Reference is made to an article published by Kathimerini on 16 June 2018, entitled “EASO probe hampers asylum procedures.” The article makes various inaccurate and misleading assertions that the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) would like to correct. Furthermore, EASO would like to point out that the author never contacted the Agency to request its reaction and clarification to the claims being made.
The article in question claims that an ongoing investigation of OLAF is related to the termination of a lease agreement in Chios. This is incorrect. The article further suggests that the termination of the lease agreement and the OLAF investigation threatens EASO’s support to the Greek Asylum Service (GAS). This is, again, incorrect.
EASO would like to clarify that the lease agreement was terminated by the Agency due to the lessor’s failure to meet the lease’s contractual obligations. EASO is pursuing legal action in this context so as to ensure that its rights and the public’s financial interest is fully safeguarded as a result of this breach of contract.
Furthermore, EASO would like to state that there is absolutely no relation between the OLAF investigation and the termination of the lease agreement. The Agency points out that OLAF is an independent EU body that regularly carries out visits to other institutions and agencies. Such visits and investigations are a normal practice of good-governance aimed at safeguarding the public interest and public funds. It should be emphasized that they do not necessarily imply any malpractice and certainly do not mean that OLAF “is in control” of the institutions or agencies that they visit.
EASO also strongly rejects the allusion that the Agency’s support for GAS, both in Chios itself as well as elsewhere in Greece, is threatened. The Agency is extremely proud of the efficient and effective support it has been providing to the Hellenic authorities over the past years, and we continue to work constructively with all counterparts in the “Hotspots” as well as on the mainland.
EASO continues to implement its Operating Plans signed with the Hellenic authorities. Indeed, the Agency has consistently proven a very high level of productivity in Greece and has not been the source of any backlogs in the national asylum system. In Chios, EASO conducted over 2,500 interviews in 2017 and already over 759 interviews so far in 2018. Furthermore, this year EASO has managed to minimise the backlog of pending cases. Indeed, last week, the number of pending cases for interviews in Chios was only 176, with the last interview of these scheduled for as early as July. Such results are similar in other “Hotspots.”
EASO remains fully committed in its support to GAS and indeed stands ready to increase such support if requested by the Hellenic authorities.
In line with standard journalistic practices, EASO kindly requests that this letter is either published in its entirety on your website or at least that the article itself is amended to fully reflect our reaction to the assertions.
Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.