New EASO External Cooperation Strategy
In 2013, EASO's Management Board adopted the EASO External Action Strategy, defining the approach and general framework within which the Agency develops its work related to the external dimension of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).
Given the changes in the wider EU external relation policy framework and in view of the support requested by third countries and discussed with EU+ countries, the Strategy was revised, improved and adapted to the current situation in 2019. The Management Board adopted the new Strategy - now called EASO External Cooperation Strategy - in February 2019.
The Strategy provides strategic direction for the EASO external actions and sets priorities and focus for the planning of future activities, detailing the type of support EASO can provide as well as the geographical priorities.
External dimension of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS)
In compliance with its mandate, EASO’s external action supports the external dimension of the CEAS and contributes to the external relations policy framework set at EU level (see section 4 of the EASO External Cooperation Strategy). To this end, EASO aims at maintaining and reinforcing its engagement and cooperation with key priority third countries, namely the Western Balkan countries, Turkey and Middle East and North African (MENA) countries.
Activities in these areas are implemented by EASO’s External Dimension Sector, which is made up of two main thematic areas: resettlement and third country support. Resettlement: support EU+ countries resettlement schemes; and third country support: the delivery of capacity building activities in Third Countries (TCs) in line with EASO’s geographic priorities. In this field, EASO works both through its own annual funding and through the implementation of projects financed by external sources, for instance the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). More information on these two thematic areas can be found in the following paragraphs.
Support to Member States' resettlement efforts
EASO supports the implementation of EU+ countries’ resettlement efforts in the framework of European resettlement schemes, in cooperation with the European Commission, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relevant actors.
In Turkey, EASO works closely with the EU Delegation (EUD) and EU Member States (MS) to monitor resettlement operations from Turkey to the EU, support and advise Member States’ resettlement efforts in the Turkish context.
EASO launched a Pilot Project in April 2019 for a Resettlement Support Facility (RSF) in Istanbul, Turkey. For a period of 18 months, working with the project partner International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), EASO will be providing a one-stop-shop facility where selection and cultural orientation missions are organised as part of the MS resettlement process. The pilot project facilitates all the logistical aspects of the missions, and is expected to create added value in terms of enhancing operational coordination of MS resettlement operations from one dedicated facility, stimulating cooperation between MSs, supporting them in fulfilling their pledges, testing new practices for increased effectiveness of the process, increasing cost efficiency and testing a replicable model of EU cooperation in the field of resettlement.
Exchange of information and knowledge building on resettlement and complementary pathways
EASO also provides a platform for exchange and discussion among Member States on resettlement and complementary pathways. The Agency also takes part in the global and regional fora related to these topics.
EASO supported the development of the training module on resettlement as part of the EASO training curriculum and the creation of joint tools for future resettlement operations of Member States, in the framework of the European Union action "Facilitating Resettlement and Refugee Admission through New Knowledge" (EU-FRANK project). The project is led by the Swedish Migration Agency and involves relevant institutions in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, as well as UNHCR, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and ICMC. EASO is expected to take over the project results.
EASO’s activities in the field of complementary pathways started in 2017 through a pilot project on Private Sponsorship Programmes (PSP), which involved interested Member States and relevant stakeholders. The pilot project complemented the European Commission’s study on the feasibility and added value of private sponsorship schemes as a possible pathway to safe channels for admission to the EU, including resettlement.
Third country support
EASO has engaged with the Turkish Directorate General for Migration Management (DGMM) through the exchange of best practices on matters related to asylum since 2014. The cooperation was reinforced in 2017 with the successful implementation of two comprehensive roadmaps laying out cooperation and activities to that effect. A pilot roadmap in September 2017-February 2018 followed by an expanded roadmap in February 2018-June 2019 has seen the delivery of over 42 cooperation activities, supporting staff at DGMM and the Provincial Directorates of Migration Management (PDMM) with a view to improve their knowledge and working methodology in the asylum process and with a particular focus on staff working with vulnerable groups.
Over 190 officials have participated in 26 EASO train-the-trainer sessions, thereby helping develop and expand a DGMM pool of trainers for EASO modules. The partnership has also contributed to the enhancement of the DGMM Country of Origin Information (COI) Working Group’s expertise. In the latest roadmap alone, EASO has delivered four Country of Origin Information (COI) events on Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine benefitting over 100 DGMM migration experts and caseworkers, with staff involved in the production of DGMM COI material. Moreover, EASO has assisted DGMM with the development of a contingency plan, which should help DGMM and other stakeholders further improve their response to emergency situations of sudden inflow of nationals of third countries. Through this established EASO-DGMM cooperation, EASO and EU+ countries have had opportunities to exchange at technical level with DGMM helping improve asylum policies and services at national level and facilitating efficient and protection-sensitive implementation of asylum procedures.
Following the positive outcome of the review of EASO’s support within the framework of the roadmaps, EASO and DGMM have recently agreed upon the renewal and further expansion of their cooperation under a new roadmap, which will run for two years (September 2019-August 2021). The priority areas of cooperation will include Country of Origin Information, support to the DGMM Decision Centres, information analysis and management, contingency planning, strengthening DGMM’s training system, while overall maintaining a clear focus on persons with special needs. Additionally, EASO is currently co-implementing the regional IPA II funded project Regional Support to Protection-Sensitive Migration Management in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The IPA II project foresees the participation of DGMM in regional activities (see the next paragraph for more information on EASO’s support to the Western Balkans).
Cooperation between EASO and the Western Balkans has been ongoing since 2014. EASO’s support in the Western Balkans have contributed to the region’s further harmonisation with the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) in light of the EU accession context as well as to the strengthening of the national asylum and reception systems, exchange and introduction of best practices and cooperation at regional level.
EASO supports the Western Balkans by organising capacity building, meetings, training activities, study visits, on-the-job coaching sessions, and thematic workshops aimed at strengthening the asylum and reception systems. EASO “train-the-trainer” sessions also facilitate the transfer of knowledge and contribute to the multiplier effect in view of building a sustainable pool of trainers in the Western Balkans. The target group for this support is mostly asylum caseworkers but also social workers, reception officers, policy makers, first contact officials of the Western Balkans administrations and members of second and final instance of courts and tribunals of the Western Balkans. Support addresses a wide range of topics related to the CEAS, from access to the asylum procedure and reception, to identification of persons with special needs, contingency planning, registration and examination procedures of applications for international protection, and country of origin information. Finally, EASO also translated a number of its practical tools into local languages for national use; these will be made available on EASO’s website.
Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) – externally funded project
Since 2016, cooperation between EASO and the Western Balkans has intensified, including through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) II funded regional project "Regional Support to Protection-Sensitive Migration Management in the Western Balkans and Turkey" (Phase I: September 2016-June 2019; Phase II: July 2019-June 2021). EASO is implementing, together with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the introduced project that is targeting the Western Balkans and Turkey (the latter for relevant regional activities only).
EASO's activities under the IPA funded project focus on providing support in the establishment of improved identification of mixed migration flows – and the most vulnerable groups among them – as well as in the delivery of capacity-building activities in order to strengthen asylum and reception systems, including through the support to regional practitioners’ networks and support to the Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI).
Within the scope of the project, two roadmaps to support the further development of asylum and reception systems in line with EU standards have been implemented with Serbia and North Macedonia. Two additional roadmaps with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina are under preparation. The development of roadmaps has helped to: i) assess the situation in the countries; ii) identify in which areas of the legal and institutional frameworks and asylum and reception processes EASO's expertise could be best utilised; iii) create synergies with other ongoing initiatives in the countries; and iv) ensure full ownership of the support provided by the national authorities, since that document is drafted jointly by EASO and the relevant national authorities.
Cooperation and coordination with other stakeholders is central in order to provide added value and not to duplicate efforts. The roadmaps, facilitated through the IPA regional project, are providing a unique framework to ensure coordination in the region. In addition to EASO’s expertise, experts from EU+ countries also greatly contribute to achieve the expected results by participating to capacity building activities in the Western Balkans.
Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
In the MENA region, EASO has implemented a project funded by ENPI (European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument) over the period 2014-2016.
Following the end of the project, EASO has kept positive relations with Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan and has closely followed the relevant policies and programmes supporting the MENA countries. In particular, EASO is a member of European Commission’s Steering Committee for the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), led by Italy and funded by the European Commission and EU+ countries. Additionally, EASO has participated in several senior official meetings held under ongoing Migration Dialogues with Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt. The aim of such dialogues is to cover all migration-related issues in a holistic and balanced approach, and to establish joint activities addressing migration challenges in both the short and long term within the EU, including its agencies and the respective partner countries.
Currently, EASO is establishing cooperation with Egypt and Morocco within the framework of the EU Migration Dialogues. The aim of such partnerships is to support national authorities in taking steps towards the establishment of legislations, institutions and systems leading, in the long term, to effective asylum procedures and reception conditions in the respective countries.
For additional information on EASO's External Dimension Sector and the Agency's work, please see the EASO Annual General Report 2018, adopted in June 2019.