Commission: Nobody could be forced to return to Syria

The EC adopted first EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration in their country of origin

Photo: EU Margaritis Schinas and Ylva Johansson.

The Commission said on Tuesday that nobody could be forced to return to Syria, commenting on Denmark’s intentions to return to “safe areas” in the country many of the war refugees. 

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson said she discussed the matter with the Danish interior minister and he convinced her that there would be no forced returns to Syria. But he also told her that “when it is not possible to return people, you can also make a question mark whether it is the right way to take away the possibility for people to go for their job, or continue with their studying, or learning the language”. “This is something that concerns me,” the Commissioner urged.

Delivering to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Commission adopted the first EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration in their country of origin.

It steps up the legal and operational framework for voluntary returns from Europe and from transit countries, improve the quality of return and reintegration programmes.

Proposing practical measures, based on 7 pillars, the plan also aims to create enhanced links with development initiatives and strengthen cooperation with partner countries.

The EU is building a new ecosystem on returns – looking at increasing cooperation on readmission, improving the governance framework, equipping Frontex with a new operational mandate on returns and appointing an EU Return Coordinator, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, commented.

He explained that the Strategy on voluntary returns and reintegration is another piece of that puzzle.

According to him, returns are more effective when they are voluntary and accompanied by genuine reintegration options for returnees and this Strategy will develop a more uniform and coordinated approach among Member States to unlock their full potential.

Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, outlined that only about a third of people with no right to stay in the EU return to their country of origin and of those who do, fewer than 30% do so voluntarily.

She specified that voluntary returns are always the better option: they put the individual at the core, they are more effective and less costly.

“Our first ever strategy on voluntary return and reintegration will help returnees from both the EU and third countries to seize opportunities in their home country, contribute to the development of the community and build trust in our migration system to make it more effective,” Commissioner Johansson added.

The objective of the new strategy is to bridge the gap between asylum and return procedures, address challenges in preventing absconding, insufficient resources, lack of data, overall fragmentation and limited administrative capacity to follow-up on return decisions. All these issues contribute to the low uptake in assisted voluntary returns programmes.

The Commission will continue to put in place fast and fair common procedures and rules on asylum and return through the proposed recast Return Directive, the amended proposal for an Asylum Procedures Regulation, the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation  and the revised Eurodac Regulation.

The EU executive will monitor the granting of return and reintegration assistance and reduce the risk of unauthorised movements.

Through its enhanced mandate, Frontex can support Member States in all stages of the voluntary return and reintegration process, including on pre-return counselling, post-arrival support and monitoring the effectiveness of reintegration assistance.

The Return Coordinator and High Level Network for Return will provide further technical support to Member States in bringing together different strands of EU return policy.

Providing early, tailor-made and effective return counselling taking into account individual circumstances, the needs of children and vulnerable groups, as well as support after return, improves their chances of successful and sustainable reintegration into their home communities.

The Commission will work with Frontex to develop a common curriculum for return counsellors complementing existing support from the Agency and making better use of web-based tools such as the Return and Reintegration Assistance Inventory and the Reintegration Assistance Tool.

A quality framework for reintegration service providers using common standards for managing projects, supported by EU funding will be developed by the Commission, in cooperation with Member States, Frontex and the European Return and Reintegration Network. 

The EU will support the reintegration processes in partner countries with capacity building, providing staff with the necessary skills, or supporting governance structures and will also continue to provide assistance for voluntary return and reintegration of migrants stranded in other countries. A more coordinated use of the financial resources that will be available under different EU funds to support the entirety of the voluntary return and reintegration process, will be ensured..

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