Does the institutional location of states’ asylum agencies matter for the quality of their asylum determination? How is refugees’ right to international protection affected by the objectives of states’ asylum agencies? These are questions that PROTECT’s Belgian team from Ghent University seeks to answer as they study the impact of the Global Refugee and Migration Compacts on the governance of international protection. Leading the research is Professor Frank Castecker, on his team is also Ph.D. fellow Eva Ecker.

It is widely known that different states have different institutional architectures and practices for determining asylum. But which ones are more effective in securing human rights and refugees’ right to international protection? PROTECT’s Ghent team co-leads Work Package 3 (WP) together with the University of Bergen team, and this WP seeks to map the institutional differences in states’ asylum agencies and the impact of their institutional location on the right to international protection.

Meet Frank Caestecker

Professor Frank Caestecker’s areas of expertise lie within history and migration management, including management of labor migration, forced return, providing protection to refugees and citizenship policies. He has worked on both historical and contemporary approaches to the present-day asylum policies and also has working experience in the field of refugee protection as an eligibility officer for the Belgian asylum agency and for the UN Refugee Agency.

Photo: Eric de Mildt/DeMorgen

– This Work Package is interested in the institutional architectures of asylum determination, not only for the sake of their institutional set-up, or their efficiency but for the effectiveness of the asylum agencies’ eligibility decisions,” Frank Castecker explains in these Work Package presentations below:

Political influence on protection? The cases of Germany, Belgium, and France

In most European countries granting asylum is the domain of the immigration agency – an agency mostly located within the Ministry of Interiors.

This embeddedness clearly affects the process of granting protection and becomes visible when studying the institutional structure of for instance Germany, where political influence in the domain of protection is clearly discernible: The Minister of the Interiors, in charge of the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF), decides about the protection policy through directives (Weisung) and detailed COIs (Herkunftsländer-Leitsätze) to this institution and its 22 affiliates.

In France and Belgium on the other hand there is no direct political influence on the process and procedures of deciding asylum requests. The asylum agency Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA) and Commissariaat-generaal voor de Vluchtelingen en de Staatlozen (CGVS), albeit also integrated within the Ministry of the Interiors, have an autonomous status within this ministry.

Re-shuffling and re-defining asylum agencies: the case of Hungary

States’ institutional re-shuffling and re-defining of their asylum agencies’ objectives are also indicators of their effectiveness to protect refugees. This becomes evident when studying the case of Hungary, whose Office of Immigration and Nationality has been re-shuffled three times within the Ministry of Internal Affairs since 2017. Since 2019, granting asylum has been the domain of the National Directorate-General for Aliens Policing.

The reshuffling and redefined objectives of the Hungarian asylum agency is an expression of its governmental asylum policy, Frank Castecker explains in his video presentation of WP3:

“Hungary’s asylum policy has shifted from serving the humanitarian task of protection of refugees towards assisting the police in combatting illegal immigration,” Caestecker explains.

As widely known, anti-refugee and migration policies are at the very center of the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban’s, political platform.

Meet Eva Ecker

Eva Ecker is a Ph.D. student at Ghent University where she has obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in Public Administration and Management. After finishing her master thesis ‘Does the Hungarian asylum policy go in confrontation with the European asylum policy?’, she has continued her research within the governance of asylum policies, contributing to the knowledge of how asylum policies on different levels can be organized to opportune the different actors involved.

As part of PROTECT’s dissemination work, Eva has produced a blog post on the lived racism of refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in the EU.

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