Acting General Director of the Swedish Migration Board
and Chair of the General Directors’ Immigration
Services Conference (GDISC)
Director of the International Division at
the Swedish Migration Board
“Recent and on-going activities of the General Directors’
Immigration Services Conference (GDISC)”
Ü Eurasylum: One of the flagship projects coordinated by the GDISC, an organisation that represents 33 General Directors of Immigration Services in Europe, is on the development of a ‘European Asylum Curriculum (EAC)’, which aims to establish a common vocational training curriculum for employees of the Immigration Services of the EU Member States. To date, the EAC has trained over 2000 officials and, as from January this year, the Curriculum is run by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). Can you comment on the ways in which the EAC is contributing, or has the potential to contribute, to the implementation of a Common European Asylum System, and to increasing the quality of the national asylum systems in the EU?
Ü Christina Werner: The establishment of EASO towards the end of 2010 signaled a significant step in EU efforts to implement a fair and consistent asylum policy. The GDISC network is working to support EASO wherever possible, and the handover of EAC to EASO is part of this process.
EAC is a European Union Member State initiative which aims to enhance the capacity and quality of the European asylum process as well as to strengthen practical cooperation between the European asylum systems. With the motto “Knowledge and skills for protection in Europe”, several Member States in cooperation with the Odysseus Academic Network have created a European Asylum Curriculum which will provide common vocational training for employees of the Immigration and Asylum Services in Europe.
The asylum systems of the EU Member States have undergone major changes in order to approximate their laws and practice. Migration was once an area of essentially national concern but has now become an international issue following the introduction of several EU legal instruments on asylum. And further harmonisation is on the horizon.
In addition to promoting a Common European Asylum System via regulations, I believe that a common training for asylum service personnel in Europe is crucial. This is also emphasised by the European Commission in their Communication on practical cooperation. One of EAC’s most significant strengths is that it is targeted directed to those who will be the backbone of the Common European Asylum System. A joint training initiative is instrumental in achieving a common asylum procedure since it leads to practical cooperation, shared knowledge and consensus on core issues. It is not impossible that in the future the EU will require that our asylum officers have a certified knowledge and skills and that this can be verified and achieved through EAC training.
Drawing on the expertise of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations EAC is likely to result in greater consistency and higher quality in decision and policymaking, thus increasing the likelihood of a fairer and more efficient procedure. Not to forget, it is also cost effective to share existing knowledge and materials.
The tangible success of the EAC is the very proof of what relevant practical cooperation between our organisations can lead to. Thanks to EAC our organisations have improved their decision-making quality and we are moving towards a more harmonized approach to working with asylum cases. This will be beneficial not only for our migration authorities but will also guarantee a fairer and uniform procedure for those seeking protection, wherever in Europe they apply.
Now is the time to fully embed the curriculum and develop our practical cooperation even further. We have to use the experiences and the ideas that have been built up over five years of intense practical cooperation between our authorities and take it to a new level. Now that EAC is integrated into EASO we need to discuss what Member States envisage as being the next steps regarding common training, what new ideas are on the horizon and how we can jointly develop the European cooperation even further through a continued common training agenda. My view is that, in order to improve the procedure, asylum managers should come closer to the daily work of the asylum case workers and thus also attend the same EAC training. We cannot have a discrepancy in the understanding of the work involved by an asylum file. These discussions will serve as a constructive starting point for EASO, including it its further development of EAC.
Although the EU countries are the primary focus for EAC, the curriculum can also be a useful tool for candidate countries as well as any non-European country in need of training. EAC can provide candidate countries with an applicable instrument to update and adjust their asylum procedure to attain the required European standards. EAC is a useful tool for the European capacity building support to “third countries” in the field of migration and asylum. The cost efficiency of such a comprehensive use of EU funding and resources is also significant.
I am very proud that the Swedish Migration Board has been one of the driving forces behind this process. Looking at how it has been received in the EU, with over 2 000 participants taking part so far in the training and EAC having become one of the core tasks of the newly established EASO. The Swedish Migration Board will continue to support the implementation and the development of EAC also in the future.
Ü Eurasylum: In November 2011, you organised a conference in Rome on possible ways for GDISC to support a positive development in the migration situation in North Africa, and on the effects of the Arab Spring in European countries in terms of resettlement, information gathering and also the handling of Dublin cases. This conference generated interesting discussions about possible methodologies to predict changes in asylum flows, and it is anticipated that these discussions will be pursued with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in 2012. Can you describe in more detail some of the key outcomes of the Rome Conference and the methodologies you are developing to forecast future asylum flows?
Ü Monika Wendleby: One of the great benefits of the GDISC network is its informality – this gives it the flexibility to recognize and react swiftly to global events which impact on migration issues. This was the situation in the case of the wave of demonstrations occurring in the Arab world in late 2010 and throughout 2011, often termed the Arab Spring. European immigration directors indicated that the issue was a priority within their administrations, and one where they felt practical co-operation across Europe would be of benefit.
This resulted in a ‘North Africa Workshop’ hosted by the Italian Ministry of Interior, and held in Rome on 10-11 November 2011. The participating states were Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, in addition to representatives from EASO and the Tunisian Embassy. As well as practical discussions regarding crisis management during the incidents themselves, the workshop used the events in the North Africa as a springboard to discuss how administrations can predict and prepare for significant changes in migration flows.
The national administrations shared positive experiences regarding the close and supportive co-operation between national and European governments and NGOs, but also discussed challenges related to the establishment of sufficient, good quality reception centres to handle the increased migration flow.
Sweden also had the opportunity to present a European Refugee Fund project on prognosis of migration flows. This highlighted the work that is currently being carried out in Sweden to establish a process for systematic and continuous analysis of migration phenomena, to be used in mapping a wide range of different migration scenarios, thereby increasing the ability to predict migration influxes and to take action in advance to manage them.
This work on prognosis was supported by Dr Robert Visser, the Executive Director of EASO, who strongly emphasised the need for migration trend analysis, but who highlighted that it remained unclear whether the data needed to undertake such an analysis was currently available. As a result, the GDISC network will take forward, in cooperation with EASO, an initiative to map existing data collection in Europe. This mapping initiative will then be used to establish the nature of, and the process for, collecting data to be used in a forthcoming trend analysis system.
Ü Eurasylum: During 2011, GDISC worked extensively on issues of circular migration, and will continue to do so in 2012, particularly in relation to the wider effects of circular migration on future migratory flows. Can you discuss some of the key tenets and outcomes of GDISC’s activities in this area?
Ü Christina Werner: Circular migration, or a pattern of fluid movement between member states either in the short or longer terms, is a topic that GDISC has addressed in many fora under the Swedish Chair. The principle of circular migration being that through the use of remittances, and the concept of ‘brain gain’, both the host country and the country of origin can benefit from such an initiative.
To date, GDISC’s activity in this area has focussed more on highlighting the principle of circular migration. The network has set out to discuss the current trend of global demographic disparities between North and South, and the challenges that a shrinking labour force and rising dependency ratio in Europe will bring. In this way it has initiated a dialogue on how circular migration could form part of an integrated migration response in the future.
Future GDISC work in this area will include a conference in late 2012 introducing a new Swedish project – co-financed by the European Integration Fund – titled, ‘A New Way In’. The primary aim of the project is to simplify managed migration applications, thus encouraging those that may otherwise apply unsuccessfully under the asylum procedure to enter the country safely through other migration channels. The starting point is an initial piece of research to interview migrants for the purpose of determining factors in their decision to travel to Sweden, after which the current managed migration procedure can be re-examined, and a managed migration information campaign disseminated.
The GDISC conference on this project will enable Member States to further their dialogue on circular migration, and to examine how an integrated circular migration policy might function in practice.