While Frontex continues to coordinate forced return operations
from individual Member States, it may also propose to coordinate or organise returns on its own initiative
, also by chartering of aircraft. In addition, Frontex provides support with voluntary departures
of non-EU nationals who are subject to individual return decisions with a granted period for voluntary departure.
The agency can also provide support to Member States in readmission operations by providing transportation and escort officers to Member States.
Joint return operations
Member States organise return operations individually. There is, however, a
possibility for two or more countries to organise a joint return
operation. If one Member State organises a return operation by air to
a specific country of return and has some spare capacity on the plane, it can
invite other Member States to take part. The organising Member State informs
Frontex about its intention to conduct a return flight and requests the
assistance of Frontex to coordinate this operation. Frontex then dispatches
this information to all other Member States.
The returnees are accompanied by escort officers
from the different Member States taking part in the operation, medical staff
and translators. Member States shall monitor every return operation in
accordance with EU legislation.
Collecting return operations
Frontex can also coordinate collecting return operations, where the means of transport and escort officers are provided by the non-EU country of destination.
returnees from the participating Member States are transported to the
organising Member State. The participating Member States and the agency
ensure that the respect for fundamental rights, the principle of non-refoulement, and
the proportionate use of means of constraints are guaranteed during the entire
Prior to organising collecting return
operations, the escorts of the non-EU country of return are trained by the
agency to comply with EU standards, including on fundamental rights. In
addition, at least one Member State representative, one forced-return monitor
and medical staff are present throughout the entire return operation.
Pools of return experts
of the new expanded mandate on returns, Frontex has created three pools of
return experts who support the return of non-EU nationals from Member States:
return monitors, return escorts and return specialists. The experts nominated
by Member States are at the disposal of Frontex and may be deployed to a host
Member State at its request.
These experts will be deployed in return
operations or return interventions coordinated by the agency to carry out
specific tasks, such as assisting in the acquisition of travel documents from
non-EU countries and facilitation of consular cooperation, or in order to
provide the Member States with additional resources to escort returnees, as
well as to comply with their obligation to monitor forced return operations.
Some of the experts have specific expertise in child protection.
Monitoring of return operations
return operations must be monitored in accordance with EU law and a
forced-return monitor must deliver a report to the agency and to all the Member
States involved in the given operation. The monitoring covers the whole return
operation, from the pre-departure phase to the hand-over of the
returnees in the non-EU country of return.
Other return-related activities
plays a role in coordinating return-related activities of
Member States. In addition, the agency coordinates the use of IT systems
and activities that enable the exchange of information between Member States in
The agency supports and facilitates cooperation
between Member States and non-EU countries in the field of identification –
establishing nationality, acquiring travel documents and by providing practical
information on countries of return. Those Member States which experience
particular challenges related to their return systems receive specific
technical and operational assistance, based on clearly identified needs..
The Return Process
The return process consists of a number of steps:
- Voluntary return: The national authorities inform all returnees about the possibility of assisted voluntary return. About half of those eligible for return accept that this option.
- The Return decision: Individuals who
have exhausted all legal avenues to legitimise their stay within the EU or who
have committed offences in a Member State receive a return decision from a
court or competent authorities of Member States. These decisions
are taken by the relevant authorities in Member States on individual
- Appeals procedure: Every person has the right to appeal against the return decision. This process is in the hands of the authorities of the individual Member States.
- Voluntary departure: Non-EU nationals subject to individual return decisions may be granted a period for voluntary departure.
- Identification process: Non-EU
nationals without proper travel documents cannot be returned. The non-EU
country authorities have to officially confirm their nationality in order to be
able to issue travel documents. Frontex can assist the Member States national
authorities with the process of identification.
- Acquisition of travel documents: Once
the authorities of the non-EU country establishes that the national is indeed
from their country, they can issue a travel document. In case a travel document
is not issued by the relevant authorities, a European travel document could be
issued by Member States based on an agreement signed with the country of
- The Return operation: The
returns are carried out by Member States by, land, sea or air, although mostly
by commercial flights. Some return operations are also carried out by chartered
flights, either unilaterally or jointly by Member States. The use of a charter
is only possible with the consent of each country of return. Joint return
operations are usually coordinated and co-financed by Frontex.
- Acceptance by the country of return: A
return operation is complete upon the successful handover of a returnee to the
authorities of the country of return. If the handover is rejected, the returnee
is transferred back to the Member State that first requested the return.