Earlier this week ECRE published its comments on the Commission proposal for a Regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), the proposed successor to the European Asylum Support Office. ECRE’s comments concentrate mainly on the new Agency’s competences in the field of information collection and analysis on the situation of asylum, monitoring the implementation of the EU asylum acquis and country of origin information (COI). The document also analysis the Agency’s proposed role in situations where Member States face disproportionate pressure on their asylum systems, the EU’s cooperation with third countries, and the role of the Consultative Forum.

ECRE recognises that expanding the competences of the Agency in an attempt to have a more harmonised CEAS is a necessary and logical evolution in the EU harmonisation process. Nevertheless, ECRE calls on the EU institutions to ensure that the activities of the EUAA also increase the quality of decision-making and establish a high level of protection across the EU.

ECRE also recommends the establishment of an Independent Expert Panel on country of origin information (COI) advising the Agency on matters of methodology and peer reviewing the Agency’s COI products. The panel would consist of academic country-specific experts, representatives of the judiciary, expert NGOs and UNHCR.

The proposal foresees the active involvement of the Agency and experts deployed by the Agency in the examination of asylum applications. It furthermore proposes the possibility of inviting third country officials to observe its operations. Given the risk of disclosing information on  individual applications for international protection to alleged actors of persecution, ECRE opposes any such collaboration.

ECRE welcomes the enhanced competences of the new Agency to monitor and assess the operation and functioning of the Common European Asylum System in practice at the national level. However, it regrets that the Commission proposal seems to suggest that such monitoring and assessment mechanism would be based predominantly on information provided by Member States without integrating relevant information from NGOs and UNHCR.

The document also recommends that there are stronger data protection safeguards given the additional competences of the Agency to process personal data of asylum seekers and refugees. Finally, ECRE calls for greater safeguards in the proposed Regulation to ensure that the new competence of the Agency to issue a common analysis on country of origin and guidance on for certain countries is in line with UNHCR eligibility guidelines.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 15 July 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.