The role of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO)

EASO is an agency of the European Union mandated to enhance EU Member States’ practical cooperation on asylum in Europe; to assist Member States to fulfil their protection obligations; and to act as a centre of expertise on asylum in Europe. EASO was established in May 2010, and began work in February 2011. Both resettlement and relocation are part of EASO’s mandate. One of the aims of the agency is to ‘coordinate exchanges of information and other actions on resettlement taken by Member States with a view to meeting the international protection needs of refugees in third countries and showing solidarity with their host countries’ (Article 7 of its Regulation).

In May 2016, within the framework of the reform process of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and recognising Member States’ growing needs for support in the field of asylum, the European Commission presented a proposal to amend and expand the role of EASO. The reformed agency, to be rebranded the European Union Agency for Asylum, would be tasked with monitoring and ensuring the efficient and uniform implementation of the CEAS, in order to reach a greater harmonisation among the asylum systems of Member States (e.g., recognition rates, treatment of asylum-seekers, etc.), and would be involved in fingerprinting procedures and the collection and processing of applicants’ personal data. The agency should also gather and analyse information on the asylum situation in the EU and establish and coordinate a network on country of origin information, providing guidance on safe countries of origin. Moreover, the agency would be granted the power to adopt EU legal instruments on asylum, such as performance standards and guidelines, which Member States will have the obligation to observe. Enhanced operational assistance through asylum support teams would be delivered, creating an asylum intervention pool consisting of a reserve of at least 500 asylum experts. Finally, the agency would be mandated to cooperate with third countries, facilitating the exchange of information between Member States and non-EU countries and engaging in operational cooperation.

In a Communication of September 2017 the European Commission invited “EASO to coordinate a pilot project on private sponsorship schemes with interested Member States and engaging a wide variety of relevant civil society organisations, international organisations, and potential private sponsors in cooperation with the Member States”. This and other developments during 2017 and 2018 seek to establish a greater role for EASO in supporting the expansion of programmes in the EU for the admission of refugees from third countries.