Earlier this year, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) presented its publication entitled “Coping with a fundamental rights emergency: The situation of persons crossing the Greek land border in an irregular manner.” The document provides a useful insight into the current Greek asylum/migration crisis, focusing on the Greek Action Plan to reform its national asylum system.
Where does EASO feature in the report? We’ve been reading that EASO’s Management Board and the Commission have repeatedly highlighted Greece as EASO’s operational priority. Yet EASO is still unoperational, primarily since it doesn’t have anything close to staff. The applications received following the call for Seconded National Experts are currently being reviewed, meaning actual recruitment will probably take a few more weeks, if not months. We must also keep in mind that the Regulation requires EASO to be fully functional by 19th June. So, in preparation for the 19th, and in response to so many calls to get active in Greece, what’s been happening?
Thanks to Frontex’s clarification, published a few days ago, the situation is clearer, also in view of information on Germany’s support activities in Greece. In terms of the Regulation (Article 18), all EASO asylum support team activities are to be preceded by a detailed situation evaluation in order to establish the nature an extent of the support team’s efforts...the Operational Plan. And this is what’s been going in Greece.
According to information from the ground, a number of EASO delegations (composed of EU MS experts) have visited Greece in order to assess the situation, through a series of interviews with all of the relevant stakeholders...the Greek authorities, NGOs, UNHCR, etc. The outcomes of these delegation visits are of course reports summarising findings, concerns and recommendations...all needed information but ultimately what Greece really desperately needs is a large and effective EASO operation to step in and start working with the Greek authorities and the NGOs towards a drastic improvement in the country reception and asylum standards, rules and practices.
Back to the FRA report and EASO’s role in the FRA’s vision for Greece:
- EASO and UNHCR to assist the Greek authorities in determining whether an individual whose return is requested from the Turkish authorities is in need of international protection;
- EASO to contribute by offering financial and operational support (inter alia, by sending operational planning teams and asylum support teams);
- EASO’s asylum support teams ought to learn from the lessons learnt by Frontex’s RABITs in Evros, where their ‘hands-on approach...has been successful in enhancing the capacity to guard the border and to screen new arrivals.” FRA recommends that EASO adopt a similar approach in its assistance to the Greek authorities, in relation to asylum procedures and also reception arrangements;
- With regard to reception conditions, EASO ought to consider the problems faced by the Greek government and by NGOs in providing suitable accommodation to asylum-seekers by inter alia exploring short-term options such as private accommodation through hosting.