Friday, 1 July 2011

Commissioner Malmstrom's blogging on EASO opening

Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom maintains a regular blog on issues falling within her mandate.  Her blog is in Swedish (so Google translate helps), and is generally a good place to get an informal idea of Brussels workings...although admittedly the posts are always very general and rarely delve into difficult substantive issues.

On the days around EASO's official opening, two posts were made:

19th June - Inauguration in Valletta

Today I am in Valetta in Malta to launch the Asylum Office, which opens here today. Asylum Office or the European Asylum Support Office, is the EU's newest agency, and it will support the member countries of asylum and migration issues. Although the Agency has not formally opened its director and his staff, along with experts from member countries for a number of weeks worked closely with the Greek authorities to help them to set up a functioning asylum system, to train administrators and more. For the Maltese, this is huge and there is a large and grand ceremony tonight with all the celebrities from the island and a large number of international guests from UNHCR, the Hungarian Presidency, the incoming Polish, ambassadors, etc.. I have also taken the opportunity to have bilateral meetings with the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister.

20th June - World Refugee Day

Malta was at its best yesterday when EASO (European Asylum Support Office) was opened. It was a brilliant day with sunshine and gentle breeze and the sea sparkled. It feels good that the agency is now in place. It was also fitting to inaugurate a European asylum office just days before the World Day for Refugees, which we recognize today.

In my job as commissioner, I work with all aspects of migration, ie, how the work at the borders work, how we deal with refugee flows and the general rules for the receipt, etc. as applicable within the EU. But what I always come back to in my thoughts all the people I've met in the refugee camps and asylum reception centers I have visited. Their stories and experiences I carry with me.

According to UNHCR, there are approximately 43 million refugees around the world today. It is an unimaginable figure. Behind this figure there are 43 million human destinies. 43 million people who lack a safe place to call home. Some refugee camps have sadly become permanent. Children are born there, grow up and live their entire lives in captivity. I talk often about the great profits that the EU quota refugee program could mean if we get it in place. Then we would be able to coordinate the locations / quotas for refugees EU countries have in common and thus hopefully clear some refugee camps. Although it is only about 5000 seats, but a beginning.

In recent months we have witnessed more than one million people have fled from Libya. The vast majority were migrant workers who have been returning to their home countries, few have managed to get to Europe, but a large percentage are still in refugee camps in the North African neighboring countries. It is mainly Somalis, Eritreans and Sudanese who have already fled once and no longer has any jurisdiction to return to. Here, EU countries must take greater responsibility. Today, I hope we all think a little more on these people. Especially in these times when it is easier to talk about effective border control than humanitarian responsibility.

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