EU: Damning draft report on the implementation of the Return Directive
Tineke Strik, the Green MEP responsible for overseeing the passage through the European Parliament of the ’recast Return Directive’, which governs certain common procedures regarding the detention and expulsion of non-EU nationals, has prepared a report on the implementation of the original 2008 Return Directive. It criticises the Commission’s emphasis, since 2017, on punitive enforcement measures, at the expense of alternatives that have not been fully explored or implemented by the Commission or the member states, despite the 2008 legislation providing for them.
See: DRAFT REPORT on the implementation of the Return Directive (2019/2208(INI)): ▻https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/2020/jun/ep-libe-returns-directive-implementation-draft-rep-9-6-20.pdf
From the explanatory statement:
“This Report, highlighting several gaps in the implementation of the Return Directive, is not intended to substitute the still overdue fully-fledged implementation assessment of the Commission. It calls on Member States to ensure compliance with the Return Directive and on the Commission to ensure timely and proper monitoring and support for its implementation, and to enforce compliance if necessary.
With a view to the dual objective of the Return Directive, notably promoting effective returns and ensuring that returns comply with fundamental rights and procedural safeguards, this Report shows that the Directive allows for and supports effective returns, but that most factors impeding effective return are absent in the current discourse, as the effectiveness is mainly stressed and understood as return rate.”
Parliamentary procedure page: Implementation report on the Return Directive (European Parliament, link: ▻https://oeil.secure.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?reference=2019/2208(INI)&l=en)
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Quelques passages intéressants tirés du rapport:
The study shows that Member States make use of the possibility offered in Article 2(2)(a) not to apply the Directive in “border cases”, by creating parallel regimes, where procedures falling outside the scope of the Directive offer less safeguards compared to the regular return procedure, for instance no voluntary return term, no suspensive effect of an appeal and less restrictions on the length of detention. This lower level of protection gives serious reasons for concern, as the fact that border situations may remain outside the scope of the Directive also enhances the risks of push backs and refoulement. (...) Your Rapporteur considers that it is key to ensure a proper assessment of the risk of refoulement prior to the issuance of a return decision. This already takes place in Sweden and France. Although unaccompanied minors are rarely returned, most Member States do not officially ban their return. Their being subject to a return procedure adds vulnerability to their situation, due to the lack of safeguards and legal certainty.
According to Eurostat, Member States issued over 490.000 return decisions in 2019, of which 85% were issued by the ten Member States under the current study. These figures are less reliable then they seem, due to the divergent practices. In some Member States, migrants are issued with a return decision more than once, children are not issued a decision separately, and refusals at the border are excluded.
Statistics on the percentage of departure being voluntary show significant varieties between the Member States: from 96% in Poland to 7% in Spain and Italy. Germany and the Netherlands have reported not being able to collect data of non-assisted voluntary returns, which is remarkable in the light of the information provided by other Member States. According to Frontex, almost half of the departures are voluntary.
As Article 7(4) is often applied in an automatic way, and as the voluntary departure period is often insufficient to organise the departure, many returnees are automatically subject to an entry ban. Due to the different interpretations of a risk of absconding, the scope of the mandatory imposition of an entry ban may vary considerably between the countries. The legislation and practice in Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands and Sweden provides for an automatic entry ban if the term for voluntary departure was not granted or respected by the returnee and in other cases, the imposition is optional. In Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and Bulgaria however, legislation or practice provides for an automatic imposition of entry bans in all cases, including cases in which the returnee has left during the voluntary departure period. Also in the Netherlands, migrants with a voluntary departure term can be issued with an entry ban before the term is expired. This raises questions on the purpose and effectiveness of imposing an entry ban, as it can have a discouraging effect if imposed at an early stage. Why leave the territory in time on a voluntary basis if that is not rewarded with the possibility to re-enter? This approach is also at odds with the administrative and non-punitive approach taken in the Directive.
National legislation transposing the definition of “risk of absconding” significantly differs, and while several Member States have long lists of criteria which justify finding a risk of absconding (Belgium has 11, France 8, Germany 7, The Netherlands 19), other Member States (Bulgaria, Greece, Poland) do not enumerate the criteria in an exhaustive manner. A broad legal basis for detention allows detention to be imposed in a systematic manner, while individual circumstances are marginally assessed. National practices highlighted in this context also confirm previous studies that most returns take place in the first few weeks and that longer detention hardly has an added value.
In its 2016 Communication on establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission recognised that cooperation with third countries is essential in ensuring effective and sustainable returns. Since the adoption of this Communication, several informal arrangements have been concluded with third countries, including Gambia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Guinea and Ivory Coast. The Rapporteur regrets that such informal deals are concluded in the complete absence of duly parliamentary scrutiny and democratic and judicial oversight that according to the Treaties the conclusion of formal readmission agreements would warrant.
With the informalisation of cooperation with third countries in the field of migration, including with transit countries, also came an increased emphasis on conditionality in terms of return and readmission. The Rapporteur is concerned that funding earmarked for development cooperation is increasingly being redirected away from development and poverty eradication goals.