Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has launched a project supporting returns of migrants across the EU with the assistance of experts from member states and Schengen associated countries. The creation of experts pool is part of agency’s expanded mandate. The profiles of return experts have been developed by Frontex in cooperation with the national authorities and the European Commission.
The return pool will ultimately consist of 690 return monitors, return escorts and return specialists. Its number of specialists was based on data of past return operations, risk analysis and return activities foreseen in 2017.
“Our ability to draw on a pool of qualified return officers and experts will help increase efficiency and provide already overstretched national authorities with much-needed support. This is particularly important in Greece and Italy, which received record numbers of migrants last year,” – said Fabrice Leggeri, Frontex executive director.
In December last year, Frontex issued the first call for voluntary contribution to the pool, swiftly receiving responses covering more than a half of requested agents.
Return agents will support identification of irregular migrants and acquisition of travel documents, including cooperation with consular authorities of countries of origin of returnees. They will operate in coordination with the country of origin authorities to monitor the return in compliance with respect to human dignity and fundamental rights.
All the experts will be able to identify persons in need of protection and refer them to the competent national authorities. The return pool will also include specialists in the protection of children’s rights.
All members of the pool will be fully trained before their deployment to ensure uniformly high standards in all their activities. The training curriculum for the return experts has already been developed.
Individual return decisions are issued by the judicial or administrative authorities of the individual European countries and only those authorities can decide who should be returned.
The return of migrants, or repatriation, has already caused discontent, and even protests in some countries, where the population disproves the governmental agreements to accept the unsuccessful in their claims to stay in EU individuals in exchange for financial aid as it happened in recently in Mali.
The Emergency Trust Fund for aid to African countries to cope with the repatriation of migrants was set at Valletta Summit 2015, pledging €1.8 billion.
In 2016, Frontex coordinated the return of 10 700 migrants in 232 return operations. The agency also assisted Greece in the readmission of 908 people to Turkey. In 2015 totally 1,321, 560 requests from asylum seekers were registered in EU.
However the right-wing political forces in Europe are not impressed by the scale and speed of the repatriation process, pointing out that the few individuals return last year is not relevant in proportion to more than one million migrants entering the EU 2016 by various routs.