EU: Council Conclusions on joint flights for removals

The Council Decision on organising joint expulsion flights was adopted as 'A' point by JHA Council, 29 April 2004 (the European Parliament voted to reject the measure but were only "consulted"): Full-text: Council Decision on the organisation of joint flight for the removal of third country national (pdf)

The General Affairs Council of 12 July 2004 adopted the following "Conclusions":

Immigration - Third country nationals subject to removal orders

The Council adopted the following conclusions on giving practical effect to the draft Council Decision on the organisation of joint flights for removals, from the territory of two or more Member States, of third-country nationals who are the subject of individual removal orders:

"1. Recalling that:

- the Plan for the management of the external borders of the European Union, approved by the Council on 13 June 2002 and the Return Action Programme, approved by the Council on 28 November 2002 called on the rationalisation of the removal operations carried out by Member States and in particular on the adoption of specific measures for the organisation of joint flights;

- the Council Decision on the organisation of joint flights for removals, from the territory of two or more Member States, of third-country nationals who are the subject of individual removal orders and the attached Common Guidelines on security provisions for joint removals by air have defined a legal framework for the organisation and implementation of joint flights;

2. Noting that:

- the use of joint flights is an effective and humane way to return persons illegally resident in the territory of EU Member States to third countries, in full respect of applicable international and Community instruments;

- joint flights already take place among some Member States as a means of sharing costs, making better use of resources and demonstrating common action in the fight against illegal immigration.

3. The Council urges:

- an increase in the use of joint flights as a means of demonstrating the commitment of the EU in relation to joint action on returns; increasing the rate of returns from the EU; and making more effective use of resources. In particular, recognising the practical difficulties of organising common removal operations, the Council encourages Member States in close geographic proximity to organise and share return flights where such collaboration would bring about economies of scale or otherwise confer mutual benefits on participants;

- those Member States currently organising joint flights or planning to organise joint removal operations to consider inviting participation of other Member States in line with the procedures set out in the above draft Council Decision. In particular, the Council encourages Member States with existing expertise in this area to share this experience with the new Member States and those with little previous experience in the area of joint return operations;

- those Member States with extensive experience of joint flights to share their knowledge and experience with other Member States through all the appropriate EU fora. In particular, where Member States have established formal guidelines and practical rules in this area, they are invited to bring them to the attention of the appropriate EU fora, in particular to upload existing documentation in the section on return of the ICONET system.

4. Having regard to the above the Council calls on the Commission:

- to develop the new ICONET system to make it available as a secure facility for Member States to communicate with each other and share information about the organisation of joint removal operations;

- to consider the possibility of Community funding for joint flights and the further development of best practices in this area; and to explore with Member States ways for the Border Management Agency to provide the necessary assistance for organising joint flights. The support of the Immigration Liaison Officers (ILO) network, where appropriate and in accordance with Member States' national functions for ILOs, might also be explored.

- on the Member States to:

- report regularly to the Council and to the Commission on joint flights carried out by them and to share the information and experience for the benefit of all Member States."

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