In April 2021, the European Commission presented its new Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration. The aim of the strategy is to promote voluntary return and reintegration and to develop ‘a more coherent and coordinated approach’ among Member States as, according the Commission ‘voluntary returns are more humane, more effective and less costly than forced returns’.
The Strategy is part of the EU’s work to build a common EU system for return under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. 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 Commission aims to put in place fast and fair common procedures and rules on asylum and return, monitor the granting of return and reintegration assistance and reduce the risk of unauthorised movements. Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) refers to the support provided, often by countries of destination, to migrants to return and reintegrate in their community of origin. These concern migrants who wish to go home, but also asylum seekers who did not receive refugee status, migrants without documentation, and others who opt for voluntary over forced return. At present, fewer than one-third of the returns motivated by a return decision are voluntary.
The strategy document reveals that the use of detention “can increase the uptake of voluntary returns at early stages of the return process.” In particular, the proposed introduction of “border return procedures” – which could introduce mandatory detention of up to 10 months – is seen as a key tool. Under these procedures, the Commission says people will be “available and more willing to cooperate with the authorities.” According ‘Statewatch’ ‘this is perhaps best-translated as ‘locked up and out of options’. La Strada International regularly still notes the detention and forced return of trafficked persons and – like PICUM – believes that people should be granted the possibility to explore whether different pathways to case resolution can be applied and that more access should be granted to international protection or permanent residence in the country of destination. See also https://www.lastradainternational.org/news/webinar-on-access-to-residence/
See also the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) policy brief EU Strategy on Voluntary Return and Reintegration: Crafting a Road Map to Better Cooperation with Migrants’ Countries of Origin, which identifies key areas where progress could be made on the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) process.