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Proposal for a European Asylum Support Office

Briefing notes

Proposal for a European Asylum Support Office

17 February 2009 Also available in:

UNHCR looks forward to the publication tomorrow (February 18th) by the European Commission of a proposal to establish a European Asylum Support Office (EASO). We hope that such a support office will help ensure more consistent and better quality asylum decision-making across the European Union.

Research by UNHCR has shown that asylum-seekers of similar backgrounds and profiles have widely varying prospects of finding protection in different Member States of the European Union. For asylum-seekers from countries such as Iraq, Somalia or Afghanistan, for instance, these prospects can vary from 0 per cent to over 90 per cent depending on the member state in which they lodge their application. In some cases, people in need of protection are not recognized as such, due to the narrow approach taken by some states to key issues, such as protection needs faced by people in situations of generalized violence.

UNHCR believes that a European Asylum Support Office would strengthen practical cooperation and the sharing of good practice among member states. This should help to narrow differences between member states' approaches to the application of EU asylum legislation and ultimately result in more consistent, fair and effective asylum systems across the EU. However, the EASO will need the mandate and resources to enable it to help member states to address many concrete challenges.

We look forward to cooperating with a future European Asylum Support Office, in a manner consistent with the UNHCR mandate. This could include providing the services of experts, contributing to comparative analysis of the practice of states, or offering expertise regarding conditions in asylum seekers' countries of origin or countries through which they travelled. Based on UNHCR's supervisory responsibility regarding implementation of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, we are well placed to help the EU and the future support office to ensure that the Common European Asylum System develops in line with international refugee law and high standards of protection. Such collaboration would be consistent with the Amsterdam Treaty, which requires consultation with UNHCR on all matters relating to asylum in the European Union.