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Migration policy: Council agrees partial negotiating position on return directive

Met dank overgenomen van Raad van de Europese Unie (Raad), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 7 juni 2019.

The EU is working to make the rules for returning irregular migrants more effective. Today the Council agreed on a partial negotiating position on the revised return directive. This position covers all aspects of the proposed revision apart from the provisions on the border procedure for returns. This is because the scope of this procedure is defined by the Asylum Procedure Regulation, which is currently under discussion.

Improving the effectiveness of returns is a fundamental part of a comprehensive migration policy. It is the best way to break the business model of smugglers and show that putting your life in their hands is not a ticket to Europe.

Carmen Daniela Dan, Romanian minister of internal affairs

The aim of the proposed new rules is to speed up return procedures, prevent absconding and secondary movements, and increase the rate of returns. To achieve this, the partial negotiating position includes:

  • clearer and faster procedures for issuing return decisions and for lodging appeals, including an obligation to issue a return decision at the same time or shortly after a decision ending a legal stay
  • an obligation for persons subject to a return procedure to cooperate and the possibility of taking action in case of non-cooperation
  • more efficient rules on voluntary returns, including an obligation to set up dedicated programmes in member states
  • a common, non-exhaustive, list of objective criteria to determine the risk of absconding
  • the possibility of detaining a third country national if they pose a risk to public order, public security or national security
  • as a last resort, and when a series of guarantees are provided, the possibility of returning a third country national to any safe third country

The partial mandate ensures the respect of migrants' fundamental rights, especially the principle of non-refoulement.


Effective returns are crucial for an efficient and comprehensive migration management policy. Currently returns are regulated at the European level under the return directive, adopted in 2008. This directive sets common standards and procedures in member states for returning illegally staying third-country nationals. However, since the adoption of this directive the challenges in return policy have changed considerably.

The European Council has, on several occasions, emphasised the need to improve significantly the effective return of irregular migrants. While the EU and member states have already made great efforts, the overall number of returns still needs to be increased.

It is against this background that the Commission presented in September 2018 the proposal for a revised return directive.

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