Tag Archives: Common European Asylum System

Conference: “Using Human Security as a legal framework to analyse the Common European Asylum System”, CLEER, T.M.C. Asser Instituut, The Hague, 4 July

The Centre for the Law of EU External Relations (CLEER) will hold conduct the following conference on 4 July in the Hague: ‘Using Human Security as a legal framework to analyse the Common European Asylum System.’ The event is free of charge, however registration is required. Please register here.

From the conference web page:  “The conference is the second event of CLEER’s project ‘Human Security: a new framework for enhanced human rights in the EU’s foreign security and migration policies’, implemented with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) of the European Union.

The project runs from 1 September 2013 until 31 August 2014 and aims at facilitating academic interaction in closely interrelated areas of EU external conduct, creating synergies between and raising awareness of global security concerns. The project will, specifically, integrate elements of EU external action in security, development and migration policies, through the paradigm of human security.

This expert conference will explore new territory in its analysis of protection under the Common European Asylum System through the prism of Human Security. In the second and final part of the CLEER Jean Monnet conferences on Human Security, this high level gathering will bring together specialists and practitioners in the area of EU asylum law. It will take stock of recent developments in legislation, jurisprudence and doctrine; proposing insightful approaches to contemporary asylum challenges.

The four thematic panels of the conference will analyse the added value of using Human Security as a legal framework for protection in Asylum law whilst assessing the prospects of legal interaction between both fields. Sessions will concentrate on the concept of Human Security as a legal tool for interpretation of EU instruments. Emphasis will be placed on the Dublin Regime along with obligations that Member States must adhere to in applying substantive protection rights for those seeking asylum. Attention will also be paid to the use of Human Security as an operational tool for border management and the consistent application of EU norms. The conference will end with a contextualisation of the debate, specifically focusing on the relations between the EU and South Mediterranean States.

The conference will be of direct interest to everyone working and studying in the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice of the EU, notably the asylum and refugee fields. In this regard practitioners, lawyers, judges, scholars, academics, students, civil servants, military and civilian authorities are all encouraged to come. Each panel will be followed by a question and answer session allowing for the audience to participate in the debate, thereby contributing to a unique perspective on EU asylum law and its protection regime.”


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European Commission: Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum for 2010

The Commission released its second Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum for 2010 on 24 May (COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL).  Accompanying the 12 page Report is an 82 page Staff Working Paper.  Excerpts from the Commission press release regarding the Report:

“On Asylum:

  • Negotiations on all asylum legislative proposals must be finalised by the end of 2012, as agreed by the European Council.
  • The recent events in the Southern Mediterranean confirm the necessity of having in place a common asylum system at EU level. This implies better EU legislation, strengthened practical cooperation coordinated by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), concrete solidarity between Member States and increased cooperation with third countries.
  • Agreement must be reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the EU joint resettlement scheme.
  • The EU relocation pilot project with Malta, the legislative reforms adopted by Greece and the ongoing support the country has received in the implementation of the Action Plan are concrete examples of the combination of responsibility and solidarity that are needed to build the Common European Asylum System.”

“On preventing irregular migration:

  • Member States must fully transpose the Employer Sanctions Directive by July 2011, which is essential for preventing irregular migration and for the credibility of legal migration.
  • Member States must step up measures against trafficking in human beings, including assistance given to victims under Directive 2004/81/EC with a view to dismantling networks of traffickers while strengthening rights of the victims.
  • Member States must fully transpose and implement the Return Directive and continue to make use of the opportunity offered by this Directive to foster voluntary departure as the preferred return option.
  • The use of joint return flights should be continued, by making full use of the European Return Fund and FRONTEX coordination, and including the presence of forced return monitors as required under the Return Directive.
  • Member States should systematically add entry bans in the Schengen Information System in order to give full effect to the European dimension of entry bans issued under the Return Directive.”

“On effective Border Control:

  • The European Parliament and the Council must agree on the proposed amendment to the FRONTEX Regulation as soon as possible, to provide a proper legal basis to strengthen the functioning of the agency.
  • All Schengen border-crossing points should be properly equipped, border surveillance properly ensured, and border guards trained to use new IT tools, as stipulated in the Schengen Border Code.
  • The feasibility of setting up a European Borders Guard System should be considered.
  • Local Schengen cooperation must be fully exploited in order to ensure a fully harmonised and streamlined visa procedure, in particular for the benefit of bona fide travellers.
  • Member States should continue to prepare the ground for establishing EUROSUR, the entry/exit system and the registered traveller programme.
  • To better coordinate the checks at the external borders the Commission will present proposals in 2012, in order to improve interagency cooperation between FRONTEX, EUROPOL, national customs and police authorities.”

I have reproduced about half of the Annual Report here, but have not had time to begin reading the Staff Working Paper.

Excerpts from Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2010):


The present Annual Report is presented in response to the request made by the European Council when adopting the 2008 Pact on Immigration and Asylum[1] and covers the developments during 2010 in the implementation of the Pact and the relevant priorities of the Stockholm Programme adopted in 2009[2], both at the EU and the national level. The report has been prepared on the basis of Member States’ contributions and other information, in particular reports from the National Contact Points (NCPs) of the European Migration Network (EMN).

The report summarises and assesses developments at the EU and the national level[3], and puts forward recommendations for future action.

II. Entering and Residing in the EU


1. Legal migration – ensuring a legal way to enter the EU


2. Asylum – granting international protection and ensuring solidarity

In 2009 Member States recorded 266 400 asylum applications, the number in 2010 was 257 815, a slight decrease of 3%. While Poland, Italy, Hungary and Malta received less asylum-seekers in 2010 than in 2009, significant increases were recorded in Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

In 2010, the most important countries of citizenship of asylum-seekers in the EU were, in order: Afghanistan (20 580), Russia (18 500), Serbia (17 715, excluding Kosovo*[4]), Iraq (15 800) and Somalia (14 350).

In 2010, 55 095 asylum-seekers received a protection status in the EU at first instance (refugee, subsidiary protection or humanitarian). Protection was therefore granted in 25% of decisions taken in first-instance procedures.

In 2009, 7 147 refugees were resettled in the EU from third countries. The figure for 2010 was [until Q3] 3 848.

Legislative progress was slow and difficult in the field of asylum in 2010. The co-legislators agreed on the extension of the scope of the Long-Term Residents Directive to beneficiaries of international protection, and made some progress on the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations as well as on the Qualification Directive. To give an impulse to the stalled negotiations on the Reception Conditions and Asylum Procedures Directives, the Commission will adopt modified proposals on these two instruments in June 2011.

The adoption in 2010 of the Regulation for the creation of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) was a significant development. The Commission is working actively so that the EASO becomes operational in June this year in view of boosting practical cooperation.

Solidarity among Member States is needed as one of the components of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). A pilot project for the relocation from Malta to ten Member States of approx. 250 beneficiaries of international protection is running and will be extended beyond its originally intended duration so as to facilitate the relocation of recently-arrived migrants in need of international protection.

Following the submission of an Action Plan to the European Commission in August 2010, Greece has embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of its asylum and migration system, and has received support from the Commission, the Member States, Norway, the UNHCR and other EU partners. Asylum Expert Teams coordinated by the EASO are now deployed there. Important new legislation has already been adopted by Greece in 2010, and its implementation is underway.

Existing Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs) in Tanzania and Eastern Europe continued; the implementation of a new RPP in the Horn of Africa region started in September, in close cooperation with the UNHCR; and work advanced on the development of another RPP in North-Eastern Africa (Egypt, Libya and Tunisia).

Resettlement is equally essential in this context. Negotiations on the creation of a Joint EU Resettlement Programme must come to an operational and positive end. A strategic approach and political steering on the use of resettlement is needed.

  • Negotiations on all asylum legislative proposals must be finalised by the 2012 deadline.
  • The recent events in the Mediterranean and the need to restructure the asylum systems of some Member States confirm the necessity of creating a common procedure and a uniform status at EU level. This implies better EU legislation, strengthened practical cooperation coordinated by the EASO, a concrete multifaceted commitment to solidarity and an increased investment in cooperation with third countries.
  • Agreement must be reached by the European Parliament and the Council on the EU Joint resettlement scheme.
  • The EU relocation pilot project with Malta, the legislative reforms which have been adopted by Greece and the ongoing support it has received in the implementation of the Action Plan are concrete examples of the combination of responsibility and solidarity that are needed to build the CEAS.

3. Integration – a key element both for migrants and receiving societies


III. Addressing irregular migration to facilitate regular migration

In 2009, the number of irregularly staying third country nationals apprehended in the EU-27 was about 570 000 (7% less than in 2008). Member States returned about 253 000 third country nationals (4.7% more than in 2008).

In 2010 63% (i.e. about 20 000 detections) of illegal border-crossings into the EU were detected in 3Q2010 at the Greek/Turkey land border.

Effective measures aimed at preventing irregular immigration and at securing safe borders are an essential component of a coherent and credible EU immigration policy, but this policy must be fair and human rights must be respected.

1. Instruments for fighting irregular migration

Two legal key instruments have been adopted in recent years – the Return Directive 2008/115/EC and the Employer Sanctions’ Directive 2009/52/EC. They are in place now, but their state of transposition is far from satisfactory, in particular with respect to the Return Directive, where the implementation deadline passed on 24 December 2010. That is why its full and timely transposition is essential. Those provisions, which directly confer rights on migrants, may be, and already are, invoked in proceedings before national courts, and directly applied at the national level, regardless of whether national transposition legislation is in place.

Reinforced border control and cooperation with third countries, notably via readmission agreements, have already proved their effectiveness, as demonstrated in some Member States which have reported on their deterrent effect and on better-functioning return arrangements. However, there remains room for improving the effectiveness of readmission agreements at the EU level, as set out in the Commission’s Communication on the Evaluation of EU Readmission Agreements (COM(2011)76). It is also clear that the higher number of joint return flights coordinated by Frontex in 2010 have been a success, earning the agency further support and increased financial means. Moreover, the 29 measures agreed by the Council to reinforce the protection of the external borders and combating illegal immigration are now being implemented. In its Staff Working Document[5] on the fulfilment of these 29 measures, the Commission reported in detail on progress achieved with regard to each measure, putting a special emphasis on the role played by Frontex, the development of EUROSUR and the ongoing dialogue on migration with main countries of origin and transit as part of the implementation of the Global Approach. These measures need to be accelerated and given priority.

The Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator appointed by the Commission and a website on fight against trafficking in human beings[6] launched in 2010 have equipped the EU with new powers and ways to fight against this modern form of slavery. The recently adopted implementation report on Directive 2004/81/EC[7] on residence permits for victims of trafficking also called for their more effective protection, which should also help to dismantle networks of traffickers.

  • Member States must fully transpose the Employer Sanctions Directive by July 2011, essential for fighting irregular migration and for the credibility of legal migration.
  • Member States must step up measures against trafficking in human beings, including assistance given to victims under Directive 2004/81/EC with a view to dismantling networks of traffickers while strengthening rights of the victims.
  • The Return Directive must be fully transposed and implemented by the Member States who should continue to make use of the opportunity offered by this Directive to foster voluntary departure as the preferred return option.
  • The use of joint return flights should be continued, by making full use of the European Return Fund and FRONTEX coordination, and including the presence of forced return monitors as required under the Return Diretcive.
  • Member States should systematically add entry bans in the SIS in order to give full effect to the European dimension of entry bans issued under the Return Directive.

2. Effective border control

In 2010 the Commission proposed a Regulation on the establishment of an evaluation mechanism to verify the correct application of the Schengen acquis. In the light of recent experiences, its adoption must be a priority, so that the EU is better equipped to enforce a uniform application of the rules and take the appropriate measures if this would not be the case. Development of the Visa Information System (VIS) continued with the completion of the second and third major testing phases out of a total of four. Final agreement was reached on the technical specifications for the interaction of SIS II with the national systems. Member States continued to prepare the ground for establishing EUROSUR in line with the roadmap. EUROSUR will gradually establish a mechanism whereby Member States’ authorities carrying out border surveillance can cooperate and share operational information with each other and with Frontex, in order to reinforce the control of the external border of the Schengen area, especially its southern maritime and eastern land borders, and step up the fight against irregular migration and cross border crime. During the past year, the EU has faced critical situations at its borders, where it was confronted with high inflows of irregular migrants. This has been, and continues to represent, a major a test for the EU’s ability to react quickly and efficiently, while the Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements have required assistance in a spirit of solidarity. The achievements of Frontex are now broadly recognised and there is widespread agreement on the need to upgrade its role in order to enable it to be more effective.

The results of concerted EU action to tackle border-related crises have been mixed. On the one hand, the EU and the Member States have demonstrated that they are capable of responding decisively to address specific challenges faced by a Member State in effectively controlling its external borders. For the first time, following a request made by Greece related to the pressure on its land borders with Turkey, use was made of Frontex’s Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABIT). The swift deployment of the RABIT, strongly supported by participating Member States, stabilised the situation and brought down the number of arrivals compared to the peaks in 2010. Malta has recently requested deployment of the RABIT in view of the situation in the southern Mediterranean.

On the other hand, one of the lessons learnt from these events is that both increased cooperation and uniform application of the acquis must be better and more effectively ensured by all Member States. Coordinated preventive EU action vis à vis countries of origin is still slow and weak.

  • The European Parliament and the Council must agree on the proposed amendment to the FRONTEX Regulation as soon as possible, to provide a proper legal basis to strengthen the functioning of the agency.
  • All Schengen border-crossing points should be properly equipped, border surveillance properly ensured, and border guards trained to use new IT tools, as stipulated in the Schengen Borders Code.
  • The proposed Schengen evaluation mechanism must be adopted, in order to foster mutual trust between Member States and EU institutions on the correct, uniform and coherent application of the Schengen Acquis.
  • The feasibility of setting up a European Border Guard System should be considered.
  • Local Schengen cooperation must be fully exploited in order to ensure a fully harmonised and streamlined visa procedure in particular for the benefit of bona fide travellers.
  • With a view to developing a fully reliable system of EU border control, Member States should continue to prepare the ground for establishing EUROSUR, and explore the desirability of putting in place an entry/exit system and a registered traveller programme.
  • To better coordinate the checks at the external borders the Commission will present proposals in 2012, in order to improve interagency cooperation between FRONTEX, EUROPOL, national customs and police authorities.

IV. Unaccompanied minors – a specific challenge


V. The External Dimension of EU migration Policy – The Global Approach


[1]               http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st13/st13440.en08.pdf.

[3]               A Commission Staff Working Paper provides more detail.

[4]               * Under UNSCR 1244/1999.

[5]               SEC (2010) 1480 final of 26.11.2010.

[7]               COM(2010) 493.”

Click here for Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2010)

Click here for Staff Working Paper.

Click here for Press Release.

Click here for 2009 Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum.

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Extraordinary JHA Council Meeting 12 May

From the Europa web site:  “This Council meeting will focus mainly on migration and border related issues arising from the situation in the Southern neighbourhood region. Ministers will follow up the European Council conclusions of 11 March (EUCO 7/11) and 24-25 March (EUCO 10/11, pt 18-26) and the Council conclusions of 11-12 April 2011 (8909/11). They will also discuss a related communication to be presented by the Commission. The state of play as regards the proposal for modifications to the 2004 regulation that established the European agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders of the EU member states (FRONTEX) will also be reviewed at a meeting of the Mixed Committee in the margins of the Council….”

From the Commission’s Memo:

“Main Council agenda items:

[***] The Commission expects the Council to support the main lines of action set out in its 4 May Communication on migration for a more structured, comprehensive response to the challenges and opportunities of migration. These proposals, which come in addition to the urgent short-term measures already taken by the Commission to deal with the migration situation in the Southern Neighbourhood and migration pressures on frontline Member States, will be followed by flanking initiatives in the coming weeks and months. A first series of proposals, notably on integration and migration relations with the Southern Mediterranean, will be submitted to the College for adoption on 24 May.

Background: On the 4th of May 2011 (IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273), the Commission presented its comprehensive strategy for a common EU asylum and migration policy, also in view of the current developments in the Mediterranean. The initiatives cover various aspects of migration, including provisions for:

  • Effective and credible controls at the EU external border (strengthening of Frontex; exploring the feasibility of creating a European system of borders guards).
  • An improvement of Schengen governance (guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation of the Schengen rules; revised evaluation mechanism based on a Community approach; a possible EU-coordinated mechanism allowing for the temporary reintroduction of controls at the internal borders, as a last resort and under exceptional circumstances)
  • An effective and responsible approach to tackling irregular immigration (effective implementation of EU legislation and rethinking of the EU readmission policy).
  • Promoting mobility in a secure environment (possible development of a ‘new generation’ of border checks; proper use of visa liberalisation combined with safeguards).
  • Achievement of a Common European Asylum Policy (adoption of the Commission proposals already tabled).
  • Further development of common rules on legal migration and an exchange of experience and best practices on the integration of migrants.
  • Deepened relations with third countries in the framework of the Global Approach to Migration, in particular through enhanced dialogues and Mobility partnerships with countries in the Southern Mediterranean.

2. Strengthening Frontex Agency

[***] Commission’s position: The Commission expects that the European Parliament and the Council will deploy all necessary efforts to find an agreement on the Commission’s proposals by the end of June, considering that such an agreement would help Frontex to better assist the EU in facing the current migration situation.

Background: In February 2010 (IP/10/184 and MEMO/10/45), the Commission made proposals to strengthen European Union’s border management agency, Frontex. The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to ensure full respect of fundamental rights during Frontex activities and enhancing the operational capacity of Frontex to support Member States. With the new proposal, Member States would put more equipment and more personnel at the Agency’s disposal. Frontex would be able to co-lead border patrols operations with EU Member States or lease and buy its own assets (such as vessels or helicopters). It would also be allowed to provide technical assistance to third countries and deploy liaison officers in third countries.

3. Evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements (EURAs)


Pledging Conference on relocation and resettlement


Commission’s position: The Commission took the initiative to gather the Ministers, expecting confirmation of their commitment to engage in further relocation of refugees from Malta and to resettle refugees stranded in North Africa. This would demonstrate the concrete solidarity the EU and its Member States are willing to show in times of need, both internally with its own Member States and to its international partners. The Commission is ready to provide funding for the extension of the pilot project of relocation from Malta, as well as for resettlement from North Africa undertaken on a voluntary basis by Member States.

Background: The implementation of the EU relocation pilot project with Malta has been ongoing for more than a year and it has been a success in demonstrating concrete intra-EU solidarity by the relocation of refugees present in Malta to other Member States. In April, the Council adopted conclusions on solidarity, where it reaffirmed the need for solidarity towards Member States most directly concerned by migratory movements and welcomed the Commission’s intention to extend the existing pilot project for the relocation of refugees from Malta. Several Member States have announced their intention to participate in this project. In its conclusions, the Council also requested the Commission to facilitate resettlement activities undertaken on a voluntary basis by the Member States, also by means of financial support. The resettlement of refugees stranded in North Africa had already been discussed at a meeting on the 25th of March, with the participation of the UNHCR, during which Member States provided information on their commitments to resettle a number of refugees from the region.”

Click here for Commission’s Memo

Click here for Agenda.

Click here for Background Note.

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Commission Communication on Migration of 4 May

The European Commission today issued a Communication on Migration (COM(2011) 248 final) in response to the ongoing arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers in Italy and Malta and in response to the calls by Italy and France for changes in the implementation or interpretation of the Schengen Agreement.

France has welcomed the Commission’s Communication: “We note with interest that the Commission is considering establishing a mechanism for the temporary reintroduction of controls on some sections of internal borders in cases of difficulties or failures of a Member State. We also welcome the emphasis on strengthening the operational capacity of Frontex, the prospect of ultimately creating a European border guard that France has repeatedly called for. Finally, we welcome with satisfaction the intention of the Commission to propose a suspension clause of the liberalization of visa abuse.” (“Nous relevons ainsi avec intérêt que la Commission envisage l’établissement d’un mécanisme permettant la réintroduction temporaire des contrôles à certaines sections des frontières intérieures en cas de difficultés ou de défaillances d’un État membre. Nous nous félicitons aussi de l’accent mis sur le renforcement des capacités opérationnelles de FRONTEX, avec la perspective de créer à terme un système européen de garde-frontières que la France a régulièrement appelé de ses vœux. Nous accueillons enfin avec satisfaction l’intention de la Commission de proposer une clause de suspension de la libéralisation des visas en cas d’abus.”)

Excerpts from the Commission’s Communication on Migration:


The purpose of this Communication is to set recent and future policy proposals in a framework that takes account of all relevant aspects and allows the EU and its Member States to manage asylum, migration and mobility of third-country nationals in a secure environment.


The continuously evolving situation in our Southern Neighbourhood requires rapid responses. Building upon the European Council Conclusions of 11 and 25 March, the European Parliament’s Resolution of 5 April1, and, the joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative of 8 March, the Commission will present on 24 May a package of proposals to ensure a coherent EU approach in the area of migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries.

However, the need to address this challenging and evolving situation should not lead to a short-term approach limited to border control without taking account of long-term issues.


The EU should also ensure that it has in place safe and efficient asylum procedures for people in need of protection. Sixty years after the signature of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees, it is time for the EU to reaffirm its commitment to offer protection to any persecuted third country national or stateless person arriving on its territory. A Common European Asylum System, offering a high level of protection and reducing the disparities among Member States’ asylum systems, must be completed by 2012, as agreed by the European Council.


At the same time, as recent events have starkly illustrated, the EU continues to face serious challenges in the development of its migration policy. The vulnerability of some sections of the EU’s external borders is a clear example, notably in the Southern Mediterranean and at the land border between Greece and Turkey. In particular, measures must be taken to prevent large numbers of irregular migrants, often exploited by unscrupulous criminal networks, from arriving in the EU. The EU should accordingly pursue a migration policy based on ensuring that inward migration is effectively managed and ensure that the need for enhanced mobility does not undermine the security of the Union’s external borders. While this Communication naturally focuses on regions of most immediate concern, the EU’s migration policy follows a geographically comprehensive approach.


However, while the current crisis confirms the need for increased solidarity at the European level and better sharing of responsibility, it must be recognised that the EU is not fully equipped to help those Member States most exposed to massive migratory movements.


Building on the experience gained so far with the current pilot project on relocation from Malta, the Commission will support an extension of this project in view of the current influx of migrants seeking international protection there, to be implemented in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration.

However, the currently available instruments fall short of fulfilling all the needs and providing a comprehensive response. They can only be resorted to in an ad hoc manner, and are entirely dependent on the will of Member States to voluntarily offer assistance – in whatever form – at a given point in time. This in turn exposes the EU to criticism and risks undermining the trust of the citizens in the EU.

The Commission will closely monitor the continuously evolving situation and may decide, if the relevant conditions are met, to trigger the Temporary Protection Directive3 to provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from third countries that are unable to return to their country of origin.

The Commission will make further proposals during 2011 on delivering solidarity in a holistic manner and how concretely such assistance can be delivered. A number of different approaches are currently being studied, with a view to developing alternatives that will allow urgent needs to be responded to in a more rapid and structured fashion. This initiative will build on the appropriate legal basis of the Lisbon Treaty, such as Articles 80 and 78 paragraph 3, and will draw lessons from the situation in Greece, particularly at the land border between Greece and Turkey, and the crisis in the Southern Mediterranean; it will include possible ad hoc measures to be resorted to in case of particular temporary pressure on one or several Member States, as well as more structural means of ensuring solidarity, both financial and in the form of practical cooperation and technical assistance (e.g. via FRONTEX, EASO, joint operations).


FRONTEX’s role is key in channelling resources to places where the border is under pressure, as shown by the deployment – for the first time ever – of rapid border intervention teams to the Greek-Turkish land border in 2010 and the deployment of the joint naval operation HERMES to support Italy in 2011. FRONTEX’s legal framework needs be updated to allow it to be more effective in terms of its operational capacity to act at the external border. The Commission proposed the necessary changes in February last year5 and it is now urgent, especially in the light of recent events, that the Council and the Parliament approve this proposal before the end of this semester, as called for by the European Council.


[A] clear system for Schengen governance is needed. Currently the Union still relies on an intergovernmental system of peer reviews to ensure the application of the common rules. The current revision of the Schengen evaluation mechanism should be based on a Community approach with participation of experts from Member States, FRONTEX and lead by the Commission. The proposed mechanism would ensure more transparency and improve the follow-up of shortcomings identified during the experts’ evaluations. The Commission will also issue guidelines to ensure a coherent implementation and interpretation of the Schengen rules.

A mechanism must also be put in place to allow the Union to handle situations where either a Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events. A coordinated Community-based response by the Union in critical situations would undoubtedly increase trust among Member States. It would also reduce recourse to unilateral initiatives by Member States to temporarily reintroduce internal border controls or to intensify police checks in internal border regions which inevitably slow down the crossing of internal borders for everyone. Such a mechanism may therefore need to be introduced, allowing for a decision at the European level defining which Member States would exceptionally reintroduce internal border control and for how long. The mechanism should be used as a last resort in truly critical situations, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules. The Commission is exploring the feasibility of introducing such a mechanism, and may present a proposal to this effect shortly.


One of the main purposes of the Common European Asylum System is to reduce the wide divergence in the outcome of asylum applications lodged in different countries of the EU, and to ensure a common set of procedural and substantive rights which can be relied on across the Union, while ensuring full compliance with the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees and other relevant international obligations.

In 2010, there were some 257 800 asylum seekers registered in the EU, or 515 applicants per million inhabitants. Ten Member States accounted for more than 90% of applicants registered in the EU17.

It is time to complete the Common European Asylum System by reaching agreement on a balanced package by the 2012 deadline agreed by the European Council in December 2009. To that end, the Commission will shortly put forward modified proposals on the Reception Conditions and the Asylum Procedures Directives. A balanced agreement on the revision of the Dublin Regulation must be reached, including on a last resort emergency mechanism in case of exceptional pressures, and on the revised Eurodac system.


Click here for the Communication – COM(2011) 248 final.

Click here for Commission Press Statement and here for Commission FAQs.

Click here for French Government’s Point de Presse.


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Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, & Spain Issue Joint Communiqué Regarding Response to North African Migration

Ministers of Home Affairs and Internal Security from Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain, met in Nicosia on 19 April and issued a Joint Communiqué.  Here is the full text (HT to EASO Monitor):

“Joint Communiqué II

(Nicosia, 19 April, 2011)

Following the meeting in Rome on the 23rd February 2011, the Home Affairs and Internal Security Ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta as well as the representative of the Minister of Interior of Spain, met again today in Nicosia and discussed the continuing dramatic developments in the Southern Mediterranean region. At the end of the meeting it was decided to issue the following Joint Communiqué.

The Home Affairs and Internal Security Ministers of the Mediterranean Member States of the EU:

Recalling our February 23rd,2011 Joint Communiqué, we have repeated our utmost concern for the unfolding events in relation to the humanitarian situation as well as to the massive illegal immigration flows and movements of possible beneficiaries of international protection that affect our countries;

Taking into account that the escalating events in countries of Northern Africa and the greater Middle East are destabilising the region and acknowledging that political reforms and democratic transitions will not take effect immediately and that their outcome is still uncertain;

Bearing in mind Europe’s longstanding tradition and commitment to the provision of international protection to people in need, in accordance with the Geneva Convention and in line with humanitarian principles and full respect of human rights;

Underlying that security and stability in the Mediterranean is directly linked to the security and stability of the EU as a whole and that effective response to this challenge requires joint efforts, commitment and solidarity from all EU Member States;

Stressing that the current emergency situation with regard to the massive illegal immigration flows and movements of possible beneficiaries of international protection brings upon the Mediterranean Member States additional social, economic, administrative and demographic burden, to that already prevailing;

Recalling the already existing intense and continuous migratory pressure at the south eastern external borders of the EU;

Expressing deep concern about the conflict in Libya and its consequences in terms of sufferings of countless human beings and growing number of displaced persons fleeing the war and taking into account that huge number of people in need of international protection could arrive at the most exposed Mediterranean Member States in the immediate future;

Emphasizing that the possible prolongation of such influxes of illegal migrants and asylum seekers to the Mediterranean Member States, cannot be managed without the concrete and substantial support and solidarity from the rest of the EU’s Member States; alternatively, the situation will seriously jeopardize our ability, and subsequently the Union’s ability, to manage the displaced persons and provide those in need with international protection as well as undermine our common security;

Stressing that the arising situation will challenge and undermine the efforts of those Member States to reform their overburdened national asylum systems;

Reaffirming the urgent necessity for EU to provide concrete and immediate support to Member States on the EU southern external borders;

Stressing the need for additional actions and policies with a view to implement the EU principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility as expressed in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and in line with the Stockholm Programme, the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, the Global Approach to Migration, the relevant European Council Declaration of 11 March 2011 and Conclusions of 24 and 25 March 2011, the JHA Council Conclusions of 11and 12 April 2011 on the management of migration from the Southern Neighbourhood and the JHA Council Conclusions of 25 and 26 February 2010 on 29 measures for reinforcing the protection of the external borders and combating illegal immigration;

Therefore we, the Ministers of Home Affairs and Internal Security of the EU Mediterranean Countries, have adopted a common position on the emerging situation in our region and urge the European Union to practically offer operational as well as financial support to Member States which face mass and disproportionate mixed migration flows, by fully mobilizing all available EU assets, instruments and capabilities, either existing or additional ones,.

Particularly, as the competent Ministers of the EU Mediterranean Member States, urge the European Union to:

Urgently present and implement proposals on the Global Approach to Migration as well as on Mobility Partnerships, in a spirit of genuine cooperation with the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood Region, also to effectively control and manage the current and the anticipated mass migration flows as well as situation-specific schemes on return and readmission.

Call on FRONTEX to immediately implement the provisions set out in section 5 of the JHA Council Conclusions of 11 April 2011, to speed up negotiations with the countries of the region – and in particular with Tunisia – with a view to concluding operational working arrangements, and organising joint patrolling operations in cooperation with Tunisian authorities and in application of all relevant international Conventions, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (“the Montego Bay Convention”).

Call on FRONTEX to intensify the monitoring of the situation based on risk analysis and encourage Member States to provide the Agency with further human and technical resources so as to continue its ongoing operations (Joint Operation Hermes, Joint Operation Poseidon Land and Sea and the possible deployment of a RABIT operation in Malta) in the light of the emerging situation. Furthermore, call FRONTEX to expand its operations, where and when necessary, to prevent illegal flows in the eastern Mediterranean area of Egypt and Syria. To this end, further adequate financing of FRONTEX should be considered so as to increase the Organization’s capabilities to fulfil successfully its tasks.

Enhance the operational capacity and the coordinating role of the FRONTEX Operational Office in Piraeus in order to effectively deal with the situation;

Accelerate work on the FRONTEX Amending Regulation with a view to an agreement by June 2011 which will strengthen its capacity, make it truly operational and improve its synergy with other bodies.

Promote practical cooperation with the countries of origin or transit of illegal migrants in the region in preventing and fighting illegal migration flows, inter alia by concluding Readmission Agreements, developing Voluntary Return Programmes, enhancing their capacity of border management and surveillance, expanding the Immigration Liaison Officers Network, promoting legal migration by exploring the possibility of concluding mobility partnerships;

Encourage Member States to expedite discussions on the proposal for recasting the Dublin II Regulation, including a mechanism to suspend the transfers to Member States facing particular pressure on their national asylum systems.

Urgently mobilize all available financial assistance through the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund and in addition, as section 4 of the JHA Council Conclusions of 11 April, 2011 reads, activate supplementary funds that can be made available to Member States or FRONTEX at short notice when needed. In this vein establish a special solidarity Fund, when necessary, to tackle exceptional emergency situations and humanitarian crisis.

Deploy every available possibility by the European Asylum Support Office to offer practical support to the Member States of the Mediterranean Region in need. A permanent specialised mechanism should be set up through the EASO, which, at exceptional emergency situations, will provide Member States in need with the necessary logistical and technical support.

As a matter of priority, present a proposal for implementing a coherent and comprehensive mechanism for distributing responsibilities, on a voluntary basis, specifically regarding the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection among member states, in case of European countries faced with particular pressures, as a consequence of their geographical or demographic situation, especially when facing the sudden arrival of third country nationals in need of international protection.

Commit to the work on establishing a Common European Asylum System with a view to respect the 2012 deadline.

We the Ministers of the Mediterranean Member States of the EU agreed to meet again soon, at a date to be agreed, in order to further coordinate our efforts before the European Council of June this year.”

Click here for document.


Filed under Cyprus, Egypt, European Union, Frontex, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Statements, Tunisia

ASIL Insight article about M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece

ASIL has just published an Insight article about M.S.S. v. Belgium & Greece written by Tom Syring, Co-chair of the ASIL International Refugee Law Interest Group, who currently serves at the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board.

Excerpt from the conclusion:  “Apart from criticizing Greece for the current conditions of detention and subsistence awaiting asylum seekers, and Belgium for ‘intentional blindness’ for failing to properly scrutinize the adequacy of protection against refoulement in Greece, despite the fact that circumstances had called for application of the sovereignty clause, the Grand Chamber’s judgment exposes flaws in the current European asylum regime.

The judgment acknowledges … challenges [posed by CEAS and the Dublin regulation], yet underlines that neither uneven burden-distribution (Greece) nor a state’s minimalist reading of the Dublin Regulation (Belgium) absolves Member States of their responsibilities vis-à-vis the Convention or other applicable international treaties, including the 1951 Refugee Convention. As long as the EU and CEAS are comprised of individual Member States, as opposed to a ‘United States of Europe,’ individual states will be held responsible for independently assessing each case for the risk of direct or indirect refoulement.   While the Grand Chamber judgment uncovered a number of deficiencies in the current European asylum system, solutions to CEAS may have to be found outside the ‘Dublin world.’”

Click here for full article.

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Video of Yesterday’s EP Plenary Session Addressing Common EU Asylum System and the Italian Migration Emergency

Of possible interest to a few, here are two links to the portions of yesterday’s plenary session of the European Parliament where the Common EU Asylum System and the migration emergency in Italy were discussed by a few MEPs and Commissioner Malmström.  As you can see from my screen shot below of the debate regarding the migration emergency, very few MEPs were in attendance.

Click here (Common EU Asylum System) and here (migration emergency) for link to the BBC’s Democracy Live site with the video.

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Rob Visser Selected as 1st European Asylum Support Office Director

The EASO management board held its first formal meeting on 26 November and selected Mr Rob K Visser as EASO’s first executive Director.  Mr Visser is currently the Director General for International Affairs and Immigration of the Dutch Ministry of Justice (directeur-generaal Internationale Aangelegenheden en Vreemdelingenzaken bij het ministerie van Justitie).

I have not been able to find a CV or biography of Mr Visser and have instead pieced the following information together from several online sources: He was appointed to the Director General position in 2003.  Before that he worked as an adviser in the Office of the Prime Minister and as Deputy Secretary-General of the Ministry of General Affairs (plaatsvervangend secretaris-generaal van het ministerie van Algemene Zaken).  He has also held positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He holds a doctoral degree.  His doctoral research was published in a 2008 book entitled: “In dienst van het algemeen belang: Ministeriële verantwoordelijkheid en parlementair vertrouwen” (“Serving the public interest: Ministerial responsibility and parliamentary confidence”).

Mr Visser was the subject of a February 2005 Monthly Policy Interview by Eurasylum, Ltd. where he spoke about the “Key outcomes of the Dutch EU Presidency in the field of immigration and asylum.”  Here are some excerpts from the 2005 interview:

“In the months leading up to [the June-Dec 2004 Dutch presidency] … [t]here was an atmosphere where all Member States were clearly aware that far-reaching cooperation was necessary if migration management was to become, effectively, a success. … A case in point is illegal migration in the Mediterranean. This does not only create migratory pressures on Europe’s external borders, it also leads to human tragedies that make clear to everyone that people are risking their lives to try and reach the shores of Europe. Such losses of life are unacceptable and require a policy response. They also require a willingness to accept the consequences of any such responses. For example, a European response to illegal migrants who apply for asylum requires the type of European asylum procedure and uniform asylum status that had already been anticipated in Tampere. The situation in the Mediterranean also leads to pertinent questions on EU relations with neighbouring third countries. There are many more such examples, such as the demographic situation in Europe or the situation of refugees close to their regions of origin. An integrated and comprehensive approach is needed today as much as it was at the time of the Tampere European Council in 1999. However, since Tampere we have gained considerable experience and become more aware of the primary importance of practical cooperation among Member States and with third countries….

[T]he transposition process is a difficult process. The implementation of Community legislation within national legislation is a new phenomenon as far as asylum and migration are concerned. Many directives are complicated, because they are the results of very intensive and difficult negotiations, which have sometimes led to legislative texts that were not always easy to interpret. In my view this is a major reason why the implementation process is going so slowly….

In the Hague Programme we have tried to find a fair balance. We have not only focused on control measures, but also on the need for integration of immigrants who reside legally in the European Union. We have focused on a common European asylum system, but also on capacity management in neighbouring third countries and on the strengthening of durable solutions for refugees in their regions of origin. Cooperation with third countries is not likely to become fully effective if the focus is only on control. Responsibilities should not be shifted, but shared, and this is the spirit of the Hague Programme….”

Before Mr Visser may assume his duties as Executive Director he must first appear before the European Parliament to answer questions.

Click here for full Eurasylum interview.

Click here and here for EC Press Releases.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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JHA Council 8 Nov. Meeting Results

The Justice and Home Affairs Council met on 8 November.  A Council press release containing the “provisional version” of the main results of the meeting includes the following summaries relating to the CEAS and FRONTEX:

“Common European Asylum System (CEAS) – Ministers continued work on the establishment of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) on the basis of a discussion paper (15561/10). The CEAS includes a package of six legislative proposals which EU member states have committed to adopt by 2012.

The main focus of the debate was on the developments since the October Council, in particular as regards the four proposals that have been identified as priority instruments on the legislative side of the CEAS: the Directives on Qualification and on Long Term Residents and the Regulations on Dublin II and Eurodac. Furthermore, the Presidency identified a number of possible priority objectives, reflecting the discussion at the discussion at the Ministerial Conference on Asylum in September 2010, for the new European Asylum Support Office (EASO) . The EASO will soon be operational and is designed to become an important tool for practical cooperation and solidarity in the asylum area. …

FRONTEX regulation –  The [Mixed Committee (the EU plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland)] discussed the state-of-play concerning revised rules for the external borders agency FRONTEX. Some of the issues outstanding include the development of a common integrated risk analysis model, the processing of personal data and the creation of a European system of border guards.

Council preparatory bodies will continue to discuss the text. Negotiations with the European Parliament have not yet started.

On 24 February 2010 the Commission submitted a proposal to amend Council Regulation (EC) No 2007/2004 (6898/10)….

Click here for Council press release.

Click here for Background paper for the JHA Council meeting.

Click here for the CEAS discussion paper.

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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

MEPs Lambert and Iacolino on CEAS

MEP Jean Lambert (Green – UK) writes in New Europe in regard to the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) that  the Greens “want to see a fair and efficient system which will deliver consistent and high quality decisions for those in need of protection. Amongst the major challenges at present are the inconsistencies across the EU in both the practical delivery of Member State’s asylum systems and the outcomes of their decisions. It would be fair to refer to the ‘European Asylum lottery’ when faced with statistics on the divergences in protection rates between Member States – 73.2 % of Iraqi applicants were granted subsidiary protection at first instance in Sweden in the first quarter of 2007 compared with 0% in Greece.”

Click here for full article.

MEP Salvatore Iacolino, Vice Chair of LIBE, (Christian Democrat – Italy) writes “we must ensure, on the one hand, access to efficient and streamlined procedures for persons seeking international protection, and, on the other, consistent application of rules in order to build mutual trust between Member States.  We cannot just think of a national dimension for the strategies for immigration and asylum, but it is essential to create a mechanism for equitable sharing of responsibilities.”

Click here for full article.

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