EU: Deportations and 'voluntary' returns: Frontex plans and new mandate options, "effective and sustainable reintegration of returnees"


Five documents discussed by the Council of the EU's Working Party on Integration, Migration and Expulsion in March this year.

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The documents were released in response to an access to documents requested submitted via Frag den Staat, which sought any records associated with the meeting.

They documents are:

  • A presentation given by Frontex on its plans in the area of "returns" in 2020;
  • A position paper produced by the German delegation prior to the adoption of the current Frontex Regulation in November 2019, which looks at "ideas for cooperation with Frontex in the field of returns under the new mandate";
  • A paper from the Croatian Presidency on "the potential of vocational training in the voluntary return and reintegration process, as a tool that could help increase return effectiveness", as well as two presentations (from Germany and Norway) related to this topic.

European Centre for Returns: Frontex update for Council WG IMEX - Brussels, 4 March 2020 (pdf)

In parts, the document is laden with so many acronyms and jargon that it is it barely intelligible. It sets out Frontex's goals for forced and 'voluntary' removals in 2020, covering operational activities, non-operational activities and plans that are in development - namely, the drafting of a "return action plan" and the transfer of the activities of the European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) to Frontex (this is one of a number of nationally-coordinated networks that the agency is taking over, as explained in the Statewatch report Deportation Union).

It is expected that ERRIN will be fully transferred to Frontex by mid-2022, according to the document. It also refers to a "New Frontex Network on Post-arrival/Post-return" and a "Frontex High Level Round Table on returns".

The presentation highlights plans to deploy an increasing number of 'EU Return Liaison Officers' (EURLO): to Gambia, Egypt, Somalia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Ghana, Nigeria, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Liaison officers are responsible for:

"establishing and maintaining contacts with the competent authorities of the third country to which they are assigned with a view to contributing to the prevention of and fight against illegal immigration and the return of returnees, including by providing technical assistance in the identification of third-country nationals and the acquisition of travel documents."

One section looks at "Digitalization & Return data collection", giving an overview of plans to increase the collection of qualitative and quantitative data on deportations, integrate national information systems with Frontex's own, and ensure that Frontex can gather the information required to implement new elements of the EU's Visa Code, which makes visa issuance dependent on cooperation with forced returns. The databases used by Frontex to coordinate and carry out removal operations are also examined in Deportation Union.

German delegation: Position paper on the use of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency’s mandate in the field of returns (13680/19, 31 October 2019, pdf)

The paper was produced prior to the formal adoption of the 2019 Frontex Regulation, but at a time when the text was largely agreed:

"The amended Regulation will significantly expand the Agency’s mandate in the field of returns. The Agency will have more competences and a much larger staff. One important new feature are the “return teams” which can be deployed in individual member states to provide technical and operational support for returns. The new mandate also takes into account the principle that voluntary return should always take precedence over forced return. This is why the Agency will offer comprehensive support related to voluntary returns, including measures following return and arrival (post-return and post-arrival).

The Agency’s supporting role should be further reinforced in this context.

We believe it is important that all Frontex support measures be in line with the EU external instruments and closely coordinated well in advance with the member states, and that bureaucratic burdens be kept to a minimum. The member states and the Agency must also focus on increasing voluntary and forced returns.

With this in mind, we have developed ideas for cooperation with Frontex in the field of returns under the new mandate. We would like to briefly present these ideas in the following:

1. Operational support before returns


2. Operational support during returns


3. Frontex support for voluntary returns and reintegration"

Presidency paper on enhancing effective and sustainable reintegration of returnees: vocational training and building third-country ownership (6217/20, 25 February 2020, pdf, emphasis in original):

"Building on the discussions on various aspects of reintegration held during the Romanian and Finnish Presidencies, the Croatian Presidency intends to further explore the potential of vocational training in the voluntary return and reintegration process, as a tool that could help increase return effectiveness.

This paper takes account of discussions on the use of vocational training in the reintegration process held during the Integration, Migration and Expulsion (IMEX) working party meeting on 7 November 2019. At that meeting, delegations recognised the potential of vocational training to encourage return and support sustainable reintegration, but also pointed to the risk of such training becoming a pull factor if provided in Member States prior to return.

Reintegration support can make irregular migrants more likely to accept voluntary returns because it provides an alternative to irregular stay and uncertain prospects in the host country and makes the return process more predictable...

In order to achieve effective and sustainable reintegration, returnees should be socially and economically integrated in the home community so that they are able to cope with migration push factors and do not re-migrate irregularly. In order to address one of the major push factors, namely the lack of economic prospects and possibilities, it is important that returnees be given the means to provide for themselves and their families."

German Ministry of the Interior and Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development: Effective and sustainable reintegration of returnees: The added value of vocational training and building third country ownership (pdf, emphasis in original):

"The German Federal Ministries work together in order to form a coherent policy approach and to create an important connection between voluntary return and sustainable reintegration."

This whole-of-government approach includes the expansion of reintegration services at home and in the country of origin.

Development cooperation projects open for returnees and those who have not left the country.

Following the 'do no harm - principle' and to avoid 'pull factors'"

Norweigan Directorate of Immigration: Assisted Voluntary Return From Norway - Reintegration and vocational training (pdf)

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