Tuesday, 17 January 2012

EASO's role in Greece

On 15th December Deutsche Welle World carried a news item on the refugee situation in Greece (further posted on other sites, such as here on Refugees United Australia), with EASO and its role in the region being the article's main focus. 

Deutsche Welle comments that the Greek-Turkish borders are a harsh reality for thousands of migrants and refugees who find themselves in this part of Europe, living in limited spaces and cold and unhygienic conditions. It further reports on an EU migration law conference at the Academy of European Law (ERA) in Trier, Germany, where Loukia Kotroni (from Greece’s foreign ministry) admitted that Greece was behind in processing many cases, primarily due to a lack of personnel. Greek’s asylum conditions do not seem to have improved to meet the rising demands of the migrants and refugees - it was not until 2010 that Athens introduced asylum reforms, including the establishment of a government asylum agency. 

In relation to EASO's role in Greece, Deutsche Welle reports comments from Claus Folden (EASO team coordinator), who stated that EASO has already sent 13 support teams to Greece. 

The article continues...

"In the aim of creating a common framework for European asylum procedures, EASO collects data from the bloc’s 27 member states and supports the exchange of best-practice experiences.  It also collects data on refugees’ countries of origin to verify their repatriation.  EASO is currently putting together an annual report on the situation of asylum-seekers in Europe, as well as handbooks and guidelines to establish an EU-wide asylum mechanism.

The agency analyzes how countries across the EU handle emergency situations such as the arrivals of large undocumented groups.  Greece’s northeastern Evros region is not the only part of Europe where refugee camps are bursting at the seams; camps in Italy, Malta and other parts of Southern Europe also face crisis conditions.   According to Folden, that’s why pan-EU legislation and concrete cooperation between member states are so essential.

According to Loukia Kotroni, Greece has already made some progress thanks to EASO’s help.  In addition to establishing commissions to handle refugee complaints, he said the camp conditions and the repatriation procedures have improved.  However, the job is far from finished.

"Some 300 to 400 people are arriving in the region daily," he said.  "There is progress in some areas. Every day there’s something else to take care of."In the future, EASO intends to become active outside the EU as well.  "We could help North African countries to develop their asylum systems and to raise their protection level by using member states’ expertise," said Folden.

EASO also plans to cooperate with other organizations, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a Geneva-based group established after World War II to help resettle displaced people.  As EASO works to expand its focus, however, a central question has come into play.  In order to take on more roles, Folden said, the organization must first put into play common EU immigration and asylum policies.  But therein lies somewhat of a chicken-and-egg problem.

"We’re realizing that this office, whose responsibilities include implementing common asylum procedures, was established before the introduction of the asylum system itself."

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