Statewatch article: RefNo# 33912
EU and Member States plan "pilot project" to pressure countries to admit deportees
Statewatch News Online, August 2014
A document circulated by the Italian government to EU Member States in early July outlines plans for a "pilot project" that will see national and EU officials apply heavy diplomatic and economic pressure on selected countries in order to "improve the return rate in a number of specific countries of origin."

Increasing expulsions

Member States and EU institutions are striving to increase the number of people expelled from the EU each year. In a "food for thought" paper drafted in February, the Greek Presidency of the Council noted that although Member States' authorities "apprehend more than 500,000 illegal migrants" each year, only "40% of them are sent back to their country of origin or transit." [1]

The Justice and Home Affairs Council, made up of justice and interior ministers from the EU's Member States, concluded in June this year that:

"the main reasons for non-return relate to the lack of cooperation from returnees in the return process and to problems in establishing the identity of returnees and in obtaining the necessary documentation from third-countries' authorities."

To try and address these issues, EU and Member State authorities are to launch:

"a pilot project, on the basis of the 'more for more' principle, prioritising some third countries whose nationals have been denied residence permits or entered the EU irregularly." [2]

The "more for more" approach implies "an element of conditionality": the more a country cooperates in migration matters, the more the EU will "deliver" in all policy areas, while a lack of cooperation in migration will affect cooperation wholesale. [3]

Four "pilot" countries

Currently, four countries have been identified for the pilot project: Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria and Pakistan. However, at meetings of the Council's working groups on Africa and Asia, "a few delegations expressed a reservation on the suggest list of four countries and, in particular, on Ghana and Pakistan." Statewatch has filed a request for the minutes of these meetings, which have not been made public.

It appears that the EU and the Member States are preparing to apply significant pressure on those countries eventually selected for the project. The note drafted by the Italian Presidency of the Council refers to agreement on a:

"comprehensive approach… ensuring that the message to readmit their nationals would be raised with the selected third countries in all formal contacts of Ministers, High Representative, Commissioners as well as senior EU and Member States' officials with their counterparts in the pilot countries, irrespective of subject or location (Brussels, capital of pilot country, multilateral organisations, etc.)."

The Commission is planning to involve a host of different departments in applying pressure, "in particular" the Directorates-General for home affairs, development, trade and education and culture. The Italian note says that the Commission services will:

"pursue their discussions in order to formalise an agreed package for the selected third countries (a 'consolidated leverage basket'), identifying the tools and means allowing to exert greater leverage at European level."

"Intensifying" returns

It appears that the idea for the pilot project originally came from the Dutch government and was first presented to other national delegations during a "ministerial working lunch" in early March, when the "food for thought" paper noted above was also discussed.

In its contribution made in January this year to the European Commission's consultation on the future of EU justice and home affairs, the Dutch government suggested "intensifying" returns policy:

"The Netherlands advocates that cooperation with countries of origin, including in non-JHA areas, is dependent in part on cooperation in respect of return. To achieve this, an integrated, whole-of-government approach to policymaking is necessary at both national and EU level." [3]

Other Member States put forth similar arguments: the German government argued that returns "should be a priority" and that "the EU needs a strategic approach to prioritising countries"; the Hungarian interior ministry wanted "conditionality and 'more for more'"; and Finland called for "incorporating issues on readmission into a broader and coherent cooperation with third countries." [4]

The Netherlands also put forth its opinion "that asylum seekers should as much as possible be accommodated and receive protection in the region of origin."

The pilot project is just one of many cooperative initiatives being launched to try and increase the number of people expelled from the EU. For example, the Italian note mentions "the need to include return/readmission provisions in all agreements with third countries," and to ensure "that these provisions effectively become operational."

In a March communication [5] on EU Return Policy, the Commission set out five main aims with regard to expulsions:

  • Ensure proper and effective implementation of the Return Directive;
  • Promote more consistent and fundamental rights-compatible practices;
  • Further develop dialogue and cooperation with non-EU countries;
  • Improve operational cooperation between Member States on return; and
  • Enhance role of FRONTEX in the field of return.

    Further reading

  • 'European Parliament: Parliament backs EU-Turkey deal to return clandestine migrants', Statewatch News Online, February 2014
  • 'At the Limen: The implementation of the return directive in Italy, Cyprus and Spain'
  • Frances Webber, 'The cradle or the grave? EU migration policy and human rights', Statewatch Journal, Vol. 23 No. 4, February 2014


    [1] Presidency, '"An effective EU return policy": Presidency's food for thought paper for the lunch discussion', 7007/14 26 February 2014
    [2] Presidency, 'EU pilot project on return policy', 11506/14, 2 July 2014
    [3] European Commission, 'The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility', COM(2011) 743 final, 18 November 2011, 'EU silent on the conclusion of a readmission clause with Iraq', Statewatch News Online, 10 July 2012
    [4] 'Contribution of the Netherlands to the Public Consultation by DG HOME Affairs of the European Commission', 20 January 2014
    [5] Contributions of Germany, Hungary and Finland
    [6] European Commission, 'Communication on EU Return Policy', COM(2014) 199 final, 28 March 2014

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