Sustainable voluntary return and reintegration strategy

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EESC opinion: Sustainable voluntary return and reintegration strategy

Key points

This opinion provides with the EESC's views on the EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration, a key objective under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.


  • welcomes the strategy as a management tool that seeks to improve coordination and Member States' shared objectives in the field of migration governance.
  • agrees with the Commission's approach of further reviewing and harmonising the instruments, and improving data collection and counselling mechanisms for those affected, in order to, among other things, improve the fragmented approach to the issue, reduce the costs of return and increase the funding allocated to these programmes.
  • regrets that measures to improve legal entry routes, i.e. those which affect the majority of foreign nationals resident in the European Union, are being developed later than the proposals aimed at resolving irregular migration issues and in a more limited manner. A comprehensive approach to mobility is essential in order to offer alternatives that go beyond border control and return.
  • stresses that the majority of returns do not work properly due to the lack of involvement of the countries of origin, and because of the reluctance of people in irregular situations to participate. Accordingly, the EESC doubts the effectiveness of some of the proposals put forward, such as the issue of sponsored return.
  • is concerned about the future role of Frontex, especially given the publication of the European Parliament's report on the violation of rights by this European agency[1] and demands the establishment of flexible and effective accountability mechanisms for Frontex's activities, as well as ensuring that they are carried out with respect for human rights.
  • supports better coordination between all stakeholders as well as the planned improvements to strengthen solidarity between Member States and cooperation with third countries. It also supports efforts to improve counselling and guidance on the issue of returns, and civil society's involvement in returns, especially sustainable reintegration. It also welcomes efforts to improve the availability of resources and the collection of data, as well as the exchange of best practices in these areas.
  • is concerned about the stated objective of increasing swift voluntary returns from the external borders, due to the lack of guarantees that they may entail. Voluntary return may become a euphemism for expulsions or financial compensation paid to the destination countries that receive returnees, without ever taking sufficient consideration of their wishes, or, even more worryingly, their rights. The EESC also warns of the contradiction involved in offering incentives via programmes that are based on the existence of persons in irregular situations, as this may discourage countries of origin from trying to reduce the flow of migrants.
  • continues to hold the view that the strategic weakness of the European Union's immigration and asylum policy is its almost exclusive focus on tackling irregular situations, whether at the border or through voluntary and forced returns. To that end, it again calls on the Commission to review its reference framework and effectively work towards an integrated approach to immigration and asylum policy that promotes orderly, legal and safe mobility.

[1]           See the Report on the fact-finding investigation on Frontex concerning alleged fundamental rights violations, LIBE Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, 14 July 2021.