- Next week, on 20th October the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament will hold a public hearing on 'Asylum and Resettlement'. The list of speakers is long and interesting, including a To Be Confirmed representative from EASO, UNHCR, NGOs and FRA. I will also be present to deliver a presentation on access to an effective remedy;
- On 9th September EASO Executive Director Dr. Robert Visser held a meeting with the Director General of Migration and Integration Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior of Slovenia. According to the report, issues discussed included cooperation between Slovenia and the Agency and EASO's general mandate;
- On 13th September, UK MEP Andrew Brons made a speech at the EP during a debate on Frontex, where he referred to the for Frontex to work closely with EASO.
- MEP Jean Lambert wrote an article on gender perspectives within the asylum system. Written for 'Women's Views on News' and also available on her own site, the article presents a number of important elements to be taken into account when approaching asylum with a gender focus. You will remember earlier posts on this topic, triggered by an initiative by ILGA-Europe, the European Women's Lobby and AI's FGM Europe Campaign. In her article Ms. Lambert says the following of EASO's role in this scenario:
"There are a few glimmers of hope for the future such as the recent opening of the European Asylum Support Office. The role of the office is to support Member States in their efforts to implement a more harmonised asylum policy by improving access to accurate country-of-origin information, training and sharing examples of good practice. As a result, the Office could support the implementation of asylum procedures that are gender sensitive to ensure women benefit from a non-discriminatory and supportive process as well as consistent, high-quality decision making. Amnesty International and the European Women's Lobby are now working to have this built in to the development of Office. It is equally important that we see a similar approach relating to gender identity and sexual orientation."
Over the past few days (12 - 14 October) ECRE held its Annual General Conference in Malta, an event that gathered several NGOs to discuss several important issues. As you can imagine, EASO featured quite prominently in all - if not most - of the discussions.
Particular concern was raised in a workshop discussing JHA funding, where participants were wary of the fact that, under the proposals for the revised funding programmes, EASO's funding is included in the same broad package that includes the present Funds of interest to NGOs working in migration and asylum.
Mr. Nino Hartl, EASO's Expert on COI, delivered a presentation yesterday, main points of interest being the following:
- reiteration of EASO's supporting role in the harmonisation of EU MS asylum activities;
- EASO wants to try to achieve "consistent operation practice";
- Hartl views EASO as "an independent centre of expertise"...to be honest we're not totally convinced on the independence element, particularly in view of the fact that EASO's 'supreme' organ, the Management Board, is essentially a gathering of all the EU MS;
- Recruitment is still on-going, with EASO currently operating with a small team of 15 persons (mostly SNEs). The target for end-2011 is 42;
- Greece is the current main priority;
- Quality in asylum procedures is key to success, and training is therefore crucial;
- streamlining COI gathering, production and screening will be a main activity. The COI Portal will also increase better use of COI;
- "All sources have an agenda." This was definitely Hartl's most memorable statement, referring to COI sources;
- On questions re. female asylum-seekers, Hartl replied that training should target this issue and if gender elements are particularly relevant for a specific country they should be flagged in its COI;
- Harti also highlighted the difficulty of harmonising and streamlining the approach to the vast amount of available COI, also taking into account the various models adopted by the EU MS.
We look forward to receiving a more detailed report of the proceedings of the entire General Conference.