On 8 September, experts from Frontex, Member States and the European Commission met in Brussels to open the first High-Level Network on Returns to discuss the main challenges and developments affecting return operations in the European Union.
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson opened the meeting:
“Today I am proud to launch this high-level network on returns. To return people with dignity, effectively and rapidly, I made returns a cornerstone of the new pact on migration and asylum.
“What’s clear: we’re at our best when we work together,” she added.
This new network is composed of representatives from Member States and Schengen Associated Countries` institutions responsible for return and was founded to coordinate the efforts made by all Member States to ensure effective returns on EU level. The event was chaired by the EU Return Coordinator Mari Juritsch.
Lars Gerdes, Frontex Deputy Executive Director for Returns and Operations, underlined the agency’s growing role when it comes to returns:
“Frontex plays a key role in implementing the EU strategy on return by providing technical and operational support the Member States in the whole return process, including on voluntary returns, post arrival and reintegration.”
“With our support, the number of people who return to their countries of origin keeps growing. This year, people who returned voluntarily make up for 58% of the total number of persons returned by scheduled flights,” he added.
The agency also continued to increase the number of flights with forced-return monitors on board. Out of 136 forced return operations coordinated by Frontex in the first half of this year, 104 had monitors on board.
In April, Frontex has started providing reintegration assistance to migrants returned to their countries of origin and already more than 200 people have received assistance. The Frontex Joint Reintegration Services already covers 26 countries and will be further expanded.
In 2022, there has been a significant increase in the number of voluntary returns supported by the agency and their number keeps growing. So far this year, Frontex supported the voluntary return of 5327 non-EU nationals, compared to 4589 the year before. We also provide experts who work at the main international airports in the EU to support with return-related matters.
Frontex is responsible for the coordination of return operations, but it is crucial to understand that the decision about who should be returned is always taken by the judicial or administrative authorities of the Member States.