aditus & JRS Malta comment on proposed changes to national asylum legislation

Together with JRS Malta we’ve submitted technical comments on proposals to amend the Refugees Act, as Malta commences the exercise to transpose the EU’s recast Qualification, Reception and Procedures Directives.

Our comments were sent to the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security, and technical dialogue is currently underway to work on the finer details of the transposition exercise. We’re keen to continue this dialogue, particularly for the transposition of the recast Reception Directive since this will require a profound revision of Malta’s reception policy.

The document also contains a table comparing the Directive with current and proposed legislation.

Summarily, this is what we’ve highlighted in our comments:

Overall, the Directive’s measures seem to be adequately provided for in the proposed amendments. Noting that the Qualification Directive was not significantly amended in the recast process, it is appreciated that the changes required in the Maltese context in order to fully transpose the Recast Directive are in fact minimal. This further highlights the importance of effective consultation for the Recast Reception Conditions and Procedures Directives, both heavily amended in the recast process and having a serious impact on Malta’s asylum regime.

With regard to the general transposition approach, we fail to understand why this is being conducted in a piece-meal fashion instead of one that approaches all three amended Directives in a coherent, efficient and targeted manner. The present exercise seems to focus on the Qualification Directive, yet already contains significant elements of the other Directives yet without seeing them through in a complete fashion.

Despite the overall compliance with transposition requirements, a number of concerns may be highlighted:

  1. secondary legislation is not the place for recognising the fundamental human rights of any person;
  2. the rights of beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are abstract and undefined
  3. no definition, or defining criteria are provided for “applicants in need of special procedural guarantees”.

The comments can be downloaded here.

LIBE Committee hearing on asylum & resettlement

On 20 October aditus Director Dr. Neil Falzon delivered a presentation during an asylum and resettlement hearing organised by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).  The hearing gathered several professionals, academics and NGOs in order to raise and discuss important technical elements relevant to the on-going negotiations on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

Neil’s presentation was delivered during the panel discussing ‘Access to an effective remedy’, where he focused on the various scenarios where asylum-seekers are faced with administrative decisions against which they should be able to have access to effective remedies.  Examples given were age assessment procedure, reception conditions, Dublin II transfers, the asylum procedure and access to territory.

For further information on Neil’s presentation, or any other relevant information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

aditus meets Dr. Robert Visser, Executive Director of the European Asylum Support Office

A few days ago we sent a list of general update queries to EASO, asking about the status of the premises, recruitment procedures and the Consultative Forum.  In response, I was invited to a meeting with Dr. Visser, Executive Director, and his advisor Ms. Lonneke Kapoen.

I just returned from a good introductory meeting, held in EASO’s current premises just seconds away from one of Malta’s open centres – Marsa Open Centre.  Mr. Visser explained that work on the official premises is not yet finalised, and he is expecting to move there with his team in about mid-2012.

EASO’s current team is in fact a very small one, with less than skeleton staff supporting Visser.  Following the recruitment calls (27 in all, also published on the EASO Monitor), EASO received around 2,500 applications…a possible sign of great interest in EASO’s activities.  The actual target is for EASO to have around 60 recruited staff-members by 2012, together with a group of seconded national experts (calls also published on the EASO Monitor), aiming to reach around 35 by the end of year and to reach staffing targets by end 2012.

We also had a brief discussion about the Consultative Forum, since it is definitely an issue we are all closely watching.  We agree that at the moment there is no existing perfect structure EASO can borrow for the Forum, so Visser’s conducting an exercise of evaluating current systems with a view of adopting the positive elements whilst trying to avoid or improve the negative ones.

The Director repeatedly stressed the importance EASO will give to NGO contributions, particularly in view of their technical expertise that can be seen to complement the experience of the MS.  For this happen, Visser seems to be trying to find a Forum model that will on the hand be an inclusive venue whilst simultaneously ensuring that quality NGO expertise is efficiently channelled.

I raised the concern we’ve often shared that EASO seems to be perceived as the saviour of the Mediterranean region, with its support of EU MS facing ‘particular pressures’ being given much more importance than its other responsibilities.  The EASO Monitor has repeatedly stressed that we’d rather see EASO focus its energies on a more long-term approach, primarily by focusing on finalisation and appropriate implementation of CEAS.

We’re glad to confirm that Visser is also of this view.  Whilst the need to support MS facing difficulties, he reiterated his position that EASO can truly offer added value if it focuses on a “permanent support system” building on a “community of values”.  To do this, Visser identifies the following as key target areas:

  1. Education, primarily through the Asylum Curriculum, to ensure a solid, basic and EU-wide common training for all asylum case-officers;

  2. Common assessment of situations in countries of origin, in order to avoid disputes over factual situations by agreeing on situational elements;

  3. Data analysis, statistics and research into the EU’s asylum experiences, so that policies, measures and projects will be based on empirical evidence as opposed to possibly incorrect images.

Being an introductory meeting, I avoided entering into many details.  Of course, I would have loved to discuss the Greek situation as well as Visser’s views on EASO’s possible impact on the northern EU MS.  There will definitely be time for that at a later stage.