protection status on appeal.

The rate of recognition of asylum applicants, i.e. the share of positive decisions in the total number of decisions, was 27% for first instance decisions and 19% for final decisions on appeal.

In 2009, the highest number of persons granted protection status was registered in the United Kingdom (12 500), followed by Germany (12 100), France (10 400), Sweden (9 100), Italy (8 600) and the Netherlands (8 100). These Member States accounted for more than three quarters of all those granted protection status in the EU27.

The rate of recognition varies considerably among Member States…. The highest rates of recognition in the first instance were recorded in Malta (66%), Slovakia (56%), Portugal (51%), the Netherlands and Denmark (both 48%), and the lowest in Greece (1%), Ireland (4%), Spain (8%), France (14%) and Slovenia (15%).

Somalis were the single largest group of persons granted protection status in the EU27.

[M]inors accounted for 60 500 of the applicants [in 2009], of which 12 200 were unaccompanied.

Click here for the EUROSTAT Asylum Statistics document.

Click here for EUROSTAT Characteristics of asylum seekers in Europe report.

Click here for EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström’s statement on the EUROSTAT reports.

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Annual GDISC Asylum Conference

From 8-10 March the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the Directors General of Immigration Services Conference GDISC – organised the annual GDISC Asylum Conference in Nuremberg.

Representatives from 24 European countries, the EC, UNHCR, and IGC discussed the current situation in the field of asylum as it relates to the issues of unaccompanied minors, quality management of asylum services, the impact of the proposed changes on the EU directives to the field of asylum, and the functioning of the asylum support teams within the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).  The next GDISC conference will be held in Prague on 15-15 June 2010.

Click here for the Draft Summary Conclusions of the Conference.

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Filed under European Union, Germany, News, UNHCR