The Regulation establishing the European Asylum Support Office mentions as the very first purpose of EASO the following: ‘(t)he Support Office shall facilitate, coordinate and strengthen practical cooperation among Member States on the many aspects of asylum.’ The proposed new Regulation on the European Union Agency for Asylum also confirms as the first task that the Agency shall ‘facilitate, coordinate and strengthen practical cooperation and information exchange among Member States on various aspects of asylum’ and the Explanatory Memorandum notes that EASO ‘gained experience and earned credibility for its work as regards practical cooperation among Member States and in supporting them to implement their obligations under the CEAS’. 255
The activities of EASO concerning this field have been very rich and multi-faceted throughout 2018. The General Annual Report 2018 provides for an extensive overview about the activities undertaken and the results achieved. Examples of EASO activities and references to the GAR have been provided throughout various thematic sections of this Report and aim to contextualise the work of ESO within the main developments in the Common European Asylum System in 2018.
EASO provides different kinds of support in working towards a CEAS. The permanent support of EASO improves the quality of asylum processes and systems. It aims to promote the consistent implementation of the CEAS to share common knowledge and skills, organisation and procedures, information, resources and best practices. The EASO special support provides tailor-made assistance and capacity building, facilitates and coordinates exchanges of information and other activities related to relocation within the Union and offer specific support and special quality control tools. The EASO emergency support provide temporary support and assistance to repair or rebuild asylum and reception systems and in this manner, it organises solidarity for Member States subject to particular pressures. EASO also offers information and analysis support by sharing and merging information and data and by undertaking analyses and assessments at EU level, including EU-wide trend analyses and assessments. Finally, EASO supports the external dimensions of the CEAS and coordinates the exchange of information and other actions on related issues, for example, on resettlement, and it cooperates with the competent authorities of certain third countries in technical matters with view to promoting and assisting capacity building on the asylum and reception systems of those third countries.
In 2018 EASO continued its operational support for Italy, Greece and Cyprus. The Operating Plan for 2018 with Italy mandated EASO to support the Italian authorities on provision of relevant information to potential applicants for international protection, in handling registration of applicants for international protection, in handling Dublin take-charge and take-back requests through a dedicated support to the Dublin Unit in Rome, in strengthening the reception capacity, in particular with regards to unaccompanied minors, in organising professional development activities and study visits for the Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration (Ministry of the Interior), in organising activities in the field of COI, and strengthening the Ombudsperson for Children and Adolescents in implementing protection measures for unaccompanied children. A new Operating Plan for 2019 was signed at the end of 2018, which combines five support measures and operational activities. The support from EASO in Greece focused on ten measures divided into three priority areas based on the 2018 Operating Plan: support to asylum procedure, support to reception, capacity building in the implementation of the CEAS. The new 2019 Operating Plan outlines a wide range of activities under the two major headings of support to asylum procedure and support to reception and for example the legislative changes in Greece now allow Greek-speaking EASO personnel to provide further support in processing the application within the regular asylum procedure. EASO provided support in Cyprus with backlog management in the asylum procedure and in the field of reception based on the Special Support Plan, which was initially extended until 31 January 2019. Following the formal request of the Cypriot Asylum Service, the needs assessment analysis identified new areas of intervention, which led to the signature of a new 2019 Operational & Technical Assistance Plan.
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