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Readmission agreements: a neutral mechanism or a threat to irregular migrants?

Readmission agreements are concluded either between the EU and third countries or bilaterally between two countries. Their aim is to facilitate the return of irregular migrants to their home countries, or to countries through which they have travelled. Once a return decision has been taken, the readmission agreement kicks in and, under certain circumstances, the readmitting state thus has a contractual obligation to take the person back. A migrant can be considered irregular when he or she is in a country without the necessary documents.

 The members of the Committee heard interventions by experts in the field, such as the European Commission Directorate-General on Justice, Freedom and Security, the International Organisation for Migration, the UNHCR and several NGOs, such as “Migreurope”. It emerged that there are two strands of thought, namely those who find readmission agreements to be neutral in terms of human rights and others, who believe that they might in some cases constitute a threat to migrants.
According to the rapporteur, the intentions with readmission agreements might be innocent, but they can nevertheless cause problems in terms of human rights. Mrs Strik said that the type of bilateral agreement that sees migrants being returned without having had the opportunity to put forward an application for asylum might be contrary to international refugee law, in particular if returned to a country where no functioning asylum system is in place. The use of these agreements, which, however, are not readmission agreements in the formal sense, she added, should be viewed with great skepticism and should be followed carefully.
During its meeting the Committee also approved a draft text on the protection of long-term displaced persons in Europe (John Greenway, United Kingdom, EDG), as well as an opinion on the ban of cluster munitions (Claire Curtis-Thomas, United Kingdom, SOC).