Europe’s migration crisis is far from over, but the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has reported a significant decrease in applications for asylum and international protection since its peak in 2015 and 2016. Still, as of June 2018, EASO said there were 420,238 applications awaiting a decision.
Interpretation and cultural mediation are essential for running the daily operations of the EASO, whose staff need to communicate with hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and various stakeholders in all 28 EU member states.
Hence, the EASO announced a new call for tender on August 28, 2018 for the provision of interpretation, cultural mediation and remote interpretation services valued at EUR 94.7m (USD 110.7m).
This year’s call for tender specified that interpretation and cultural mediation are “necessary for processing applicant registrations, interviews and other procedures necessary for processing claims for international protection, as well as providing information to applicants about the procedures regarding international protection.”
The EASO said the work of interpreters is also crucial in providing support and social assistance to vulnerable people within the migration and asylum context.
The framework contract is divided into four lots for a maximum duration of four years to commence in December 2018. The opening of tenders is set for October 5, 2018.
2016 framework contracts
The EASO launched a similar call for tender in 2016. Framework contracts divided into five lots and valued at EUR 63.5m (USD 74.1m) were eventually awarded to nine language services providers.
The contracts were for the provision of high-quality interpreting and cultural mediation as well as rental of interpretation equipment.
Oncall Europa Language Services, SeproTec, and ITC Interpreti e Traduttori in Cooperativa won big in this award. Oncall scored contracts in all five lots, while SeproTec won contracts in lots 1 to 4 and ITC won contracts in lots 2 to 5. Other winning bidders for lot 5 were FIDES Szkolenia i Doradztwo, Logros Spółka, Formac Spółka, Integro, Continentalia Corporacion, and Catalyze Travel & Services.
As the EASO explained in the tender document, multiple contracts were awarded for each of the five lots, with the LSPs rated in “cascade” or ranked in order of priority. All contracts were for a maximum of four years, commencing in December 2016.
73k for remote interpretation
In the 2018 tender, the EASO said it is “going to explore the use of remote interpretation services in order to increase cost efficiency and introduce this know-how for all member states, based on a pilot project.”
This is Lot No. 4 of the framework contract valued at a very modest EUR 73,100 (USD 85,460) with a duration of 12 months and subject to renewal.
EASO is going to explore the use of remote interpretation services in order to increase cost efficiency
The EASO specified in the tender document that it is looking to procure remote interpretation services “in particular in the form of telephone and/or videoconference interviews.” It said this would cover short-term needs which cannot be covered by interpreters or when deployment on the ground is not efficient.
However, since “parameters of internet lines” and “strength of signal” may vary significantly across different locations, the EASO requires that technical solutions and arrangements for the service shall be specified in the tenderer’s technical offer, including “secure, effective and high-quality audio and video interviewing tools.”
Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria
Like in the 2016 tender, the bulk of the work will be in Mediterranean countries — Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria (Lot No. 1, valued at EUR 50.4m or USD 50.9m), and Italy (Lot No. 2, valued at EUR 40m or USD 46.7m).
Lot No. 3, though valued only at EUR 19,000 (USD 22,000 ), is also for interpretation and cultural mediation services for EASO operations in France, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
All three lots will have a contract duration of 12 months, subject to renewal up to 3 times, each time for 12 months, for a total maximum duration of 48 months.
The EASO said the languages in which tenders or requests to participate may be submitted include English, Bulgarian, Danish, German, Greek, Estonian, Finnish, French, Irish, Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, and Czech.
No volume guarantee
By the end of June 2018, the EASO said “it has deployed on average 142 interpreters and cultural mediators in Greece (deployed in hotspot islands, as well as multiple locations on mainland Greece), 90 interpreters and cultural mediators in Italy (deployed in hotspots, disembarkation areas and regional hubs) and 5 interpreters and cultural mediators in Cyprus (deployed to EASO offices located at the premises of the Cyprus Asylum Service and the Kofinou reception center).”
Occasionally, EASO also deploys interpreters/cultural mediators to Bulgaria (within the offices of the local authorities or reception centres).
These numbers, however, are not representative of the expected volume of the services during the entire duration of the contract, which will depend on operational needs, according to the EASO.
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Image: © European Union, 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Jennifer Jacquemart