EU asylum agency boss says procedures should be sped up
The Malta-based agency, which primarily aims to support EU countries in implementing their asylum policies, has so far trained more than 30,000 experts, said Gregori, who took over as the EASO head in June.
Asked about the current migration situation in Europe, Gregori pointed out that recent migration flow data showed a slow-down in the numbers of migrants coming to Europe compared to the 2015-2016 migration crisis.
"The entire EU receives 50,000 requests for international protection per month on average. Last year's total figure exceeded 600,000."
Even though the numbers were significantly smaller a decade ago, Gregori finds the current figures manageable.
"In all member states there are some 900,000 persons who are currently undergoing asylum procedures. Half of them are still waiting for first-instance decisions, with another half expecting decision by appeal bodies."
According to Gregori, people come to Europe for various reasons. "If somebody enters Europe because they are persecuted in their own country or to seek shelter from war or violence, then this person is entitled to international protection. But the procedures determining this right last a very long time and are complicated."
"Our office is helping countries speed up these procedures as much as possible," said Gregori, highlighting the length and inefficiency of the procedures as the most burning issue.
She also expressed hope that in the future the agency will prevent the oversimplification regarding people on migrant boats as either real refugees, who are being persecuted, or economic opportunists.
"If Europe was able to carry out quick and effective procedures which would clearly determine people's status that would also send a clear message to migrant smugglers."
Another burning issue is asylum procedure abuse. There are cases when a person requests for asylum and then moves on to another country before the procure is completed or after their request has been denied, and does the same there.
Gregori implied that the actual number of asylum seekers is four times bigger than the number of those who have arrived to Europe illegally, saying that the issue of orbiting asylum seekers stems from EU countries' different standards for implementing relevant legislation.
Gregori pointed out that the EU tried to regulate these phenomena with the Dublin Regulation, which prevents asylum seekers from submitting applications in multiple member states.
"This challenge of disparate standards in different member states is definitely an issue which we're also trying to mitigate."
"For example, the percentage of granted statuses when it comes to Libyan citizens spans from 7% to 58% in various member states, meaning that it is easier for them to acquire international protection in certain EU countries."
Same goes for citizens from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which represent a large part of migrants coming to Europe.
Returning those who are not granted the status opens up another Pandora's box - Gregori believes that the EU could definitely use its economic power more and tie handing over migrants who are not being persecuted in their own countries to various trade, economic or development agreements.
According to her, there are no easy solutions for the current migration situation since it is a complex matter with several possible strategies at play. She believes the EU is doing its best and that the new EU Commission will take on all the challenges as soon as it is formed.
Crisis management should be made more effective, above all, she highlighted, saying that "when a greater number of migrants enter a country, solidarity mechanisms should be triggered with EU countries assisting member states on the front line".
With the support of other countries, asylum procedures would be quicker and more efficient and the countries hit the most by the inflow would be able to send refugees to other member states when their capacities are full.
"I think that inefficiency in addressing crises brings about this general feeling that the EU is not handling migration properly, that it lacks a systematic approach," said Gregori, concluding that we should focus more on the positive and voice our needs to be even more in control of the situation.