EU Strategy on Voluntary Return and Reintegration: Crafting a Road Map to Better Cooperation with Migrants’ Countries of Origin
The return of irregular migrants and asylum seekers whose claims are denied and their sustainable reintegration into origin-country communities have long been priorities for many European policymakers. This has been driven by concerns about low rates of return among those ordered to leave and the implications of this for EU migration and asylum systems. Some are also concerned about the manner in which returns are carried out, with research suggesting that voluntary returns are both more humane and less costly than forced returns.
In April 2021, the European Commission published its first EU Strategy on Voluntary Return and Reintegration. The strategy lays out principles to strengthen European assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) programs, increase voluntary returns, and improve the return process and post-return reintegration assistance. To achieve the strategy’s objectives, European policymakers will need to invest in an often-neglected dimension of AVRR—cooperation with migrants’ countries of origin.
This policy brief explores the ways in which origin- and destination-country priorities on returns diverge, opportunities for cooperation where their interests align, and possible next steps for building on the principles outlined in the EU strategy.
2 Diverging Policy Priorities on Voluntary Return and Reintegration
A. Destination Countries’ Agenda
B. Motivations for Origin Countries’ Engagement
3 Initial Measures to Enhance Cooperation with Origin Countries
A. Mapping out Convergent Interests through Official and Informal Engagement
B. Enhancing AVRR Program Design Based on Better Information-Sharing
C. Strengthening Outreach and Travel Arrangements via Operational Coordination
4 Sustainable Cooperation through Longer-Term Structural Reforms
A. Improving the Governance of Voluntary Return and Reintegration in Origin Countries
B. Aligning Reintegration Assistance and Development Planning
5 Next Steps: Building on the EU Strategy on Voluntary Return and Reintegration