This EMN Inform summarises the findings from the EMN Study on The Return of Rejected Asylum Seekers: Challenges and Good Practices and is based on contributions from EMN National Contact Points .
Given the recent increase in asylum applications in the EU and considering the general gap between third-country nationals issued a return decision and those that have returned, the EMN conducted this study with the purpose of investigating the specific challenges of the return of rejected asylum seekers and Member State responses to these challenges.
Key points to note:
- The number of asylum applications rejected in the EU from 2011 to 2015 increased broadly in line with the increase in applications for asylum. This has put significant additional pressure on Member States to increase the effectiveness of return in general and specifically of rejected asylum seekers.
- Member States employ a range of measures to encourage return. Incentives to encourage return are generally provided within the framework of AVR(R) packages and include the maintenance of rights for rejected asylum seekers after the time-limit for voluntary departure, while disincentives often relate to the withdrawal of certain rights and benefits, such as the rights to accommodation and employment. In several Member States there has been a shift from incentivising return to disincentivising stay.
- Challenges to return are plentiful. On top of the common challenges of returning third-country nationals, rejected asylum seekers are more likely to be affected by some return challenges, such as the volatile security situation in some countries of origin, public resistance to return and political pressure not to implement removals; stronger individual resistance to return; greater difficulties in obtaining travel documents, compounded by the fact that asylum seekers are more frequently undocumented than other third-country nationals; and greater prevalence of medical cases among rejected asylum seekers than among other returnees.
- Additionally, aspects of the due process of the asylum procedure may delay returns, such as the possibility for lodging late-stage appeals and judicial reviews, combined with the impossibility for Member States to establish contact with the authorities of the country of origin before the asylum procedure is closed.
- To counter these challenges, Member States have put in place different measures, including cooperation arrangements with third-country authorities to promote collaboration in the identification and re-documentation process; use of database checks, early screening interviews to support re-documentation; the provision of medical support before, during and after travel for the purpose of return; and detention (or alternatives thereof) to tackle individual resistance to return. Several Member States also sometimes enforce removals through surprise raids.
- The focus and the rationale behind the different policies and measures vary quite significantly and without evaluative evidence it is difficult to draw conclusions as to which practices are more effective. However, the practice of drastically removing rights following a rejection and/or return decision, may increase the likelihood of absconding, or at least of rejected asylum seekers falling out of contact with the authorities thus affecting the feasibility and effectiveness of return operations. It may also likely to increase the likelihood of destitution.
- The study also found that variations existing between Member States, in terms of when they issue / enforce a return decision, may lead to uneven treatment of asylum seekers across the EU, as at present return decisions are issued and enforced at different moments in the asylum procedure. In some Member States all appeals have a suspensive effect, and therefore return decisions can only be enforced once all appeals are exhausted; by contrast, in others a return decision can be enforced pending an appeal, although as these cases are exception, it is more likely for return decisions to be issued at later stage in process.
 Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom