EU unveils plan to push voluntary return of migrants

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BRUSSELS 

The European Commission on Tuesday presented its very first strategy aimed at encouraging rejected asylum seekers to return home voluntarily. 

“Voluntary returns are a more dignified way for individuals and cheaper for member states,” Ylva Johansson, EU commissioner for home affairs, said at a press conference.

She explained that only about a third of people who have been refused entry return to their country of origin, with less than 30% of them agreeing to leave on their own.

According to the European Parliament’s research service, forced returns cost an average of €3,414 (over $4,100) if the rejected asylum seekers are deported from an EU member state, and €2,500 (over $3,000) if they are leaving a transit country such as Libya.

Even if financial support for reintegration is offered, an asylum seeker deciding to board a plane or ship on their own will cost six times less – approximately €560 (around $680) – for the EU because no intervention from security forces is needed.

The strategy, composed of legal proposals and policy recommendations, aims to raise the number of voluntary returns by offering tailor-made reintegration plans for migrants in their home countries, as well as enhancing cooperation with transit countries and states of origin.

“Returns will have to be part of the EU policy mix of migration and asylum,” Margaritis Schinas, vice president of the European Commission, said at the press conference.

He also explained that the proposal offers the possibility of “sponsored returns” for member states that are not willing to take in any asylum seekers for border countries under pressure.

In this case, the governments can arrange the return of migrants who could not receive international protection.

The new strategy also creates a new position of EU return coordinator and gives the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) a greater role in assisting EU member states with returns.

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