New EU deportation law breaches fundamental rights standards and should be rejected

11 September 2019 — Statewatch

A proposed new EU law governing standards and procedures for deportations would breach fundamental rights standards, massively expand the use of detention, limit appeal rights and undermine ‘voluntary’ return initiatives. It should be rejected by the European Parliament and the Council, argues a new analysis published today by Statewatch. [1]

The original Returns Directive was agreed in 2008, but a proposal for a ‘recast’ version was published by the European Commission in September 2018 as one a number of measures aiming to crack down on “illegally staying third-country nationals” in the EU. [2]

The proposal aims to increase the number of deportations from the EU by reducing or eliminating existing safeguards for those facing deportation proceedings – but even if such a method could be considered legitimate, there is no evidence to suggest that the proposed measures will have the intended effect.

For example, the proposal introduces numerous new grounds for placing migrants in detention and would introduce a new ‘minimum maximum’ period of detention of at least three months. [3]

However, in 2017, Spain (with a maximum detention period of 60 days) had a ‘return rate’ of 37%, while the return rate from countries with a detention limit of 18 months (the maximum period permitted under the current Returns Directive) differed significantly: 11% in the Czech Republic, 18% in Belgium, 40% in Greece and 46% in Germany. [4]

The Statewatch report urges EU lawmakers to discard the proposal and focus on alternative measures that would be less harmful to individuals. It includes an article-by-article analysis of the Commission’s proposal and the positions of the European Parliament and the Council, as they were prior to the EU institutions’ summer break.

The European Parliament and the Council of the EU will begin discussing the proposal again in the coming weeks.


Chris Jones, a researcher at Statewatch, said:

“The EU cannot claim to be a bastion of human rights at the same time as trying to undermine or eliminate existing safeguards for third-country nationals subject to deportation proceedings. Given that there is no evidence to suggest the proposed measures would actually work, it seems that lawmakers are dealing with a proposal that would be both harmful and ineffective. The previous MEP responsible for the proposal did a good job of trying to improve it – but it would be better to reject it altogether.”

Statewatch researcher Jane Kilpatrick added:

“The proposed recast prioritises detention for more people and for longer durations – the physical and mental harms of which are well-known, especially for people with prior traumatic experiences – over any collaborative measures. The recast would remove the option for states to adopt measures more respectful of human rights and health. The fact that it hasn’t relied on any evidence that these will even work suggests it is a political exercise to appease anti-migrant rhetoric.”


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[1] The report can be found here:

[2] European Commission, Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (recast)

[3] Under the Commission’s proposal, there would be a new ‘minimum maximum’ period of detention of three months – that is to say, no member state could have a maximum detention period of less than three months. This means that Spain and Portugal would be obliged to increase their current maximum detention periods from 60 days to 90 days.

[4] The ‘return rate’ refers to the number of expulsions effectively carried out as a percentage of the total number of deportation orders issued. The EU-wide average return rate has been between 40-50% for the last decade. Data is available via Eurostat: Enforcement of immigration legislation statistics

Statewatch: Monitoring the state and civil liberties in Europe
c/o MDR,88 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1DH
tel: +44(0)203 691 5227

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