4.9.1 Providing information on the asylum procedure

4.9.1 Providing information on the asylum procedure

Most EU+ countries developed new digital solutions or upgraded their digital communication channels to ensure that asylum seekers were provided not only with information on the asylum procedure but also on health guidelines to be followed during the processes and within the host country. New communication tools were used, such as posters, pictograms, YouTube videos, hotlines and online platforms, which supplemented or even replaced traditional face-to-face communication. Online pages with frequently asked questions on COVID-19 and updates on procedures were incorporated in government portals and official websites of national asylum administrations in Austria,749  Belgium,750  Cyprus,751  France,752  Germany,753  Greece,754  Iceland,755  Ireland,756, 757 Norway,758  Romania 759  and Slovenia. The pages were regularly updated with information, legislative amendments and instructions on COVID-19 measures. 

In Slovenia, the responsibility for the provision of information was handed to the asylum officers of the Ministry of the Interior in 2020, after the contract expired with an NGO which was previously given this task. The office launched a new video that informs applicants about their rights and obligations. Applicants receive information through a video before they lodge an asylum application.

Access to information for asylum seekers, including instructions and scheduling or rescheduling of appointments, was managed through remote communication channels, such as phone lines, hotlines, mobile phone applications, video calls or social media channels by Bulgaria, Poland, Portugal and Sweden.

The UNHCR office in Bulgaria launched a dedicated website, asylum.bg, with information on the international protection procedure in various languages. It includes a guide to refugee law, audio format and summaries of judicial decisions of national courts.760  
Special leaflets on legal ways to migrate were produced in Lithuania and Poland761 to specifically target Belarusian citizens. The leaflets are distributed at border crossing points. 

Practical barriers and a lack of clear communication for asylum seekers placed in detention at the border were also reported by Portuguese civil society organisations.762 
Germany limited the number of asylum seekers who can participate at the same time in group information sessions on the asylum procedure before lodging an asylum application. Group sessions were held online and in specially-equipped rooms to ensure the protection of staff, interpreters and applicants. 

Malta discontinued some information sessions which were organised at the reception premises at the beginning of 2020 to inform applicants about the rules of the centre and their rights and obligations due to the pandemic.763 An information point was established by AWAS.764 In addition, the status of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Malta was confirmed by email while the premises of the International Protection Agency were closed between 13 March and 18 May.765 Once the premises re-opened, the agency started to issue or renew documents and protection certificates for asylum seekers.

In Greece, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum launched a multidimensional platform for information provision, developed an e-service tool to digitalise asylum applications, updated materials and guidelines, and launched awareness-raising campaigns through its official social media channels.766 The digitalisation of information provision raised concern on the use of online tools and platforms. Civil society organisations in Greece767 expressed worries about data protection and information-sharing through the new information system for online applications which was developed by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum.768 An insufficient provision of information was also observed by the Network of Children Rights in Greece with regards to unaccompanied minors.769 

In Norway, information for asylum seekers was made available in 24 different languages by the official institute of public health, including through a smart phone application, Smittestopp app.770 Guidance to applicants was provided to a greater extent online or by telephone.
The website, Information Sverige (Information Sweden), was launched in 2009 and was made available in ten languages in 2020. Among relevant information to people who are new to the country, it offers material about the asylum procedure. The website is funded by the Swedish government on a permanent basis as of 1 January 2021 with SEK 5 million yearly and it is run by the County Administrative Boards. Save the Children in Sweden commended the improvements made by the Swedish Migration Agency to adapt child-friendly information and communication in line with the best interests of children and their situation if they return to their country of origin.771 However, it raised concerns that important and relevant information were not given in a timely and efficient manner, and information which can be understood by children remained a challenge.772  

Invitation letters for an interview were revised in Belgium and Ireland773 to include information on COVID-19 measures, instructions for the interview, administrative arrangements, and a request for the applicant not to attend the interview in case of illness.

In Ireland, the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS) set up a helpline, managed by the JRS Ireland, for asylum seekers living in accommodation centres. The AIDA report for Ireland reported on a lack of transparency in the provision of information and legal assistance.774
In Italy, a national hotline number was made available in 36 languages and a digital capacity-building platform targeting refugee-led organisations was set up with the support of UNHCR and local NGOs.775 A multi-lingual information portal, JUMA MAP,776 provided refugees and asylum seekers with access to information on COVID-19 in 15 different languages, as well as health advice, regulations on restrictions in movement, administrative procedures and services which are currently unavailable.

Austria launched the mobile application, uugot.it TV, which helped refugees and migrants to access real-time and updated news from the authorities. The application also offered translations of TV content through sub-titles in different languages, such as Arabic, Croatian, Dari/Farsi (Persian), English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Somali and Spanish, allowing for non-German speakers to follow Austrian TV and learn German. The app is supported by the Austrian government. 

The UNHCR office in Cyprus incorporated a dedicated page on its official website which provides updates related to COVID-19 preventative measures and information material, translated into 13 languages such as (English, Somali, Bengali, Filipino, Georgian, Hindi, Kurmanji, Persian, Sorani, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese).777  

Civil society organisations in France noted that an updated guide on the right to asylum for unaccompanied minors is not child-friendly and targets local authorities and practitioners working in children care instead of minors.778 The guide describes the steps of the asylum procedure, appeals and the procedure at the border.779 

Practical barriers and a lack of information, interpretation and legal assistance were reported by civil society organisations Spain,780 specifically for new arrivals by sea to the Canary Islands. Migrants were not receiving legal assistance for an expulsion procedure, were not informed of their rights and collective expulsions were being carried out. 

In Romania, a lack of interpretation was noted at border crossing points, hindering access to information. 

In Norway, civil society organisations identified challenges in ensuring an effective and timely provision of information to asylum seekers who are detained shortly after registration, applicants in detention and asylum seekers staying in private residences.781 The European Network of Statelessness (ENS) continued to note for the third year a significant gap in information and resources to statelessness people and those facing issues with nationality in general.782 Some progress was made in providing additional material and translations on the Stateless Journeys website, but it was not clear if this information was being used to address statelessness in the asylum context.

To support EU+ countries, improve the quality of asylum processes and achieve common quality standards, EASO commenced the ‘Let’s Speak Asylum’ project to develop methodologies and tools to support the provision of information across all stages of the asylum procedure and reception pathway. Best practices and challenges across national asylum administration and reception authorities were identified through targeted surveys. The tool, which is set to be launched in 2021, will contain digital and audio-visual material catering to the needs of vulnerable persons and illiterate applicants. 

 

 

 

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[751] Ministry of Health. (2021, May 12). Coronavirus. https://www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus/eng
[752] French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons | Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides. (2021, April 7). Mesures liées au Covid-19 [Measures relate to COVID-19]. https://www.ofpra.gouv.fr/fr/l-ofpra/actualites/mesures-liees-au-covid-19
[753] Federal Office for Migration and Refugees | Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge. (2021, May 12). Asyl & Flüchtlingsschutz: Auswirkungen der Corona-Pandemie auf Asylverfahren [Asylum & Refugee Protection: Impact of the Corona Pandemic on Asylum Procedures]. https://www.bamf.de/DE/Themen/AsylFluechtlingsschutz/asylfluechtlingsschutz-node.html
[754] Ministry of Migration and Asylum | Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου. (2021, May 12). Migration Greece Info. https://invite.viber.com/?g2=AQBwbnVKr3AUHUv7i1F8blVpQ6t6fqUHHHqTaIVCMvoPy3ty6b4DM6Lio%2BryaTS0&lang=en
[755] Directorate of Immigration | Útlendingastofnun. (2021, May 12). Information concerning COVID-19. https://www.utl.is/index.php/en/about-directorate-of-immigration/covid-19
[756] International Protection Office | An Oifig Um Chosaint Idirnáisiúnta. (2021, May 10). Important Notice: Covid-19 restrictions. http://www.ipo.gov.ie/
[757] Department of Justice, Immigration Service Delivery. (2021, April 22). COVID-19 Updates and Announcements. http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/COVID-19-updates-and-announcements
[758] Norwegian Directorate of Immigration | Utlendingsdirektoratet. (2021, May 12). Informasjon til asylsøkere og beboere på asylmottak om koronasituasjonen [Information to asylum seekers and residents at asylum reception centers about the Corona situation]. https://www.udi.no/nn/asylmottak/informasjon-til-beboere-pa-asylmottak-om-koronasituasjonen/
[759] General Inspectorate of Immigration | Inspectoratul General pentru Imigrări. (2020, September 22). Ghid măsuri prevenire COVID-19 [Guide to COVID-19 prevention measures]. http://igi.mai.gov.ro/en/node/71057
[760] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2021, May 12). asylum.bg. http://asylum.bg/home-dashboard-eng
[761] European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. (2020). Migration: Key fundamental rights concerns - Quarterly Bulletin - 2020: 1 July - 30 September 2020. https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2020-migration-bulletin-4_en.pdf; Association for Legal Intervention | Stowarzyszenia Interwencji Prawnej. (2020, September 30). Informacje dla obywateli Białorusi planujących przyjazd do Polski [Information for Belarusian citizens planning to come to Poland]. https://interwencjaprawna.pl/informacje-dla-obywateli-bialorusi-planujacych-przyjazd-do-polski/
[762] AIDA Portugal. (2021). Country Report: Portugal - 2020 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR). https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/AIDA-PT_2020update.pdf
[763] European Council on Refugees and Exiles. (2021). Input to the EASO Asylum Report 2021. https://easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ECRE_0.pdf
[764] AIDA Malta. (2021). Country Report: Malta - 2020 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by aditus. https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/AIDA-MT_2020update.pdf
[765] European Migration Network. (2020). Special Annex to the 30th EMN Bulletin: EU Member States & Norway: responses to COVID-19 in the migration and asylum area. April - June 2020. https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/default/files/00_eu_30_emn_bulletin_annex_covid_19.pdf
[766] Ministry of Migration and Asylum | Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου. (2021, May 12). Migration Greece Info. https://invite.viber.com/?g2=AQBwbnVKr3AUHUv7i1F8blVpQ6t6fqUHHHqTaIVCMvoPy3ty6b4DM6Lio%2BryaTS0&lang=en
[767] Danish Refugee Council Greece. (2021). Input to the EASO Asylum Report 2021. https://easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/Danish-Refugee-Council-Greece_Input.pdf
[768] Ministry of Migration and Asylum | Υπουργείο Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου. (2021, May 12). Applications.migration.gov.gr. https://applications.migration.gov.gr/
[769] Network for Children's Rights | Δίκτυο για τα Δικαιώματα του Παιδιού. (2021). Input to the EASO Asylum Report 2021. https://easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/Network-for-Childrens-Rights.pdf
[770] Norwegian Health Network | Norsk Helsenett. (2021, May 12). Coronavirus. https://www.helsenorge.no/en/coronavirus/
[771] Swedish Migration Agency | Migrationsverket, County Administrative Board of Jämtland | Länsstyrelsen Jämtland, & Strömsunds Municipality | Strömsunds kommun. (2020). The Best Interest of the Child - a more sustainable return process for unaccompanied minors. https://begripligt.nu/The%20Best%20Interest%20of%20the%20Child.pdf; Strömsunds Municipality | Strömsunds kommun. (2021, May 12). Projekt Barnets bästa vid återvändande | Project The best interests of the child upon return. https://www.begripligt.nu/barnets-basta-vid-atervandande/
[772] Save the Children Sweden | Rädda Barnen. (2021). Input to the EASO Asylum Report 2021. https://easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/Radda-Barnen-Save-the-Children_Sweden.pdf
[773] Department of Justice, Immigration Service Delivery. (2021, April 22). Impact of COVID-19 on Immigration and International Protection - Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Immigration-Service-Delivery-Covid-19-FAQ4.pdf/Files/Immigration-Service-Delivery-Covid-19-FAQ4.pdf
[774] AIDA Ireland. (2021). Country Report: Ireland - 2020 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by Irish Refugee Council. https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AIDA-IE_2020update.pdf
[775] Partecipazione Innovation Lab. (2021, May 12). https://www.partecipazionelab.org/
[776] ARCI. (2021, May 12). JumaMap: Services for Refugees. https://www.jumamap.it/en/
[777] UNHCR Cyprus. (2021, May 12). COVID-19 / Coronavirus. https://help.unhcr.org/cyprus/covid-19-coronavirus/
[778] Forum réfugiés - Cosi. (2021). Input to the EASO Asylum Report 2021. https://easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/Forumre-fugies-Cosi.pdf
[779] French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons | Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides. (January 2020). Guide de l’asile pour les mineurs non accompagnés en France [Asylum guide for unaccompanied minors]. https://www.ofpra.gouv.fr/sites/default/files/atoms/files/guide_de_lasile_pour_les_mineurs_non_accompagnes_en_france_1.pdf
[780] AIDA Spain. Country Report: Spain - 2020 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by Accem. https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/AIDA-ES_2020update.pdf; Abogacía Española. (2020, November 11). La Subcomisión de Extranjería denuncia la falta de asistencia jurídica a inmigrantes llegados a Canarias [The Immigration Subcommittee denounces the lack of legal assistance to immigrants arriving in the Canary Islands]. https://www.abogacia.es/actualidad/noticias/la-subcomision-de-extranjeria-denuncia-la-falta-de-asistencia-juridica-a-inmigrantes-llegados-a-canarias/
[781] Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers | Norsk organisasjon for asylsøkere. (2021). Input to the EASO Asylum Report 2021. https://easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/NOAS.docx
[782] European Network on Statelessness. (2021). Input to the EASO Asylum Report 2021. https://easo.europa.eu/sites/default/files/European-Network-on-Statelessness.pdf

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