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Procedure : 2019/2208(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A9-0238/2020

Texts tabled :

A9-0238/2020

Debates :

PV 14/12/2020 - 28
CRE 14/12/2020 - 28

Votes :

PV 16/12/2020 - 2
PV 17/12/2020 - 2

Texts adopted :

P9_TA(2020)0362

Debates
XML 14k
Monday, 14 December 2020 - Brussels Revised edition

28. Implementation of the Return Directive (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  Presidente. – Segue-se a breve apresentação do relatório de Tineke Strik sobre o relatório de execução sobre a Diretiva Regresso (2019/2208(INI)) (A9-0238/2020).

 
  
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  Tineke Strik, rapporteur. – Mr President, I am happy to introduce the implementation report on the Return Directive, which includes the position of a large majority in our Parliament, and this is important as the Return Directive is a salient topic which can easily lead to division and even polarisation. Our common position is that we need a solid basis of facts and findings in order to draw conclusions on how Member States apply the directive and if this application meets the objectives of the directive.

The more salient a policy area is, the more we need an evidence-based policy. We therefore deplore the lack of a recent evaluation, which the Commission is obliged to undertake every three years, but its last report dates back to 2014. As we have to judge and negotiate on a recast proposal with fundamental amendments on the current Returns Directive, this omission is not responsible. This has led the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to decide to undertake a study ourselves on the implementation of the Return Directive, and that study has led to this report.

The objective of the Return Directive is twofold. On the one hand, it promotes the return of migrants who are not entitled to stay on our territory and, on the other hand, it ensures that this return goes hand in hand with legal safeguards in line with fundamental rights, and that enforcement measures are applied in a proportionate manner. This also means that implementation cannot be properly assessed by only looking at the return rates. We also need to see if the return is sustainable and if the legal safeguards have been complied with.

I will just go through some highlights of the report. One is that voluntary returns should be prioritised over forced returns as they are more sustainable, less costly and less cumbersome for the states, and more apt to respect the fundamental rights of the person concerned. This requires that we have sufficient voluntary departure terms, but also sufficient assistance and return programmes. We found a big lack of this in many Member States.

The directive requires that decisions concerning return are based on an individual assessment and are open to appeal. Legal safeguards imply that the return may never lead to refoulement and that the return is automatically suspended as long as an appeal is still under the examination of a judge. In many Member States, however, this is still not the case. Detention must remain a measure of last resort, meaning that it has to be necessary, proportionate and for the shortest time possible.

Longer detention does not automatically increase the chance of return. It is generally more costly than alternatives to detention. The report therefore calls on Member States, as a matter of urgency, to offer effective community—based alternatives to detention. Many Member States do have alternatives in their legislation, but they have often made it unavailable in practice. According to our Charter of Fundamental Rights, the best interests of the child should always be a primary consideration. A significant number of children, however, are still detained in the European Union as part of return procedures. This implementation report expresses agreement with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which has clarified that children should never be detained for immigration purposes and that detention can never be justified in a child’s best interest.

As the report highlights several gaps in the implementation of the Return Directive, we call on the Member States to make sure that they do comply, and we call on the Commission to ensure timely and proper monitoring and support for its implementation, and to enforce compliance if necessary. After all, the Commission is our only guardian of the Treaty.

 
  
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  Nicolas Schmit, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, return is a key component of a comprehensive, credible and sustainable approach to migration.

I first would like to thank you, Ms Strik, as well as the shadow rapporteurs for this implementation report on the Return Directive.

I’m glad that the pact on migration and asylum presented by the Commission last September addresses many of the challenges identified in your reports. The pact takes a human approach, which builds on the principles of integrated policy-making, solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibility. It offers tools to cover all aspects of return, from the moment of first arrival in the EU and issuance of an obligation to return until the readmission and reintegration in the country of origin. The pact reinforces our legal framework, closing the loopholes between asylum and return procedures that are currently affecting the efficiency of our systems.

The Return Directive will continue to be the cornerstone of our common EU framework. We are pleased that the work on that dossier has resumed.

In this context, and in reply to your report, I would therefore like to make the following remarks:

First, we agree that there is a strong need to improve relations with third countries in order to ensure cooperation for effective and sustainable returns. That is why strengthening our cooperation with third countries on all aspects of migration, in a spirit of trust and mutually beneficial partnership, is a priority of the pact.

In the context of these partnerships, we need, firstly, to increase the effectiveness of the implementation of readmission cooperation and to develop new ones for a selected number of third countries. Effective cooperation on readmission and migration is developed through active engagement in a sustained dialogue with our partners, as well as mobilising the policies and tools at our disposal for incentivising and rewarding cooperation.

Second, we agree on the primacy of voluntary returns. This is why we are working on a new strategy on voluntary return and reintegration that we will present next year. Reintegration is an important part of the EU’s support to third countries. We need to reinforce the consistency of national approaches with third countries, but also increase the ownership of the process by our partners. This strategy will also reinforce the effectiveness, attractiveness and accessibility of the voluntary return programmes set up in the Member States, and from third countries to countries of origin.

Third, let me assure you that the pact fully respects the fundamental right to an effective remedy of the migrants subject to a return decision. To this end, the recast Return Directive and the amendments to the proposed asylum procedures regulation further harmonise the right to appeal in order to address the differences between Member States.

We understand your concerns concerning the possible negative effects that indiscriminate and long entry bans can have on the willingness of irregular migrants to cooperate on return and depart voluntarily. Our intention remains to deter irregular reimmigration of those who did not respect EU rules while preserving the possibility of legal access to the EU. We agree that there is a significant discrepancy in the way in which Member States determine the risk that the migrant may flee while return procedures are ongoing. That is why we proposed a common list of criteria in the recast Return Directive to assess the risk of absconding, which is the main ground to place a person subject to a return decision in administrative detention.

Finally, let me stress that we attach great importance to the use of effective alternatives to detention. We agree that it remains an underexplored area that can bring positive results for both the migrants and the authorities concerned.

In our view, the report confirms that there are matters of common interest on which we can work together.

I would like to thank you again for your report and we trust that, with this important report having been tabled, we can now advance in earnest to reach an agreement that would improve the return of irregular migrants.

 
  
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  Presidente. – Este ponto da ordem do dia está encerrado.

A votação das alterações realizar-se-á na terça-feira, 15 de dezembro de 2020, e a votação final na quarta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2020.

 
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