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European Commission - Press release

An effective and humane return policy: 8 Member States have yet to comply with the Return Directive

Brussels, 29 September 2011 – Today the European Commission asked 8 Member States to ensure full compliance with EU rules on the return or removal of irregular migrants. So far Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and The Netherlands have not notified the Commission of national measures implementing the 2008 'Return' Directive. Member States were required to transpose the provisions of the Directive by 24 December 2010 and their failure to do so is jeopardizing the efficiency and fairness of the common return procedure and undermining the EU's migration policy.

Despite letters sent by the Commission on 27 January 2011, the 8 Member States mentioned have still not informed the Commission of having adopted the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to entirely comply with the Directive. The Commission therefore decided to send them reasoned opinions (in accordance with Article 258 of the TFEU). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the Member States concerned to the EU's Court of Justice and request that the Court impose financial sanctions.

The Return Directive provides for clear, transparent and fair common rules concerning return, removal, detention and re-entry, which take into full account the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of the persons concerned. In the past, Member States’ legislation and practice in the field of return have differed widely. The Return Directive lays down a binding common legal frame for a European return policy and guarantees that all returns are carried out in a humane and dignified manner.

This also is the first EU legal instrument to provide for a common catalogue of specific rights for irregular migrants. Notably, the Return Directive extends the right to non-refoulement to any illegally staying person, where before this right was only guaranteed for asylum seekers.

The Directive is one element of a comprehensive and balanced EU migration policy, which also includes measures for organising legal migration and for combating those who engage in trafficking in human beings and economic exploitation of migrants.


Directive 2008/115/EC on common standards and procedures for returning illegally staying third-country nationals ("the Return Directive") entered into force on 16 December 2008.

All States which are bound by the Return Directive (all EU Member States except Ireland and the UK, as well as the associated Schengen States – Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are obliged to adapt their national legislation in accordance with the provisions of the Directive.

The deadline for transposing the provisions of the Directive into national law was 24 December 2010. On 27 January, letters of formal notice were sent to 20 Member States which had not yet notified the Commissions of having implemented measures to fully transpose the Directive. Since then, the Commission has closed the infringement proceedings against France, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Romania.

As of 15 September 2011, 19 EU Member States or associated Schengen States had notified the Commission of their full transposition of the Directive (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, France, Romania, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Switzerland and Norway). 4 EU Member States had notified partial transposition of the Directive (Belgium, Lithuania, Sweden and The Netherlands). In accordance with Article 4.1 of the Protocol annexed to the Treaties on the position of Denmark, Denmark chose to implement the Directive in its national law.

For more information


Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

Contacts :

Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)

Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)

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