Tuesday, 19 April 2011

EASO "significantly in advance" of set date?

The press release from the recent JHA Council Meeting is extremely positive, jovial almost, of the stage reached with EASO.

On page 13 of the release, there is the news that not only is EASO fully operational in Greece but also that preparations are underway for Malta to start receiving assistance from the Office. In the words of the release, “the Support Office is already contributing to practical cooperation in the field of asylum significantly in advance of the date set out in its establishing regulation (19 June 2011).”

Subsequently, on page 14, the release reiterates that EASO’s asylum support teams are currently assisting the Greek authorities in their implementation of the Greek National Action Plan on Migration management and Asylum Reform.

Yet public information on EASO’s activities in Greece is in fact not available. There is nothing on EU press releases or statements and even less in the media, including Greek media. If EASO is truly fully operational in Greece, then this would be excellent news worthy of a series of press statements highlighting, inter alia, the nature of the intervention, planned duration, major challenges, targets and operational modalities.

Given the expectations that have built up over the years, it is quite surprising that we are now not being bombarded by strategic image-building statements trying to live up to these expectations.

The statement is also interesting in its reference to possible plans to assist Malta. This probably refers to the current situation here with the recent arrival of around 1,100 persons from Libya. At the moment most of these persons are being held in Malta’s detention centres (either Safi or Hal Far), awaiting release on grounds of vulnerability (if eligible for such a classification) and gradually having their asylum claims processed.

From an asylum procedure perspective it seems that the national asylum authorities have the situation under control, so I imagine EASO’s possible intervention would be either (1) to facilitate the eventual intra-EU transfer of persons granted international protection by the Maltese authorities or (2) to intervene in support of the asylum authorities in the eventuality of a truly large-scale influx that could cripple the national procedures. Needless to say we are curious to see what’s being planned.

From our end at the EASO Monitor, we’re trying to get in touch with Greek NGOs who could give us some information on the situation in Greece.

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