Tomorrow’s Agency for Asylum

The new EU Agency for Asylum will play a crucial part in the near future in making a robust migration management system for the EU come true.

Jean-Pierre Schembri
24 April 2017
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European Union Justice and Home Affairs Council majority vote to relocate 120,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU countries according to proportional quotas, in September 2015. National government positions.Green/yes;Orange/opt-out;Blue/abstention;Red/no;Grey/non-EU state. Wikicommons/Nameless23. Some rights reserved.The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is the key actor in the implementation of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and we are committed to translating into practice the core values of the CEAS – equity and fairness – and to ensuring that all Member States deal with individual asylum cases in a coherent way. To do this we provide various kinds of support to their asylum and reception systems, in order to foster a common understanding of asylum practices and increased convergence of assessment criteria across the EU. Since 2015, EASO has a new and stronger focus on its operations as part of the EU response to current migration challenges, working in the field to make the principle of solidarity and shared responsibility a reality throughout the EU.

In other words, we are a centre of expertise on asylum with real operational capabilities.

Undeniably, the current migration crisis has shown very clearly that we need a more operational agency, one which is able to rely more on its own resources, that is stronger and better-equipped. This is why EASO is set to become a fully-fledged Agency for Asylum (EUAA), able to play a better role, not only in managing but also in preventing disproportionate pressure from being placed on MS asylum systems. The new mandate will allow us to identify and address in a better, more timely fashion, any shortcomings in national asylum and reception systems, so that we might prevent the kind of crisis we are living through today from arising in the future.

This is a great opportunity for us to learn from the lessons of the past and to build on the positive results achieved so far. Negotiations are ongoing, but the main features of the new Agency are already clear. Just to name a few, these include:

- The Asylum Reserve Pool. This will be crucial if we are to provide timely and increased operational and technical assistance to the most affected Member States. Such a reserve of 500 experts should be able to be deployed immediately in support of those national asylum systems that face disproportionate pressure. This will allow us to provide a more robust and faster response.

- The development of ‘country guidance’, which Member States shall take into account when examining applications for international protection. Thanks to the development of guidance notes, the EUAA will contribute to assisting Member States in the assessment of asylum applications, ensuring a more consistent treatment of asylum claims. This will be very important since national authorities shall base their decisions on such guidance when assessing applications for international protection.

- New tasks relating to monitoring and assessing the CEAS, operational standards, guidelines and best practices in a form to be decided by the co-legislators.

The role of the Agency for Asylum

Besides the main features highlighted above, the role allotted for the new European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) in the framework of the current reform of the CEAS – and mainly in relation to the proposals on Dublin, EU Resettlement Framework and Reception – will be equally crucial. The new Agency should indeed be capable of providing an added value in all and every area of the CEAS.

In particular, within the framework of the Dublin proposal, one of the main new tasks of the Agency will be to operate the reference key in order to apply the fairness mechanism (corrective mechanism) under the new Dublin system, making a better sharing of responsibilities a reality. Such a mechanism will indeed be crucial to discourage abuses and prevent secondary movements, as all the asylum applications made after the triggering of the mechanism will be relocated across the EU.

Another issue that I believe is of huge importance is also EASO cooperation in processes of asylum with Third Countries. We are currently working on the external dimension of the CEAS, mainly providing capacity building support and facilitating the resettlement of refugees from Third Countries to the EU.

EASO is certainly ready to step up its involvement in the external dimension of Asylum, and we hope that the new Agency will be well equipped to play an important role in this regard.

To sum up, the new Agency should represent a key pillar in the development and implementation of the Common European Asylum System.

Definitely, a great deal has changed since the Common European Asylum System and EASO were first established. This is why we need to work towards a sustainable reform of the CEAS with the ultimate aim of ensuring an efficient and sound migration management policy. The new EU Agency for Asylum will play a crucial part in the near future in making a robust migration management system for the EU come true.

The 2017 CEPS Ideas Lab – a key annual event on EU policy organised by the Brussels-based think tank, the Centre for European Policy Studies – asked how such core EU challenges as Rights & Security can be implemented with respect for the EU rule of law and fundamental rights. Cooperating with openDemocracy, we bring the resulting debates to this dedicated page.

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