9 October 2015
On 8 October, the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) set out its position on EU return policy, in view of the European Commission proposals on 9 September. Improving the use of return procedures for those who have been found to have no right to stay in Europe is part of the European Agenda on Migration, along with other matters such as the relocation of asylum seekers. It welcomed the Commission proposals aimed at increasing the capacity of EU states to send back irregular migrants as well as acknowledging a need for more support and cooperation with countries of origin and transit.
Ministers made it clear that the EU should take more action, including enacting legislation to remove any obstacles to deportation. They encouraged Member States to take all necessary measures to improve returns, which should include detention as a legitimate measure of last resort. As such pre-removal detention capacity should be strengthened. Their conclusions stated that ‘increased return rates would act as a deterrent to irregular migration’ and encouraged the better use of the Return Directive. This only applies to those who have been refused asylum or the right to stay in the EU. The latest statistics from Eurostat show an increase of 85% of people who applied for protection for the first time in the EU in the second quarter of 2015, as compared with the same period last year, with the two main citizenships being Syrians and Afghans.
With regard to external return policy, ministers urged the EU to use both political pressure and incentives to ensure that countries of origin of irregular migrants, in Africa and the Middle East, cooperate in readmitting those who are returned.
Other measures discussed included additional funding and staff for Frontex (EU’s border agency) and EASO, to assist them in screening people at ‘hotspots’ and scale up their return operations. It also encouraged Member States to exchange information on those who had been sent back to prevent re-entry and to improve programmes for those that voluntarily choose to return.
For further information:
- Council of the EU press release, ‘Council conclusions on the future of the return policy’, 8 October 2015
- European Commission, ‘Remarks of Commissioner Avromopoulos’, 8 October 2015
- Politico, ‘EU will push to tighten border controls’, 10 October 2015
- ECRE, ‘Over 210,000 people applied for asylum in the EU in the second quarter of 2015’, 18 September 2015