On November 30th the European Asylum Support Office held its 5th annual Consultative Forum. The 2015 Consultative Forum followed shortly after the departure of EASO’s Executive Director Robert Visser, an event described as ‘surprising’, and having left the European Commission ‘in an awkward position’.
Current Executive Director ad interim, Mr José Carreira, stated at the Forum:
“This year’s forum comes at a very important time. With over 1 million asylum applicants since the beginning of this year and with the implementation of the Migration agenda, we need to be prepared to answer to the additional demands from Member States and help relieve the pressure on their asylum systems. I aim to make EASO more operational and better equipped to quickly respond to the changing reality on the ground. In this context, consultation with civil society is not an option but a necessity.”
Mr José Carreira
General discussions were held relating to the Common European Asylum System as a whole, and EASO’s efforts with regard to the ‘hotspots’ in Greece and Italy in particular. You’re probably very familiar with this approach, but it should be stressed that hotspots are joint efforts between EASO, Frontex, Europol and Eurojust, and the relevant authorities in the particular Member State. From what we currently know (since information on hotspots is quite difficult to come across), their work relates primarily to the identification and registration of migrants. What is not clear, for us at least, are issues such as access by NGOs and lawyers to the hostpots, provision of basic services, detention during one’s stay at the hotspot and procedures following decisions adopted by the hotspot inter-agency set-up.
This system has been criticised by some for its‘crudeness’, and also for its potential to result in large numbers of refugees being turned away as a result of the alleged ‘simplicity’ of its functioning. Others, like Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, have welcomed the approach.
Last year's Consultative Forum plenary meeting
The European Agenda on Migration was also given considerable attention. This Agenda, adopted earlier this year, is based on the Political Guidelines established by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. It identifies four pillars of managing migration:
1. Addressing the root causes of migration, and accordingly reducing the incentives for migration.
2. The improved management of the EU’s external borders, relieving peripheral Member States of migratory pressures.
3. Solidarity with Member States affected severely by large migratory flows by further cooperation and strengthening of the Common European Asylum System.
4. The development of a new policy relating to legal migration.
Further, as stressed by Mr Carreira, EASO’s engagement with civil society was examined and discussed. EASO described this as ‘a fruitful dialogue with key organizations and other interested stakeholders’. The objective seems to be to enhance cooperation and develop cooperative tools in order to better implement the Common European Asylum System. The result of this ‘fruitful dialogue’ remains to be seen, as we have often commented on the relationship between EASO and civil society organisations.
Further commentary will be provided in an up-coming post.