Ambassador William Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration, has described migration as a “megatrend” of the 21st century, affecting hundreds of millions of people. The United States and the European Union face similar challenges managing and protecting migratory flows while safeguarding our external borders, which is one reason we have my office, part of the State Department’s Population, Refugees and Migration Bureau (PRM), here at the U.S. Mission. The U.S. and EU also share fundamental values of freedom, democracy, and rule of law, among which is the obligation of states to grant asylum to those in need of international protection.
The EU has made great strides over the past decade in establishing a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) that aims to ensure that asylum seekers are treated in a dignified manner and that their cases are examined so that, no matter where an applicant applies, the outcome will be similar. However, divergent interpretations of the CEAS across the EU and inconsistencies between CEAS and international refugee law are still to be overcome.
The United States is constantly seeking ways to engage with the EU on migration and asylum issues and to support, as appropriate, the ongoing implementation of the CEAS. As part of those efforts, this week USEU provided a grant of $24,820 to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), a pan-European alliance of 82 NGOs protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.
Our grant will support the ongoing operation of ECRE’s European Database on Asylum law (EDAL). EDAL is a pan-European on-line database that provides interested stakeholders free access to texts of key judicial decisions relating to EU asylum law in 17 Member States, as well as decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In this way, EDAL helps ensure consistency and quality in judicial interpretations of EU asylum law in the varied Member States. EDAL also includes a section that provides continually updated legal commentary on important European legal judgments in asylum matters.
The U.S. Mission and PRM are proud to be partners with ECRE and the EDAL initiative. We have a long-standing and extensive relationship with the EU on humanitarian and migration issues, which makes sense when you consider that the U.S., the European Commission and EU Member States together provide over 60% of all global humanitarian assistance funding. Our grant is part of an effort to build closer partnerships with Brussels-based humanitarian and migration NGOs, and is provided under the Julia Taft Refugee Fund program, which helps U.S. Ambassadors respond to critical gaps that are not addressed in larger U.S. humanitarian funding programs. In Fiscal Year 2013, Taft grants supported projects in forty-six countries, although this is the first time the U.S. Mission has provided a Taft Grant to a local partner here in Brussels. We look forward to continued cooperation with ECRE and other EU-based partners as we work to enhance refugee protection worldwide.
By David DiGiovanna, Humanitarian and Migration Affairs Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU