European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, participated in the inaugural ceremony of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Valetta, Malta, on 19th June.
The new Office began some of its activities in November 2010, and from 19th June is now fully operational. The EASO was established with the aim of enhancing practical cooperation on asylum matters, and helping Member States fulfil their European and international obligations to give protection to people in need.
"I am very happy to open the European Asylum Support Office. 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,” Ms. Malmström said. “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.”
Observing that practices for receiving asylum seekers still vary considerably from one EU country to the other, Ms. Malmström said “much more needs to be done to achieve a greater convergence of approaches. The Support office will have an important role in that."
The European Commission has been providing vital support to the EASO, including by providing human resources, expertise, recruitment and logistical support, and will continue doing all it can to ensure that the Office can rapidly reach cruising speed.
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.
Work has already started and the recruitment of the staff to the Support Office is approaching its final phase. The Agency has already formed a pool of approximately 350 experts from all EU Member States who are available in emergency situations. These teams provide interpreting services, information on countries of origin and know-how on managing asylum cases.
An Operating Plan for the deployment of EU Asylum Support Teams in Greece was signed on 1st April 2011, with the aim of assisting the Greek authorities in setting up a modern and efficient asylum and reception system. The first team was deployed in May 2011. Several Member States have offered their experts (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom).