13 February 2015

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has issued a report on the first monitoring mission of a Frontex Joint Return Operation by air. The charter flight between Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Lagos (Nigeria) was organised by the authorities of the Netherlands and also involved Bulgaria, Germany, Slovenia and Spain. The monitoring mission took place between 16 and 18 October 2013.

The Committee stressed that until a person is physically handed over to the local immigration officials of the country of destination, their lawyer is entitled to use any national or international legal recourse to stop the removal. This means that, after landing and before disembarkation, the authorities carrying out the removal operation should seek a last contact with their headquarters to check, if during the flight, a national or international court (including the European Court of Human Rights) has issued a decision that would halt the operation.

The CPT welcomed the approach of the Dutch authorities reflecting the Committee’s view that the use of chemical restraint during removal operation is “unethical and strictly prohibited by the law” but underlined that the means of restraint were excessive at some stages of the procedures. One of the persons being returned was body-cuffed from 6.10 am to 3.45 pm, despite being under constant and close surveillance by escorts.

The Committee encouraged Frontex State Parties to undertake in-depth discussions to promote more precise common rules on the use of means of restraint.

CPT recommended that health-care staff present in return flights should be systematically provided with fully equipped emergency equipment.

During the monitoring mission, the CPT delegation was informed that, in exceptional cases, removal operations could be carried out without informing the person concerned of the time of the removal. The CPT underlined that the person concerned should be informed and prepared about their removal well in advance, as this would be “the most humane and efficient approach” to ensure that the procedure is carried out efficiently and the person is aware of what will happen.

The CPT recommends incorporating in the text of new readmission agreements an explicit reference to the possibility for monitoring bodies to observe removal operations, and that similar monitoring activities should be carried out for similar agreements already in force.

This was the second time the CPT monitored a removal operation by air. The first time was a flight from London to Colombo, Sri Lanka, in October 2012.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 February 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.