Tag Archives: European Asylum Support Office

PACE Calls for Urgent Measures to Assist Greece and Turkey With Mounting Migratory Tensions in Eastern Mediterranean

PACE, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, adopted a Resolution on 24 January 2013 calling for “firm and urgent measures [to] tackle the mounting pressure and tension over asylum and irregular migration into Greece, Turkey and other Mediterranean countries.”  The Resolution noted that Greece, with EU assistance, has enhanced border controls, particularly along its land border with Turkey and while “these policies have helped reduce considerably the flow of arrivals across the Evros border with Turkey, they have transferred the problem to the Greek islands and have not helped significantly in dealing with the situation of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees already in Greece.”

The Resolution makes recommendations to the EU, Greece, and Turkey and calls on CoE members states to “substantially increase their assistance to Greece, Turkey and other front-line countries” in various ways, including:

  • provide bi-lateral assistance, including by exploring new approaches to resettlement and intraEurope relocation of refugees  and asylum seekers;
  • share responsibility for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers via intra European Union relocation and refrain from sending these persons back to Syria or third countries;
  • maintain a moratorium on returns to Greece of asylum seekers under the Dublin Regulation.

The Resolution was supported by a Report prepared by Ms Tineke Strik, Rapporteur, PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

Click here for full text of Resolution 1918(2013), Migration and asylum: mounting tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Click here for PACE press statement.

Click here for Report by Rapporteur, Ms Tineke Strik, Doc. 13106, 23 Jan 2013.

Here are extensive excerpts from the Rapporteur’s Report (which should be read in its entirety):

Summary –  Greece has become the main entry point for irregular migratory flows into the European Union, while Turkey has become the main country of transit. [***]

Europe must drastically rethink its approach to responsibility sharing to deal with what is a European problem and not one reserved to a single or only a few countries. Member States are called on to substantially increase their support for Greece, Turkey and other front-line countries to ensure that they have a realistic possibility of dealing with the challenges that they face. In this the Council of Europe also has a role to play, for example through exploring resettlement and readmission possibilities, assisting States in dealing with their asylum backlogs and putting forward innovative projects to alleviate growing racism and xenophobia towards migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.


C. Explanatory memorandum by Ms Strik, rapporteur

1. Introduction


2. Greece is facing a major challenge to cope with both the large influx of mixed migratory flows, including irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and the current economic crisis. That said it is not the only country struggling to cope in the region. It is impossible to look at the situation of Greece without also examining that of Turkey, which is the main country of transit to Greece and is also having to shoulder responsibility for over 150 000 Syrian refugees.

3. In the light of the foregoing, it is necessary to examine the extent of the migration and asylum challenges at Europe’s south-eastern border, taking into account Turkey and Greece’s policy reactions. Two further elements have to be added to this, namely the social tensions arising within Greek society due to an overload of financial and migratory pressure and also the issue of shared responsibility in Europe for dealing with European as opposed to simply national problems.

2. The storm at Europe’s south-eastern border

2.1. Greece under pressure: irregular migration challenge and economic crisis

4. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees crossed the Greek land, river and sea borders with many travelling through Turkey. In 2010, the large majority of mixed migratory flows entered the European Union through the Greek-Turkish border. This situation brings major challenges in terms of human rights and migration management.

5. According to statistics provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2010, more than 132 000 third-country nationals were arrested in Greece, including 53 000 in the Greek-Turkish border regions. During the first ten months of 2012, over 70 000 arrests occurred, including about 32 000 at the borders of Turkey.  People came from 110 different countries – the majority from Asia, including Afghanis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, as well as from Iraq, Somalia, and the Middle-East, especially Palestinians and an increasing number of Syrians.

6. Most migrants and asylum seekers do not want to stay in Greece and plan to continue their journey further into Europe. Many of them are however stuck in Greece, due to border checks and arrests when trying to exit Greece, the current Dublin Regulation, and the fact that many irregular migrants cannot be returned to their country of origin.

7. The context of the serious economic and sovereign debt crisis aggravates the situation and reduces the ability for the Greek Government to adequately respond to the large influx. [***]

2.2. Syria: a bad situation could get worse

8. In its Resolution 1902 (2012) on “The European response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria”, the Parliamentary Assembly condemned “the continuing, systematic and gross human rights violations, amounting to crimes against humanity, committed in Syria”. It described the humanitarian situation as becoming “more and more critical” for the estimated 1.2 million internally displaced Syrians and the 638 000 Syrians registered or awaiting registration as refugees in neighbouring countries.


11. By October 2012, 23 500 Syrian nationals had applied for asylum in EU member States, including almost 3 000 applications in September 2012 alone, and over 15 000 in Germany and Sweden.  Compared to neighbouring countries, asylum seeker numbers in the European Union currently remains manageable. However the number of Syrians trying to enter Greek territory in an irregular manner reached a critical level in July 2012, when up to 800 Syrians were crossing the Greek-Turkish land border every week. In the second half of 2012, more than 32% of sea arrivals to the Greek Islands were Syrian nationals.

2.3. Regional implications of mixed migratory arrivals

12. In recent years, Spain, Italy and Malta were at the forefront of large-scale sea arrivals. According to the UNHCR, in 2012, 1 567 individuals arrived in Malta by sea. 75% of these persons were from Somalia. The UNHCR estimates however that less than 30% of the more than 16 000 individuals who have arrived in Malta since 2002 remain in Malta.

13. Spain and Italy have signed and effectively enforced readmission agreements with North and West African countries cutting down on the mixed migration flows. These agreements have provided the basis for returning irregular migrants and preventing their crossing through increased maritime patrols and border surveillance, including in the context of joint Frontex operations.

14. As a consequence of shifting routes, migratory pressure at the Greek-Turkish border increased significantly and Greece became the main gate of entry into the European Union from 2008 onwards, with an interval in 2011 when the Arab Spring brought a new migratory flow to Italy and Malta. To give an idea of how much the routes have changed, Frontex indicated that in 2012, 56% of detections of irregular entry into the European Union occurred on the Greek-Turkish border.

15. Turkey, by contrast, has become the main transit country for migrants seeking to enter the European Union. Its 11 000-km-long border and its extensive visa-free regime make it an easy country to enter. An estimated half a million documented and undocumented migrants currently live in the country. This has brought a whole new range of challenges for Turkey and meant that it has had to develop a new approach to migration management and protection for those seeking asylum and international protection.  It has also faced problems in terms of detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers. As with Greece, the conditions of detention have been highly criticised and steps are being taken to build new centres with the assistance of funding from the European Union.

16. Until recently, the traditionally complex Greek-Turkish political relations did not allow the pursuit and consolidation of an effective readmission policy with Turkey. Although Greece, for example, signed a readmission protocol with Turkey which goes back to 2001, the implementation of this was only agreed on in 2010. It is important that this bilateral agreement between Greece and Turkey functions effectively and this will be a challenge for both countries.

3. Shielding Greece through border management and detention: does it work?

3.1. Enhanced border controls at the Greek-Turkish land border (Evros region)

17. The unprecedented numbers of irregular migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross the Greek-Turkish border in recent years put the existing capacities and resources of Greece under severe strain. To remedy this situation, the Greek authorities have adopted the “Greek Action Plan on Asylum and Migration Management”, which is the basis for reforming the asylum and migration management framework in Greece.

18. In this context, considerable efforts were undertaken to reinforce Greece’s external borders and particularly the Greek-Turkish border in the Evros region. This was done notably through building up operational centres, using electronic surveillance and night vision devices, and by deploying patrol boats to strengthen river patrols. The surveillance technology used is part of the efforts under the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur).

19. The so-called operation “Aspida” (“shield”), initiated in August 2012, aims to enhance border controls, surveillance and patrolling activities at the Greek-Turkish land border. Approximately 1 800 additional police officers from across Greece were deployed as border guards to the Evros region.

20. Increased border controls in the context of this operation have not been without criticism. There have been worrying reports about migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers from Syria and other countries, being pushed back to Turkey over the Evros river.  Two incidents reportedly took place in June and October 2012, when inflatable boats were intercepted in the middle of the Evros river by Greek patrol boats and pushed back to Turkey before their boat was sunk, leaving people to swim to the Turkish shore.

21. In addition, the Greek authorities completed a barbed wire fence at the 12.5-km-land border in December 2012. The barrier which was criticised by EU officials when announced  and built without EU funding, cost an estimated 3 million euros.

22. As a consequence of these actions, the numbers of irregular land border crossings dropped from over 2 000 a week in the first week of August to below 30 a week in the second half of September. According to the regional governor of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, they are now close to zero.  While the Greek authorities claim that these actions have resulted in a more than 80% decrease of irregular entries,  one can observe that migrants’ routes have shifted from the Greek-Turkish land border mainly to the sea border between both countries. This shift has been recognised by the Greek authorities.

23. Increased numbers of migrants are now arriving on the Greek Aegean islands of Lesvos, Samos, Symi and Farmkonissi. Between August and December 2012, 3 280 persons were arrested after crossing the Greek-Turkish sea border,  compared to 65 persons in the first seven months of 2012.

24. There has also been an increase in the number of deaths at sea. In early September 2012, 60 people perished when their boat sank off the coast in Izmir.  On 15 December 2012, at least 18 migrants drowned off the coast of Lesvos while attempting to reach the island by boat.

25. The spill over effect of new routes opening are now being felt by neighbouring countries, such as Bulgaria and some of the Western Balkans.

3.2. Systematic detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers

26. Together with increased border controls, administrative detention remains the predominant policy response by the Greek authorities to the entry and stay of irregular migrants.  [***]


29. Particularly worrying are the conditions in the various detention centres and police stations where irregular migrants and asylum seekers are held, and which have frequently been criticised. The European Court of Human Rights has found Greece to be in violation of the right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment in several cases in recent years.  In addition, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment (CPT) has regularly criticised the poor detention conditions of irregular migrants and asylum seekers and the structural deficiencies in Greece’s detention policy as well as the government’s persistent lack of action to improve the situation.  See also: CPT, Report on its visit from 19 to 27 January 2011, published on 10 January 2012, at: www.cpt.coe.int/documents/grc/2012-01-inf-eng.pdf, together with the reply by the Greek authorities, at: www.cpt.coe.int/documents/grc/2012-02-inf-eng.pdf. The conditions of detention in one centre in Greece were found to be so bad that a local court in Igoumenista acquitted, earlier this year, migrants who were charged with escaping from detention stating that the conditions in the centre were not in compliance with the migrants’ human rights.


3.3. Impediments in accessing asylum and international protection

35. Despite the current efforts by the Greek authorities to reform the asylum and migration management framework, the country still does not have a fair and effective asylum system in place. The Greek Action Plan on Migration and Asylum, which was revised in December 2012, sets out the strategy of the Greek Government. It foresees the speedy creation of a functioning new Asylum Service, a new First Reception Service and a new Appeals Authority, staffed by civil servants under the Ministry of Public Order and Citizens Protection, disengaging the asylum procedure from the police authorities. However problems in finding sufficient financial resources and qualified staff still give rise for concerns on the implementation of the plans.


4. Social tensions within Greek society

4.1. The social situation of migrants and asylum seekers

41. Greece’s efforts to deal with the influx of irregular migrants and asylum seekers suffers from there being no comprehensive migration policy. [***]

4.2. Discrimination, xenophobia and racist attacks against migrants

46. The mounting social tensions and the inadequate response by the State to address the difficult social situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees have led to an increase in criminality and exploitation of this group. In addition, migration has become a key confrontational political issue. This in turn has contributed to an increasingly wide-spread anti-immigrant sentiment among the Greek population.

47. Over the last two years there has been a dramatic increase in xenophobic violence and racially motivated attacks against migrants in Greece, including physical attacks, such as beatings and stabbings, attacks on immigrants’ residences, places of worship, migrants’ shops or community centres.  The Network for Recording Incidents of Racist Violence documented 87 racist incidents against migrants and refugees between January and September 2012.  Half of them were connected with extremist groups.

48. Members and supporters of Golden Dawn have often been linked with recent violent attacks and raids against migrants and asylum seekers. By using blatantly anti-migrant and racist discourse, often inciting violence, Golden Dawn gained 7% of the popular vote during the June 2012 parliamentary elections and support seems to be growing, according to recent polls. In October 2012, the Greek Parliament lifted the immunity from prosecution of the two Golden Dawn MPs who participated in the violent attacks against migrants in September.

49. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Greece to examine whether the “most overt extremist and Nazi party in Europe” is legal. It seems that Golden Dawn aims at political and societal destabilisation and gains by the failing policy regarding refugees and irregular migrants. In December 2012, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed its “deep concern” about the rise of Golden Dawn and asked the Greek authorities to “take firm and effective action to ensure that the activities of Golden Dawn do not violate the free and democratic political order or the rights of any individuals”.

5. The European responsibility for a European problem

5.1. European front-line States under particular pressure

50. This is not the first time that the Parliamentary Assembly expresses its concern on the particular pressure that European front-line States are confronted with. Resolution 1521 (2006) on the mass arrival of irregular migrants on Europe’s Southern shores, Resolution 1637 (2008) on Europe’s “boat people”: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe and Resolution 1805 (2011) on the large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores.

51. Despite the fact that most European Union countries have stopped returning asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece,  there are still some reports of returns from some countries based on this regulation.

52. The final agreement between the Council and the European Parliament on the revision of the Dublin Regulation still allocates responsibilities for asylum seekers to a single EU member State and does not present a more fundamental reform of the rules. European Union member States also rejected the idea of a mechanism to suspend transfers to those EU countries which were unable to manage the influx of asylum seekers into their territory, preferring to adopt an “early warning mechanism”.

5.2. Greece: A test case for European solidarity

53. This migratory pressure Greece is confronted with comes at a moment when the country is suffering as no other European country does from the current economic and social crisis. In response to these difficulties, the European Union has provided financial and technical assistance.

54. During the period of 2011-2013, Greece received 98,6 million euros under the Return Fund, 132,8 million euros under the External Border Fund and 19,95 million euros under the European Refugee Fund. The focus of funding was thus on border control and detention measures, to the detriment of the protection measures.

55. Frontex Joint Operation “Poseidon Land” was launched in 2010 at the borders between Turkey and Greece and between Turkey and Bulgaria. EU member States currently have 41 police officers and equipment deployed to the Evros border region in Greece.  They also support the Greek and Bulgarian authorities with the screening and debriefing of irregular migrants, and tackling irregular migratory inflows and smuggling networks towards Greece. In addition, Frontex has recently strengthened its patrols in the coastal waters in the Eastern Aegean between Greece and Turkey in the context of Joint Operation “Poseidon Sea”. European Union member States have deployed additional maritime surveillance assets at the sea border between Greece and Turkey. The joint operation was extended to also cover the West coast of Greece and today is Frontex’s main operational activity in the Mediterranean region.

56. Furthermore, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) provides technical support to Greece and other EU member States whose asylum and reception systems are under particular pressure. Following the request by the Greek Government in February 2011, EASO started giving assistance and training in building up a new asylum system, improving reception conditions of asylum seekers in Greece and clearing the backlog of outstanding asylum claims. To do this they have deployed over 40 Asylum Support Teams of experts to the country.

57. While EU member States are ready to provide financial and technical assistance to help Greece in managing and controlling its borders, with a focus on both forced and voluntary returns as a policy solution, they are not keen on sharing the reception and processing of mixed migratory flows arriving at the European Union’s external border. According to the Greens/European Free Alliance of the European Parliament, “[m]igration will not be stopped by reinforcing border control, border management measures and forced returns; the current approach only reinforces human rights violations”.

58. As rapporteur I would largely agree with this statement, although I would add that while such policies may be able to solve a problem in one country, it then simply “passes the buck” to another. Should it be possible to seal Greece’s border, this would undoubtedly then put even greater pressure on Turkey and Bulgaria and then up the eastern borders of the European Union. This is an issue which will be the subject of a separate report by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

59. The European Union response to the economic and financial crisis in Greece has been a massive bail out. Similar solidarity is however necessary with regards to the current social and humanitarian crisis in the field of migration and asylum. Europe is however doing too little, too late. A shared asylum policy that takes into account that the migratory pressures are not the sole responsible of one or a few European States, but a European problem, is even more essential in a time when the region is facing major instability. This instability will only increase further if the up and coming Golden Dawn party succeeds in exploiting the immigrant issue. Europe cannot afford to look away.

60. Increased migratory flows to European front-line States requires a fundamental rethink on solidarity and responsibility sharing. This includes swift solutions that go beyond mere financial and technical assistance and show greater solidarity in receiving refugees and asylum seekers and developing resettlement, especially currently for Syrian refugees from the neighbouring countries of Syria, and intra-EU relocation programmes, in particular where children and families are concerned. Assembly Resolution 1820 (2011) on asylum seekers and refugees: sharing responsibility in Europe provides meaningful recommendations in this respect.

6. Conclusions

61. The pressure of mixed migratory flows currently unfolding at the European Union’s external borders in the eastern Mediterranean requires rethinking of the entire solidarity system with the European Union and the Council of Europe. Greece, Turkey or other neighbouring countries should not be left with the primary responsibility of dealing with the mounting mixed migratory pressure from the South and East. A shared asylum and migration policy is even more essential at a time when the region is facing major economic and social instability.

62. Stricter border control, prolonging migrants’ and asylum seekers’ detention or constructing new detention facilities in Greece all contribute to further human rights violations taking place. They are not the way out of the problem and they do not persuade people fleeing from poverty or violence in their countries of origin to remain at home.

63. The recent efforts by the Greek authorities to introduce a more effective and humane system addressing the large number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers entering Greece is a welcome step in the right direction. Greece however faces a Herculean task in building up an efficient, fair and functioning system providing international protection to those in need.

64. Europe urgently needs to join forces to deal with the Syrian refugee problem, offering resettlement and relocation to relieve the burden falling on neighbouring States of Syria as well as its southern European States, and ensuring that Syrian refugees are not sent back.

65. The challenges are great but not insurmountable for Europe. Left to individual States they are.


Click here for full text of Resolution 1918(2013), Migration and asylum: mounting tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Click here for PACE press statement.

Click here for Report by Rapporteur, Ms Tineke Strik, Doc. 13106, 23 Jan 2013.


Filed under Aegean Sea, Analysis, Council of Europe, Frontex, Greece, News, Reports, Syria, Turkey, UNHCR

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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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.


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Frontex Releases its “Fundamental Rights Strategy”

According to a Frontex press release, “Frontex’s Management Board endorsed the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Strategy during its most recent meeting, on March 31. The approved document sets out the objectives, legal and political context, operational implications and implementation plan for the strategy.”  “The new strategy will be elaborated into an Action Plan, which has been requested by the Management Board with a view to adopting it at the next meeting, scheduled for May 24.”

I have done a quick read of the 8 page document and overall had a positive reaction to the strategy.  One weakness, and there are probably others, is that in the end “Member States remain primarily responsible for the implementation of the relevant international, EU or national legislation and law enforcement actions undertaken in the context of Frontex coordinated joint operations…”  (See Para 13 below.)  There is not much that Frontex can do about this, unless Frontex is given authority to act independently from individual MS.

The strategy does contemplate that Frontex can terminate a Joint Operation if respect for fundamental rights can not be guaranteed.  (See Para 15 below.)  I try to imagine how this strategy would operate within the current Joint Operation Hermes if the influx of Tunisians were to continue and expand and if Italy were to begin unilateral returns of Tunisian nationals (or others) to Tunisia without adequate process.  Would Frontex discontinue Operation Hermes?  It is hard to imagine that happening given the current situation in North Africa.

Here are some excerpts from the strategy consisting of some of the provisions which jumped out at me – the full document however should be consulted:


Frontex considers that respect and promotion of fundamental rights are unconditional and integral components of effective integrated border management.


The Legal and Political Context


13. Member States remain primarily responsible for the implementation of the relevant international, EU or national legislation and law enforcement actions undertaken in the context of Frontex coordinated joint operations (JOs) and therefore also for the respect of fundamental rights during these activities. This does not relieve Frontex of its responsibilities as the coordinator and it remains fully accountable for all actions and decisions under its mandate. Frontex must particularly focus on creating the conditions for ensuring compliance with fundamental rights obligations in all its activities.

The Operationalisation

Joint Operations

14. [***] One particular objective in [Joint Operations] is ensuring that the right to international protection must not be hampered by the law enforcement action and that persons seeking protection are referred to the competent national authorities to assess their case.

15. [***] Corrective measures should be taken in case of breach or serious risk of breach of fundamental rights. As last resort, Frontex might terminate a JO if the conditions guaranteeing the respect for fundamental rights are no longer met. [***]

17. Frontex will put in place an effective reporting system to ensure that any incidents or serious risks regarding fundamental rights are immediately reported by any participating officer or Frontex staff member and can be acted upon. This reporting should be the basis for effective monitoring of all its operations. The monitoring effectiveness and credibility will rely heavily on the commitment of national border guard services to report but also on the involvement of external stakeholders. The Operational Plan shall set out the modalities for reporting, including how and to who report.


19. Alleged violations of human rights reported either by national or Frontex officers or third parties, when substantiated, will be followed up by Frontex by communicating and clarifying the situation in cooperation with the competent national authorities without prejudice to any resulting administrative or penal procedures. Member States should also inform Frontex on the follow-up measures.


21. In addition to pursuing a regular exchange of information with external partners engaged in fundamental rights protection activities, in particular the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, Frontex will endeavour to ensure their regular involvement in the relevant operational activities in accordance with the Working Arrangements with these partners. The involvement of these external partners or others should be foreseen in the Operational Plan, which should also define the scope of the cooperation.

22. Frontex will also seek advice from its external partners on the relevant instructions or guidelines for officers taking part in Frontex activities. These instructions or guidelines, which should form an integral part of each Operational Plan, could relate to methods for better identifying people seeking international protection, proper treatment of vulnerable groups including potential victims of trafficking or fundamental rights monitoring of operational activities. The final aim is to promote the highest standards in compliance with fundamental rights by the development and promotion of best practices.


External Relations

28. Frontex cooperation with Third Countries’ border-guard services is conducted under the EU External Relations Policy and shall therefore be guided by the principle of the respect of human rights. Frontex is committed to adjusting its cooperation arrangements and activities to the EU foreign policy measures adopted as a consequence of the human rights situation in the partner Third Country.


The Implementation


38. In order to increase the transparency and credibility of this process, external third parties, in particular those representing civil society, shall be involved. Their concerns and perspectives must be taken into account for the evaluation and revision of the strategy. Frontex, national border-guard services, external partners and representatives of civil society shall therefore have the possibility to exchange views and suggest means of improvement for the strategy and the Action Plan in a consultative forum, to be convened periodically at Frontex Headquarters.


Click here for the Frontex strategy document.

Click here for Frontex press release.

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ECRE Statement: Safe haven for people fleeing bloodshed in Libya

ECRE issued a statement earlier today.  Here is the full statement:

As the situation in Libya is worsening and the world is watching the atrocities of Gaddafi’s regime, European governments are stepping up efforts to evacuate their citizens outside the country. The repression is brutal and just as British, Turkish, Egyptians and other foreigners, some Libyans and refugees from sub-Saharan countries unable to go back and stranded in Libya will need refuge from violence and human rights abuses.

At this historical moment, on the other side of the Mediterranean, the EU needs to live up to its obligations to protect those fleeing the violence.

With or without Frontex, border control operations carried out at sea cannot result in persons being returned to Libya without assessing in a fair asylum procedure whether they are in need of international protection.

Some European governments have warned of an exodus of biblical proportions. The truth is that what will happen is totally unpredictable. For the moment, those leaving the country seem to be travelling to Egypt or remaining elsewhere in the region. So far, according to the EU Border Agency Frontex, some 5.500 people, mainly Tunisians, arrived to Lampedusa in January and February. This is nowhere near the number that would make an asylum system of a country such as Italy collapse.

Even if the number of people arriving to Europe would increase dramatically, to the extent that an immediate and individual assessment of their protection needs would no longer be possible, the EU has already at its disposal the tools to ensure that people can reach a safe haven. The Temporary Protection Directive, adopted after the Kosovo crisis, allows Member States to grant immediately a protection status to persons who arrive in Europe in the context of so-called mass influx and makes it possible for Member States to better share responsibility through the relocation of refugees protected under this scheme to other EU countries.

In addition, the recently established European Asylum Support Office has the competence to deploy national asylum experts to EU Member States receiving high numbers of asylum seekers. Although the agency is not yet operational, ad hoc solutions can be found if need be.

Finally, the EU’s decision to suspend the negotiations with Libya on a framework agreement, which included cooperation in the field of immigration and asylum, is indeed the only sensible thing to do. Libya’s poor human rights record was well known when last year the European Commission agreed to offer the dictatorship € 50m over the next 3 years to reinforce Tripoli’s capacity to prevent migrants from entering the Southern border and from crossing the Mediterranean towards Europe. According to the European Commission, no money has been disbursed so far. The bloodshed in the country and the regime’s attempts to blackmail the EU by threatening with breaking its cooperation on controlling migration towards Europe, showed clearer than ever who the EU was willing to trust to control migration to Europe. This cannot go on.


Ana Fontal

Senior Press and Public Information Officer

Tel: +32 2 212 08 12

Mobile: + 32 (0) 486 531 676


Click here for link to statement.

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JHA Council Meets 24-25 Feb – Meeting Topics Include North African Migrants, EASO, Greek Asylum Reform, EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, and Frontex 2011 Work Programme

The two day JHA Council meeting begins today in Brussels.  According to the Background Note, “ministers will discuss the major influx of migrants from Northern Africa, particularly from Tunisia, to Southern EU member states, especially Italy. They will also look at the state of play on three other important internal border and migration issues:  the implementation of Greece’s National Action Plan on Migration Management and Asylum Reform; [and] the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. In this context, the Communication will present an evaluation and future strategy for EU readmission agreements;…  Ministers will then have exchange of views with the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as with the Executive Director of the recently established European Asylum Support Office (EASO).”  Additionally, “FRONTEX will present to the committee its work programme for 2011.”

Click here for Background Note and here for Agenda.

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ECRE Interview with Christopher Hein, CIR Director (Italian Refugee Council) Regarding Situation in Lampedusa

ECRE conducted an interview with Christopher Hein, Director of the Italian Refugee Council.  Here are some of the points he made regarding the migrant arrivals in Lampedusa and neighbouring islands:

  • The expeditious deportation of the group of Egyptians who arrived on Sicily earlier this week shows that the readmission agreement with Egypt continues to function whereas the agreement with Tunisia is not functioning at present;
  • CIR is concerned that if Frontex becomes involved with the current situation, Tunisian migrants may be returned indiscriminately;
  • EASO is not capable of assisting at present because it has no staff;
  • The migrants who have arrived need to be processed-  those seeking asylum should be subjected to asylum procedures, those seeking humanitarian protection should be subjected to the humanitarian procedures; and others, where appropriate, should be offered voluntary repatriation;
  • If much larger numbers of migrants were to continue to arrive, obligations under the EU Temporary Protection Direction might be triggered (COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof).

Click here for full ECRE interview

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Text of Malmström’s Speech to EP Plenary Session

Commissioner Malmström spoke during the EP’s plenary session earlier this afternoon regarding the migration situation in Italy.  Click here for the text of her speech.


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EASO Issues Call for Seconded National Experts

As noted yesterday on the EASO Monitor blog, EASO has issued a call for multiple Seconded National Experts.  The following list is probably incomplete and is based on information posted on the web site of the Slovenian Ministry of Public Administration and the web site of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Calls for SNE:

1) Main areas of responsibility : Support to the development of the asylum policy and European legislation, including for its implementation as well as to the different forms of practical cooperation and European solidarity, in connection with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The SNE will also contribute to the drafting of the Communication on the developments of Eurodac as a supporting tool for the entire Common European Asylum System foreseen in the Action Plan for the implementation of the Stockholm Programme.   Click here for document.

2) Main areas of responsibility: Assisting the Executive Director in preparing all the steps necessary to transfer the EAC to the EASO; advising on the methodology and the priority milestones related to activities, staff, IT and financial issues; liaising with the EAC project manager, the members of the EAC steering committee, UNHCR and the European Commission; organising necessary meetings; coordinating the transfer activities.   Click here for document.

3) Main areas of responsibility: Assisting the Executive Director in coordinating the Asylum Intervention Pool and updating the pool; drafting methodologies; acting as the Union contact point; acting as an interface between the EASO and Member States and members of the support teams; monitoring the deployment and reporting to the EASO on all aspects of the deployment; organising necessary meetings.   Click here for document.

4)  Main areas of responsibility: Assisting the Executive Director in coordinating the implementation of Operating Plans and Asylum Support Teams in Greece in support of the Greek Action Plan; working with the coordinator of the Asylum Intervention Pool in the activities linked to the interface between the EASO and Greece and members of the support teams; monitoring the deployment and reporting to the EASO on all aspects of the deployment; organising necessary meetings.  Click here for document.

5) Main areas of responsibility: Assisting the Executive Director in coordinating the Interpreters Pool within the Asylum Intervention Pool and updating the pool; proposing and drafting methodologies, including on videoconferencing; coordinating the deployment/use of interpreters and reporting to the EASO, including within the context of the support to the Greek Action Plan; working with the coordinator of the Asylum Intervention Pool in the activities linked to the interface between the EASO and Greece and members of the support teams; organising necessary meetings.   Click here for document.

6) Main areas of responsibility: Assisting the Executive Director in coordinating establishment of the COI function and the management of the COI Portal; proposing and drafting methodologies; reviewing the projects already undertaken; organising necessary meetings and workshops/working parties.  Click here for document.

7)  Main areas of responsibility: Assisting the Executive Director in coordinating the preparation of the first COI report on Afghanistan within the COI division; proposing and drafting methodologies; reviewing the projects already undertaken; organising and/or coordinating necessary meetings, missions and workshops/working parties; preparing the report.  Click here for document.

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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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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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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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EASO Regulation Published in EU Official Journal

Regulation (EU) No 439/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 establishing a European Asylum Support Office was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 29 May 2010.

Click here for the link to the Journal.

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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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UNHCR Report on EU Member State Implementation of the Asylum Procedures Directive

The UNHCR has released a comprehensive report entitled “Improving Asylum Procedures: Comparative Analysis and Recommendations for Law and Practice: A UNHCR research project on the application of key provisions of the Asylum Procedures Directive in selected Member States.”

From the Report’s introduction:

“In the exercise of its supervisory role under Article 35 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees … UNHCR has undertaken a wide-ranging comparative analysis of the transposition of key provisions of the [2005 Asylum Procedures Directive] into national law by selected EU Member States, and the practical application of those provisions….

The research and recommendations also aim to inform negotiations in the Council and the European Parliament on possible amendments to the APD, as put forward by the Commission in October 2009. They also seek to provide constructive input to preparations for the work of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). The EASO has a mandate to facilitate practical cooperation on asylum among Member States, and Member States have underlined their interest in prioritizing the promotion of quality asylum decision-making among its tasks. In that context, this report will provide helpful material.

The research addressed 18 articles of the APD, as they are transposed in law and implemented in practice in the twelve participating states: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom. As such, the research and recommendations do not address all provisions in the APD, nor the law and practice in every Member State bound by the Directive. This project does not seek to focus scrutiny on any particular Member State.  Where gaps or problematic practices have been observed, UNHCR hopes that this research provides an opportunity to discuss and address them, and to draw on the numerous good practices which have also been observed.”

The UNHCR press release states that the “study found not only that member states are applying the Asylum Procedures Directive in diverging ways, but, in some cases, in ways that may breach international refugee law. Researchers reported that applicants were not always afforded personal interviews, or were not given enough time to prepare for interviews or to explain their claims. Interpreters were not always available or qualified…. These and other practices, the study concludes, create the risk that protection needs are not properly identified and people may be sent back to countries where they face persecution or grave personal harm.  At the same time, the research identified many good practices, including the provision of clear information on how to appeal negative decisions, codes of conduct for interviewers and interpreters, careful recording of interviews and of decisions, and good cross-cultural communication skills on the part of interviewers.”

Click here or here for the Report.

Click here for UNHCR press release.

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