"I am very happy to open the European Asylum Support Office,” said Cecilia Malmström. “By dealing with practical and operational issues regarding asylum and migration, the Support Office offers valuable support to Member States by facilitating practical cooperation in all aspects of the assessment of asylum claims and in the reception of asylum seekers. It will provide support to Member States confronted with unexpected inflows of asylum seekers and to those which simply need to make their asylum system more fair and efficient. It is an indispensable instrument to help achieve a more comprehensive and protective Common European Asylum System. Practices for receiving asylum seekers still vary considerably from one EU country to the other and much more needs to be done to achieve a greater convergence of approaches. The Support office will have an important role in that."
The EASO supports Member States in their efforts to implement a more consistent and fair asylum policy, for example by helping to identify good practices, organising training at the European level and improving access to accurate information on countries of origin. It also provides technical and operational support to Member States facing "particular pressures" (i.e. Member States that receive large numbers of asylum claims in a given period). Such support is channelled through the deployment of asylum expert teams who can help alleviate some of the pressure on the country's asylum systems.
The planning and monitoring authority of the Office is its Management Board. It consists of one member from each EU country, of two members from the Commission and of a non-voting member from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The management board members hold office for a renewable three-year term.
On 1st February 2011, the Management Board appointed Rob Visser as Executive Director of the EASO for five years (renewable once, for not more than three years). Dr Visser is in charge of the day-to-day management of the agency and acts as the legal representative of the office.
The EASO may set up working parties composed of experts in the field of asylum. A consultative forum is to be established for cooperation between the EASO and relevant civil society organisations and other competent bodies working on asylum policy at local, regional, national, European or international level.
The budget foreseen for the period 2010 – 2013 is around €40 million. The EASO staff will consist of temporary agents, contractual agents and seconded national experts. Recruitment of the first staff is ongoing.
In an official statement, the Maltese government said that out of the 12 Member States that joined the EU since 2004, Malta was the fourth Member State, following Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, to win a bid to host an EU agency. The Maltese Government made a major effort to drive forward Malta’s bid to host EASO and this effort has paid off in one of the quickest agency decisions of recent years. Besides the prestige of hosting such an important agency, and the economic benefits that this will bring to the country, EASO will also deliver tangible results to overburdened Member States in the area of asylum
Following unanimous agreement by Member States, in November 2009, to seat the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Malta, negotiations between the Government of Malta and the European Commission on the establishment of EASO started in January 2010. Negotiations focused on the text of the Seat Agreement between the Government of Malta and the European Asylum Support Office, the upgrading of EASO building and logistical arrangements.