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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Jean Lambert talks to the EP website about the European Asylum Support Office

Jean Lambert on Asylum: MEPs set to back EU Support Office

The EU received over 250,000 asylum applications in 2008. To get a common system to deal with asylum requests MEPs are likely to give the green light on Tuesday for the creation of a European Asylum Support Office. To be based in Valletta in Malta, the office will help European Government’s raise standards “so that people who are in need of protection actually get a fair deal”, explains Jean Lambert MEP who is steering the measure through Parliament. Her report will be put to the vote Tuesday at 12.

Jean Lambert, why does the EU need an asylum support office and what will it be tasked with?

The EU needs the Office because at the moment we have a huge divergence between the way in which different member states deliver the asylum laws and asylum directives. From Governments which have a system which hardly ever grants refugee status to that where they have a fully fledged really competent system

The office by itself won’t be enough, but it will be a help. One of the particular roles it has is to try and give a more standardised version of information about the country of origin of those seeking protection.

So when member states are making decisions whether it’s about those from Iraq, from Chechnya or other countries where we know that there are enormous divergences, people should feel they are being treated fairly and that they are not just treated on the base of politics of the state concerned.

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) will be established, rather symbolically, in Malta (a favoured destination for asylum seekers). Do you think this will influence its perspective, and maybe help shift the burden of care from small ‘front line’ EU Members?

I think we have to be very careful that the fact that it is based in Malta does not mean that it becomes dominated by the situation in Malta. We know that Malta is under a lot of pressure and has mixed flows of people of whom some are asylum seekers and some are not. Certainly in Malta they have invested a lot into their own asylum system and they were very keen to have this office.

In part it is a symbol to show to the people of Malta that the European Union really is in solidarity with them. Nevertheless, this is an asylum office for the whole of the European Union.

You negotiated on the setting up of the EASO with EU Member States. Does the result correspond to Parliament’s demands?

In a negotiation I suppose no side ever gets entirely what it wants. Certainly there are some of the issues about the relationship with the Parliament where we would have liked a stronger role. On the other hand there is a big discussion about the role of other agencies and the European institutions.

We would have liked the office to have more of a monitoring role rather than a support role. Member States wanted it to be called ‘support office’ for a particular reason. But at least we found that negotiating with the Swedish Presidency (of the EU) was a real negotiation.