Wednesday, 21 March 2012

EASO Monitor meets Dr. Visser (I) - Does the EU need an early-warning mechanism?

As promised some time ago, we would like to give you an update on the meeting we had with Dr. Robert Visser, Executive Director of European Asylum Support Office.  The meeting was an EASO initiative, which we very much welcomed.  

This post will summarise our exchanges on the possibility of creating an EU-wide early-warning mechanism for asylum.  As you probably know, as part of the revision of CEAS, a number of Member States are extremely keen to also revise the Dublin II Regulation.  Key Member States here are those at the EU's borders, highlighting the negative & 'unfair' impact of the Regulation on their asylum/migration systems.  An early-warning mechanism would alert the EU of a possible large-scale influx of asylum-seekers, & possibly trigger the suspension of Dublin II with regard to that particular MS dealing with this influx.  

UNHCR's 2006 Discussion Paper on Dublin II
can be accessed here.
It is not yet clear whether this mechanism will be included in a revised Dublin II or in a separate & independent instrument.  But this blog is particularly interested in that part of the discussions that foresee, or could foresee, a role for EASO in this early-warning system.  So, what aim for EASO in all of this?

According to Visser the main aim of such an early-warning mechanism is to be better prepared: for when large influxes of asylum-seekers reach the EU & also when reception & asylum systems are on the verge of collapsing.  On the former issue, Visser alluded to the fact that through better preparation it could be possible for the EU to limit or better manage the influx.   

As for the latter scenario, Visser referred to the Greece situation questioning what would have been different if an early-warning mechanism had been in place.  Yet Visser also underlined that no mechanism can truly foresee future events, & the Arab spring was given as an example of totally unpredicted & unpredictable events.  

How does Visser see EASO's role in a possible mechanism?  As being discussed, the mechanism would essentially entail data collection & analysis, from which to extrapolate trends & possible scenarios.  Visser commented that since one of EASO's tasks is in fact to collect asylum-related data to be used as a basis for policy-making, it looks like any early-warning mechanism could rely on EASO to be the expert agency providing the EU with the necessary data.  Would EASO also provide recommendations for the most appropriate action to be taken on the basis of this data?  Probably not, according to Visser.  EASO's role would be limited to data collection.  

Being the EU's asylum agency, it does make perfect sense for EASO to have a central role in any possible early-warning mechanism.  But we're not too convinced that this role should be limited to data collection, & are more inclined to suggest a more active role for the Office.   The ultimate aim of an early-warning system is to allow the EU to take the necessary steps to better deal with the situation, to put in place systems & resources to avoid a collapse or failure of any EU MS asylum & reception modalities.  

The key lies in how we chose to define 'better deal with the situation'.  Do we mean strengthening reception centres & asylum procedures to ensure that all persons are dealt with & processed in accordance with the standards set out in the CEAS measures?  Or do we mean bringing in Frontex & other restrictive measures to prevent persons from entering the territory or asylum procedures?  We're clearly for the former option, since all asylum-seekers remain entitled to the full range of rights & protection contained in CEAS...whether arriving alone or in the context of a 'large-scale influx', however the EU chooses to define this.  

With this in mind, it's easy for us to conclude that EASO's role should be to recommend that any action taken on the basis of its researched data should be in strict conformity with CEAS' standards.  One of EASO's duties, according to the Regulation, is to contribute to the implementation of CEAS, so it seems strange to us that an early-warning mechanism with a role for EASO could even envisage the EU or MS taking measures that somehow go contrary to CEAS.  

Essentially, if EASO is to be involved in any early-warning mechanism, it would be incongruous for its involvement to lead to a situation not fully in conformity with CEAS.  

What do you think?  We'd love to hear you comments & suggestions!

(Further posts on the other meeting elements will follow soon.  See a general update on our meeting in one of our earlier posts here.)

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