Third country nationals who have exhausted all legal possibilities of staying in the EU, such as persons who have overstayed their visa or failed the asylum procedure, are subject to a return decision which is  issued by the competent authorities in the Member States. In 2012 over 159 000 third country nationals were returned from the EU to their countries of origin, over 2 000 of those were returned in joint return operations coordinated by Frontex.

In joint operations one of the Member States charters a plane to take returnees back to their country of origin. When there are empty seats on the plane, the organising Member State contacts Frontex, which then offers those seats to the other Member States, who can use the same charter flight for their returnees. People returned in joint operations are all subject to individual return decisions.

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