New EU agency for asylum already operational but not in Poland

New EU agency for asylum already operational but not in Poland
The EU Agency for Asylum is located in Valletta, Malta, credit: Unsplash/Luke Tanis

The European Commission announced on Wednesday that the new EU Agency for Asylum has started its work and has already been deployed in eight member states.

The new agency (EUAA) replaces the previous one European Asylum Support Office (EASO), with the same location at Valletta, Malta. The composition of the Management Team and Management Board of EASO have been automatically transferred to the EUAA, including the roles of Executive Director and Chair of the Management Board.

The previous agency was the only EU agency whose accounts did not receive an unqualified or clean audit opinion by the European Court of Auditors. The auditors criticized EASO for systematically breaching regulations, mainly in relation to public procurement and recruitment.

Listing EASO’s achievements since it was established in 2011, the Commission mentions that the agency has trained more than 40,000 people across Member States, registered 40% of all asylum applications in Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta, carried out 80% of best interest assessments for children in Greece and supported all post disembarkation relocations from Cyprus, Italy and Malta.

The main difference now is the new mandate of EUAA which entered into force as 19 January. According to the Commission, the new agency is a key deliverable under the proposed New Pact on Migration and Asylum, still to be adopted.

It is expected to help ensure that asylum decisions are taken in a fast and fair manner and that reception standards converge across the EU, bringing more uniformity in decision making and alignment between Member States’ asylum systems.

Among its new competencies, the Commission listed greater operational and technical support to Member States, including training and improved assistance in the form of a reserve of 500 experts. The experts will have the mandate to prepare the entire administrative asylum procedure for decision by national authorities, and offer assistance in the appeal stage.

A known problem in the past, documented in Eurostat statistics, has been the variation in recognition rates by member state as regards asylum applications related to refugees from the same country of origin.

EUAA is will develop country guidance on countries of origin which member states should take into account when assessing asylum applications. It will not have the mandate establish a common EU list of safe countries. Importantly, EUAA will recruit an independent Fundamental Rights Officer and establish a new complaints mechanism to ensure the safeguard of asylum applicants’ rights.

The new agency will receive €172 million of EU funds in 2022 and will launch 8 operations (in Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Spain) supporting asylum and reception authorities in Member States with almost 2,000 personnel. According to the Commission, the agency has already become fully operational.

A Commission spokesperson confirmed also to The Brussels Times that, unlike in Latvia and Lithuania, personnel from EASO/EUAA are not currently present in Poland despite the migration crisis at the EU-Belarus border.

In beginning of December last year, the Commission announced that it is proposing a set of temporary asylum and return measures to assist Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in addressing the emergency situation at the EU’s external border with Belarus, based on article 78(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The Commission explains that the proposal was part of a commitment to use all tools at its disposal to tackle situations of instrumentalization of migrants. For the time being, the proposal is still in the Council and has not yet been adopted.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times


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