Statewatch News online: EU "expel" 170,000

Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

EU states "expel" 170,000 by air in 1999

According to a report by the Council of the European Union's Migration and Expulsion Working Party (MEX WP), 166,909 people were deported by plane from the member states and Norway during 1999. The UK, with over 45,000 expulsions accounts for some 27% of the total. However, it should be noted that the report (full-text, "pdf" format) dated 4 May 2000, did not consider expulsions carried out by other means - such as people expelled at the EU's borders with central and Eastern Europe. (Germany is the EU's largest expelling state if all forms of expulsion are considered).

The table below reproduces the information submitted by national delegations in response to a MEX WP questionnaire. Iceland and Norway also participate in the working group through association agreements concluded under the terms of the Amsterdam Treaty - despite remaining outside of the EU.

Country Number of expulsions Country of nationality Country of destination
U K 45,100 no available data exists no available data exists
Germany 32,233 Turkey, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, Poland, etc. not given
Austria 20,207 Romania, Yugoslavia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Republic of China, Macedonia, Czech Republic, Iraq, Moldavia, etc. all deported to country of origin
Netherlands 12,204 Morocco, Poland, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Turkey, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Suriname, Colombia, former-USSR, etc. not given
Italy 12,036 Albania, Algeria, Ghana, Morocco, Moldavia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Romania, Ukraine, etc. not given
Denmark 9,276 Slovakia, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, Croatia, Poland, India Sri Lanka, Slovenia, etc. not given
France 8,300 Romania, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Poland, etc. in EU countries: I, D, E, NL, P, UK, B, A, GR, DK, IRL, S.
in third countries: Romania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Poland, Mali, Senegal, etc.
Sweden 6,735 Poland, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Bangladesh, Russia, etc. not given
Belgium 6,487 Senegal, Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, China, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Ecuador, etc. not given
Finland 5,426 Estonia, Morocco, Iraq, Belgium not given
Spain 5,020 Morocco, Colombia, Algeria, Romania, Brazil, Ecuador, Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Venezuela, etc. not given
Greece 2,880 Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldavia, Pakistan, Georgia, Poland, etc. all deported to country of origin
Portugal 529 Ukraine, Moldavia, Brazil, Romania,
Morocco, Nigeria, Russia, Angola, Guinea
Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Pakistan, China,
all deported to country of origin
Norway 440 Poland, Lithuania, Russia, etc. not given
Luxembourg 30 Bulgaria, Tunisia, Albania, Morocco, China, Ecuador, Bosnia, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine, etc. all deported to country of origin
Ireland 6 Romania, Russia, Nigeria, Moldavia, etc. In EU countries: F.
in third countries: Romania, Nigeria, Moldavia.
Iceland none - -
TOTAL 166,909 - -

The statistics

The expulsion figures are illuminating because they provide a rare overview of national practices across "Fortress Europe". However, they should be taken as indicative rather than actual.

The report notes that:

each national total includes all expulsions, both deportation and repatriation, irrespective of the status of the person involved ("aliens", "asylum applicants", "non asylum applicants", other cases).

The failure to distinguish between the different forms of expulsion is particularly problematic, not least in the case of "repatriations" which can be "voluntary", "induced" or "forced". It is possible, for example, that repatriation programmes run by a member state may have a significant impact on the data. In addition, with the exception of France, the data does not distinguish whether the expulsion is to the country of origin or to another country. The report suggests that:

from the replies received it appears that, as general trend, expelled persons are sent to their country of origin.

However, under the Dublin Convention (on determining the state responsible for examining an asylum application), applicants for asylum who have crossed another EU state to make an application are returned to that state. This can cause "chain deportations" as people are deported from one EU country to another, and then expelled after their asylum application is rejected. In addition, there are thousands of "refugees in orbit" within the Schengen countries (each state claiming that a migrant entered the Schengen area from another member state). These considerations are not made in the report.

The report itself also notes the flaws in the data, but blames the responses given by the delegations rather than the methodology used:

the statistical data... may not be completely accurate, either because statistics are not updated or because national administrations do not collect the relevant information.

CIREFI, the EU's "Centre for Information, Discussion and Exchange on the crossing of frontiers and immigration" collects more detailed statistics on the extent and nature of expulsions from the EU, but these are still produced through systems of national reporting. In any case, this information is deemed potentially beneficial to "illegal immigration networks" and withheld from the public on grounds of public security.

Other findings: deportation "escorts" & expulsion "difficulties"

The report attempted to examine the practice of the 17 countries "with regard to transit for the purpose of expulsion by air". It also sought to assess the effectiveness of EU cooperation agreements in expulsion matters (see chronology below).

Delegations were asked whether there was a need for "escorts" (immigration officials or police officers) to accompany deportees during their expulsion, and if so the capacity in which these escort act.

Country Capacity in which "escorts" act
Belgium An escort is arranged when there are indications that the person to be expelled may be aggressive or may put the safety of the aeroplane in danger.
A distinction is made between:
a) escorts organised for the expulsion of an inadmissible person. These are carried out by the Ministry of the Interior on behalf of Sabena. The escort retained has the status of "police officer", so escorts act as officers for aviation safety.
b) Escort organised for a person who has entered the country -Status of escorts derives from national and international provision.
During the flight, officers must comply with the rules of the Tokyo Convention.
Denmark In case of expulsion under escort, two policemen normally accompany every alien being expelled. In certain cases, more than two persons may escort the alien, if it is deemed necessary.
While on board, policemen act under the instructions of the captain.
At the airport they act under instructions of the local authorities.
Germany not given
Greece An escort is necessary only when the person expelled refuses to board the aircraft and offers passive resistance.
Spain The decision whether or not to use an escort is taken on a case by case basis, depending on the ircumstances.
France not given
Ireland not given
Italy Even when there is no legal obligation, it is usually necessary to provide an escort.
Luxembourg Escorts are provided when considered necessary.
Netherlands When flying on a Dutch plane, escorts act as legal officers; if not, they have no legal power.
Austria Escorts are provided only for difficult expulsions, or where the airline company requests it.
Portugal Escorts are provided:
a) When the profile of the alien to be expelled suggests he/she may resist expulsion.
b) When transit airports require it.
Finland There are no available statistics on this subject.
Sweden Escorts are provided when considered necessary.
U K Escorts are provided when considered necessary for medical or security purposes.
Iceland ------
Norway not given

"Difficulties" experienced in carrying out expulsions were also requested by the MEX WP, with five delegations reporting problems of "resistance" on the part of the person being deported (Belgium, Germany, Greece, France and Netherlands). The Netherlands delegation also reported that in one case:

The captain of the aircraft refused to board the escort and the deported person because of his/her heavy resistance to leave.

The report concluded that while:

the stated difficulties are all of a different nature... it seems quite obvious that all these problems, experienced in almost all the transit airports, could easily be eliminated through increased co-operation between the authorities of the countries involved. [Emphasis added]

European Union cooperation on expulsion

Feasible "increased cooperation" would seem achievable only through new legislation. The present cooperation mechanism is the non-binding 1995 EU Recommendation on cooperation in expulsions (see legislative chronology below) which provides for airport transit arrangements, a standard deportation document and principles for 'group expulsions'. In a MEX WP review of the measure last year, Austria described the measure as " meaningless" and "of no practical effect", and only 2 of 15 member states referred specifically to applying the provisions. Much existing cooperation on expulsion thus takes place through bilateral working arrangements or provisions written in to bilateral readmission agreements. In April 1999 Germany proposed a Joint Action that would - had it been adopted - have obliged member states to provide each other with mutual assistance in carrying out expulsions and set guidelines for "escorts". It proposed that requested states provide for:

meeting the third-country alien at the aircraft and escorting him on the territory of the transit airport, in particular to his connecting flight;

placing the third-country alien in an enclosed transit area or, if necessary, in a detention room;
using legitimate force to prevent or end any attempt by the third-country alien to resist transit, for the protection of bystanders and the requesting Contracting State;

providing emergency medical care to the third-country alien and his escort, to the extent required for the purposes of transit.

A background document from the German delegation that preceded the proposal had suggested that:

The fact that accompanying officials depend wholly on the active support of those with local jurisdiction is an incentive to the persons being expelled to take advantage of the situation and use violence to break free.

A costly business

If numbers of rejected asylum-seekers continue to increase in the member states, expulsions will be stepped up. The legislation proposed by the French Presidency of the EU - on the mutual recognition of expulsion orders; increased penalties for facilitating illegal immigration, entry or residence; and more "carrier sanctions" (see Statewatch vol 10 no 3 & 4) - will criminalise 'irregular' migrants and lead to more expulsions.

The total cost of expelling the 170,000 people by air from across the EU must be phenomenal - particularly where deportees are "escorted". The increasing costs faced by some national immigration authorities have seen an increase in "group expulsions" using specially chartered flights (although little reliable data is made available). Others - including the UK - have recently stated their intention to carry out deportations in this way. The next logical 'economy of scale' is multilateral group expulsions, and a precedent of several countries organising a group deportation by charter-flight was set at least as long as five years ago when Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands arranged joint expulsions to the former Zaire during 1995 and 1996. "Principles" for conducting such expulsions exist in the 1995 EU Recommendation, but according to a reference in another MEX WP document (dated April 1999) are more likely to be governed by procedures determined in the IGC Subgroup on Charter Flights. [The "Intergovernmental Consultations on Asylum, Refugee and Migration Policies in Europe, North America and Australia" was created in 1985, it is not accountable to the EU].

Hypocrisy and human resources

This year, the so-called immigration debate has taken something of a new direction. Politicians have begun to talk about the need for migrants, albeit in very cautious terms. The UN produced a report based on the demographic structure of the EU's population suggesting that the falling birth rate and "ageing population" necessitates immigration (many similar studies have, of course, existed for some time). In July, the French interior minister, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, was quoted extensively in The Guardian under the headline "Europe 'should accept' 75m new migrants" (see Statewatch vol 10 no 3 & 4). In the UK, Barbara Roche, the Home Office Minister responsible for immigration, has recently weighed into the debate following a summer of 'news' regarding Britain's shortage of doctors, nurses, IT specialists and high-skilled workers. The current debate is of course framed in terms of "skills", but it is equally clear that low-skilled workers are also needed, be they cleaners, bus-drivers or caterers. Indeed, in a speech made earlier this week Ms Roche noted:

There were even reports this summer that fruit was being left in the fields to rot because farmers could not find workers to pick it.

Ironically, minutes earlier she had cited "Operation Gangmaster", a two year initiative targeting the illegal employment of immigrants of in the agricultural industry, as "a good example of enforcement work".

To take the figures attributed to M. Chevenement, the 170,000 people expelled from the EU last year could be seen as 0.2 percent of the immigrants the bloc needs over the next 50 years. Instead, the massive human suffering arising from mass-deportations, looks set to be followed by more expense and more bureaucracy in the name of "managed migration".



EU measures concerning expulsion

  • 1992 Interior Ministers in the EC Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Group on Immigration Recommendation on transit for the purposes of expulsion (30.11.1992);
  • 1994 EU Council Recommendation on the adoption of a standard travel document for the expulsion of third-country nationals (30.11.1994)
  • 1995 EU Council Recommendation on concerted action and cooperation in carrying out expulsion measures (22.11.1995);
  • 1996 Council Decision on monitoring the implementation of instruments adopted by the Council concerning illegal immigration, readmission, the unlawful employment of third country nationals and cooperation in the implementation of expulsion orders (16.12.1996);
  • 1998 Decision of the Schengen Executive Committee on cooperation between the contracting parties in returning aliens by air (12.4.1998 (now incorporated into the EC legal framework);
  • 1999 Proposed Joint Action on assistance in cases of transit for the purposes of expulsion by air (see Statewatch vol 9 no. 3 & 4)
  • 2000 Proposed EC Directive on mutual recognition of expulsion orders (not yet adopted - see Statewatch vol 10 no. 3 & 4)

All documents are available from SEMDOC (Statewatch European Monitoring & Documentation centre on Justice and Home Affairs).

Recent deaths that occurred during expulsions

  • 1991 Arumugam Kanapathipillai, 33, Tamil, died from asphyxiation after being gagged and wrapped in blanket on a Paris to Columbo flight;
  • 1993 Joy Gardner, 40, Jamaican, died in a London hospital three weeks after being manacled and gagged by the "Alien Deportation Squad" (August 1993 - see Statewatch vol 3 no 4);
  • 1994 Kola Bankole, Nigerian, died at Frankfurt airport, Germany, after being injected with a large dose of sedatives. Nigeria alleges 25 deportee deaths in Germany over three years (September 1994 - see Statewatch vol 4 no 5);
  • 1998 Semira Adamu, 20, Nigerian, forced on to a plane from Belgium to Togo died of a brain haemorrhage caused by asphyxiation after a pillow was placed over her face (22.9.1998 - see Statewatch vol 8 no 5);
  • 1999 Khaled Abuzarifeh, 27, Palestinian, died in a lift in a building of the Swiss "deportation" airport, Kloten. According to doctors he was gagged, which lead to a panic attack, vomit and death by suffocation (27.3.1999 - see Statewatch vol 9 no 3 & 4);
  • 1999 Marcus Omofuma, 25, Nigerian, died while accompanied by three Belgian Federal Police detectives on a flight from Vienna to Lagos via Sofia. He suffocated after his hands and feet were chained and mouth gagged with tape (1.5.1999 - see Statewatch vol 9 no 3 & 4);
  • 1999 Aamir Mohamed Ageeb, Sudanese, died of heart failure after being dragged onto a plane at Frankfurt airport with his hands and feet tied and his head encased in a motorcycle helmet (28.5.1999 - see Statewatch vol 9 no 3 & 4).
  • 1999 Zdravko Nikolov Dimitrov, Bulgarian, shot dead by police in Braunschweig, Germany, when he resisted his deportation.

Sources: Statewatch bulletin, CARF (Campaign Against Racism & Facism), UNITED.

In addition, to these and other deaths that have occurred during expulsions, hundreds have committed suicide in detention while awaiting deportation.

According to UNITED, a European anti-racist network,more than 2000 refugees and migrants have died in and around Europe since 1993 as a result of European refugee policies. Details of the 2000 cases are available from their website: UNITED

Statewatch News online                        Statewatch home page

Our work is only possible with your support.
Become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error