Thursday, 24 February 2011

NGOs on the Consultative Forum - ECRE

Last week I started what I plan to be a mini-series of blog posts, where I ask NGOs a couple of questions related to the Consultative Forum to then publish their answers. The first of these published responses was given by ILGA Europe and today I’m happy to publish the second, from ECRE.

I had already published ECRE’s comments on the EU’s proposal to create EASO, so these answers should be seen in conjunction with that document.

As a reminder, in case you haven’t read the first post in this series, I’m asking NGOs three questions: recommendations on the structure and procedure of the Consultative Forum; comments on ow the Forum members may work to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness; and the organisation’s substantive priorities for the Forum.

ECRE provided the following input (fully reproduced):

i. “The Executive Director is responsible for the coordination and operation of the Consultative Forum and according to Article 31(6) (j) of the Regulation this requires the establishment of a plan for installing the Consultative Forum together with relevant civil society organisations and an operational plan with rules on frequency and nature of consultation and the organisational mechanisms for implementing Article 51 on the Consultative Forum. We believe it is important to ensure that the Consultative Forum is sufficiently representative of those organisations that are working on a daily basis with asylum seekers and refugees and have a specific expertise in the area of asylum and refugee law and asylum policy in EU Member States. ECRE as an alliance of such organisations in the wider Europe can and should play a key role in keeping the focus of the Consultative Forum on the actual topic of asylum and refugee protection through the involvement of organisations that are providing services on the ground to asylum seekers and refugees in the EU Member States. As to the procedures for the Forum this will have to be established in cooperation with the Executive Director but in our view it would be very important to have in place clear rules on the criteria for becoming a member of the Consultative Forum. In addition, as the area of asylum policy is very broad and includes many specific aspects, the creation of specific subgroups within the forum working on specific aspects could be envisaged. The number of individuals involved will also be important as experience learns that the higher the number of participants the less effective the meetings are.

ii. “The efficiency and effectiveness of the Consultative Forum will depend on the commitment of its members and a good understanding of the role of the Consultative Forum and the EASO as an agency. The biggest asset of the Consultative Forum will be the expertise of its members and therefore it will be important for the Consultative Forum to create the framework in which this expertise can be made available to the various activities of the EASO. In order to make the Consultative Forum efficient and effective it will also require members of the Forum to make the Forum a priority in their own work planning.”

iii. “The consultative forum's priorities will largely depend on the priorities in the EASOs work and operational plan as it will be called upon to provide input to its annual programme. In this respect the activities of the EASO in Greece, already identified by the management board of EASO as the top priority should also be a major area of attention for the Consultative Forum, in particular activities aimed at strengthening the legal aid system for asylum seekers. In addition we believe that the strengthening of guarantees in the asylum procedure for particularly vulnerable asylum seekers such as victims of torture or extreme violence or unaccompanied minors should be a priority. The Consultative Forum could in this regard be useful in order to promote and mainstream existing good practice throughout the EU. Finally, the EASOs activities in the field of country of origin information should be a third priority as it is likely to have an impact on decision-making in asylum cases across the EU. The Consultative Forum should in particular ensure that expert organisations such as human rights organisations as well as NGOs specialised in the collection and processing of COI for the purpose of documenting asylum applications can provide meaningful input to EASO's activities in this field.”

I’d like to thank ECRE for this valuable input, and to invite any other NGO wishing to have their views published to contact me.





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