Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Swedish forced returns of Iraqis exemplifies EASO's future challenges


Today UNHCR expressed concern at Swedish plans to return to Baghdad about 25 Iraqi nationals. UNHCR’s concerns focus on the apparent disregard by the Swedish asylum authorities of the Agency’s guidelines and appeals regarding specific groups of Iraqi nationals. In relation to the group of Iraqis, UNHCR stated that “(t)hey, and others slated for return, appear to have profiles that would warrant protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention or the European Union’s Qualification Directive.”

Although EASO is at the moment not in a position to react or intervene in this situation, the question EASO observers ask themselves is, is fact, whether EASO will deem it necessary or appropriate to actually make any such interventions or reactions in future similar situations. UNHCR’s unequivocal statement that the Iraqis queued for return could qualify for international protection also according to the Qualification Directive could be read to require at least some form of response from EASO in fulfilment of its purpose to “help improve the implementation of the CEAS.” (Article 2).

Specifically, Article 12 of the EASO Regulation requires the Office to present an annual report “on the situation of asylum in the Union”, which report ought to include a detailed analysis of how, and to what extent, the Office’s efforts contributed to “improving the quality, consistency and effectiveness of the CEAS.” Will this annual report include references to practices such as the one currently unfolding in Sweden? Or will they be deemed to be outside of EASO’s scope of activity, and therefore omitted from the annual report?

Also, the second paragraph in Article 12, regarding the adoption by EASO of technical documents such as guidelines and manuals, clearly limits EASO’s competence by saying that any such documents “shall not purport to give instructions to MS about the grant or refusal of applications for international protection.” So is UNHCR’s statement that the Iraqis, or at least some of them, could be in need of international protection futile and beyond the EASO’s remit?

It’s quite a strong non-interference clause which, although attached to EASO’s capacity to adopt technical documents, is quite indicative of what could be the Office’s stance on a number of issues...such as the present returns to Iraq. I sincerely hope not.

Do you think EASO should be reacting to such situations? Or are they outside of the Office’s scope?


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