The aims of this EMN Inform are to consider the impact of assisted voluntary return (AVR) and reintegration programmes on return and reintegration to countries in Western Africa; to describe how Member States adjust their programmes to support return to this region; and to identify challenges and good practices in return/reintegration to Western Africa.
Key points to note:
- Political unrest, economic hardship and disease have resulted in significant mixed migration flows from Western African countries to EU Member States.
- Between 2009 and 2013, 124,940 asylum seekers were Western Africa nationals, representing 8% of the total of all asylum seekers to the EU during that period, whilst 176,840 third country nationals (TCNs) originating from Western Africa were found to be irregularly staying on EU territory.
- Over the period 2009-2013, the number of West Africans ordered to leave the EU has decreased from 49,010 in 2009 to 37,340 in 2013 (-24%). Correspondingly, the number of West Africans returned from the EU 28 has decreased from 9,420 in 2009 to 7,965 in 2013 (-15%).
- EU Member States experience a number of challenges in returning TCNs to West Africa. Among these are: difficulties to obtain travel documents; limited availability of Western African embassy /consulates in the EU and limited cooperation with authorities in the countries of origin, in particular for non-voluntary returns; political instability in some countries in the region; and some weaknesses in infrastructure and communications.
- Returnees to Western African countries are eligible for Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programmes implemented by all Member States. However, some Member States have introduced tailored programmes to assist return to specific Western African countries.
- The specific needs of individuals are taken into account by Member States through individual assessment procedure to primarily check for vulnerability and the medical needs of returnees.
- The provision of information on voluntary return and reintegration assistance programmes is a key element throughout the different stages of return and the majority of Member States systematically undertake outreach activities on their territories aiming to encourage and prepare TCNs for their return. Activities include, amongst others, counselling in reception /detention centres, distribution of leaflets, posters, brochures, online information, free hotline and return helpdesks.