This blog has been started to show two things. Firstly, the European Union can manage the systems of granting asylum or international protection to those who need it, ensuring people who come for economic reasons do so through legal channels, and only legal channels. Secondly, this blog is designed to show that the proposal I put on the table on September 23 2020 is a puzzle with pieces that fits very well together to make a fair, efficient and long-term sustainable system to manage asylum and migration.
Compromise follows consultation and I have consulted with all stakeholders extensively and exhaustively. Our set of proposals is the political centre of gravity for European migration management. They are the way forward and I am convinced of this.
The European Union, happily, is seen as place of refuge. It is a place of democratic values and of respect for the rule of law. Providing protection, firstly to those who are persecuted at home, be it political, religious or sexual orientation. This is our obligation. One that the EU will not shirk from, not now not ever.
And to fulfil that obligation we have to make sure the whole system of asylum is fit for purpose. That means that it must, as much as possible, be fast, easy to understand and humane. It must be able to ensure an increasing number of resettlements and other legal pathways; and never compromise on the right to give protection to those that come to the EU risking their lives – in order to save their lives.
EASO is the European Asylum Support Office. We have proposed upgrading our asylum office to the European Asylum Agency.
The European Asylum Agency will bring four main benefits. It will assist Member States in fulfilling their protection obligations. It will create a common space of protection in EU based on converged asylum procedures to seals cracks in the system and prevent unauthorised movement across our Member States. It will facilitate resettlement and other legal pathways for people in need of protection, restricting therefore smuggling and trafficking in human beings. It will rebuild and consolidate the mutual trust between Member States, contributing also to an effective return policy by assisting with the quick identification of those whose claims we can now more easily identify as unwarranted.
The current asylum support office (EASO) is an engine operating beyond capacity. Its machinery is not designed to deliver on the demands being met. The strains are showing and the European Court of Auditors has noted this.
That is not to say that despite these strains, EASO has not been delivering. It undoubtedly has. During 2020, even with the COVID pandemic, EASO has registered asylum applications in Greece (40%), Italy 16%), Cyprus (80%) and Malta (90%) of all applications. There were 456 asylum experts working under the EASO banner on 1st February 2020 and 808 on 1st February 2021. If EASO were an EU+ country, it would rank 5th out of 29* in terms of the number of registrations performed last year and 6th out of 29* in terms of first-instance decisions issued.
The role that an established European Agency could play in operational terms would be even more effective. It could recruit effectively; experts in asylum and reception; experts in cultural mediation; experts in language.
It would boost mutual trust through new monitoring of Member States’ asylum and reception systems and through the ability for the Commission to issue recommendations with assistance measures.
This monitoring would ensure that, as we converge on asylum process, so we converge on reception standards. The fire in Moria camp on Lesvos, on 8 September was a brutal reminder. Many, many rightly asked; how could such reception conditions exist in the European Union?
That fire was two weeks before we launched our migration package and it increased motivation and decisiveness to deliver on our obligations.
The proposed monitoring mechanism that is part of the proposal can be a tool to prevent bad practice as much as to correct it; and swiftly provide support when necessary and asked by a Member State. It can be a permanent fitness check for asylum practices in the Member States.
The European Asylum Agency is part of the move, as I said on my last visit to Greece, to a Europeanised system.
This is a weekly blog outlining the benefits of the proposals on migration tabled by the European Commission on 23 September 2020. For more detail New Pact on Migration and Asylum | European Commission (europa.eu)