28th Jan 2021

EU publishes guide to ejecting rejected asylum seekers

  • Member states can hire private security to escort rejected asylum seekers back home (Photo: angeloangelo)

A draft 100-page guide by the European Commission provides details on how best to boot out rejected asylum seekers from the EU.

The so-called Return Handbook published on Wednesday (9 September), and which still needs to be adopted, recommends authorities convince rejected applicants to agree to be sent home after being issued a return decision.

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It states "voluntary compliance with an obligation to return" is preferred because it is "a more dignified, safer, and frequently a more cost-effective return option."

Once a return decision has been made, it then needs to be recognised by other member states to allow the rejected applicant to transit through.

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But the EU has no central system to track voluntary returns. This means that police are unable to verify and keep track of voluntary departures.

Instead, it is up to the person who is being booted out of the EU to inform police when they have arrived home.

"The returnee may signal his departure to the border guard (upon departure), at the consular representation of a member state in his country of origin (following return) or even by writing”, it notes.

Not everyone is likely to return home voluntarily.

Some asylum seekers, who may have risked their lives and spent their entire life savings to reach the EU, may simply refuse to leave and attempt to abscond.

Enforced returns

The handbook notes that in some cases, the physical removal of people through coercion may be required and that detention can be used to prevent them from fleeing.

It notes detention can only be used if there is a flight risk, or if the person "avoids or hampers the preparation of return or the removal process".

It recommends alternatives to jail such as residence restrictions, electronic monitoring, bail, and open-houses for families but notes this also increases the flight risk.

"An overly repressive system with systematic detention may also be inefficient, since the returnee has little incentive or encouragement to cooperate in the return procedures”, it notes.

Instead, it says "intelligent solutions" must be found that mix "rewards and deterrents".

In-flight dress code

People who are sent home on flights will need to be escorted throughout the entire journey. Member states can also hire private security to carry out the task.

The escorts must not be armed but must be "strategically positioned in the aircraft in order to provide optimum safety."

They are not required to wear uniforms but must have a "distinctive emblem for identification purposes."

The returnee can be restrained, if things go wrong, but his ability to breathe normally must be maintained, it notes.

A doctor and an interpreter must also be present on the flight.

Once the flight has landed, the returnee is then handed over to local authorities outside the aircraft.

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