Today we are extremely happy to present you a Guest Post from André Møkkelgjerd, Legal Advisor at the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS).
The post summarises NOAS’ efforts to hold a meeting with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to hear on the latter’s view on detention practices in European states. A meeting that in the end did not take place because the request was denied by EASO.
As André underlines in the post, the detention of asylum seekers is an issue in need of EASO’s attention, so the Agency should actually be grateful for having the opportunity to exchange ideas and information on the issue.
In aditus opinion, what NOAS experienced is only one more example of EASO’s minimum efforts to cooperate with civil society (see, for instance, two of our earlier posts: here and here).
Thanks for this post, André!
The Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) is an independent non-governmental organization which has been working to protect the rights of asylum seekers in Norway for almost 30 years. We are a member of ECRE and of the EASO consultative forum.
This autumn we are working on a report on detention of asylum seekers, which will include a comparative European section. As part of our research we are conducting fact finding missions to a few European countries. We are visiting Greece and Sweden as examples of the different ends of the spectrum of detention practices, and in August we visited Malta for research purposes.
In addition to examining Malta’s mandatory detention policy, we were interested in hearing EASO’s views on detention in Europe. It is obvious that detention practices vary greatly between states and that there is a need for harmonization. For several states this includes actual assessment of alternatives to detention.
Earlier this year NOAS commented on EASO’s work programme for 2014. We stressed the importance of detention as an issue in need of EASO’s attention:
Lastly, NOAS would like to comment on two important issues that are not mentioned in the draft for the 2014 Work Programme, namely return and detention of asylum seekers.
Practices regarding detention of asylum seekers vary greatly among European states. It is however clear that in certain states asylum seekers are routinely detained. This constitutes a serious breach of human rights standards. There is also a practice of detention within the Dublin system for the purpose of transfers to the responsible Member State.
NOAS would like to point out that the right to apply for protection from persecution is a fundamental human right. Detention of people on the mere basis that they pursue this right is a serious human rights violation. We therefore request EASO to be attentive to this issue, to contribute in the process of improving practices regarding detention of asylum seekers in Europe, and to include this in the work programme.
NOAS find it particularly concerning that also many children are being detained in some states, and we hope that EASO will pay special attention to the detention of children. In that regard, we recommend that EASO will include UNHCR's forthcoming guidelines regarding the best interest of the child in their work regarding children.
After an initial positive response about the possibility of a meeting, EASO decided that they could not meet with NOAS regarding the issue of detention. Although we specified that we were not looking to hear EASO’s view on detention practices in Malta, but their view on practices in different European states, our request was denied.
NOAS is curious about the reasons for not wanting to meet with civil society on such an important issue. Even though it is not a part of the current work programme, meeting with NGOs could give input and possibly influence what is included in the future work programmes. We believe detention is an important issue, and an issue in special need of attention from an agency tasked with harmonizing European asylum policy. Although situated in the only country with a formal mandatory detention policy, the agency should not shy away from addressing politically delicate issues.
NOAS’ report will examine different detention practices in Europe. Whether the report would have benefited from EASO’s perspective we will never know.