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Brussels, 5 October 2005

Readmission Agreements

Readmission Agreements are part of the EU’s broader strategy for combating illegal immigration, adopted by the European Council in Tampere, Laeken and Seville. Such agreements involve reciprocal undertakings by the European Union and third-country partners to co-operate over the return of illegal residents to their country of origin or transit. The Commission is seeking to integrate migration issues into the Union's overall relations with third countries.

The state of play

Based on the Community’s new powers under Article 63 (3) (b) TEC, the Council has so far approved the mandate for the Commission to negotiate Community Readmission Agreements with 11 third countries/entities: Morocco, Sri Lanka, Russia, Pakistan (September 2000), Hong Kong, Macao (May 2001), Ukraine (June 2002) and Albania, Algeria, China, Turkey (November 2002). [1]

Negotiations have been successfully completed with Hong Kong (November 2001), Macao (October 2002), Sri Lanka (May 2002) and Albania (November 2003). The agreement with Hong Kong was formally signed in November 2002 and concluded in December 2003; it entered into force on 1 March 2004 as the first ever Community readmission agreement. The agreement with Macao was formally signed in October 2003 and concluded in April 2004; it entered into force on 1 June 2004. The agreement with Sri Lanka entered into force on 1 May 2005. Negotiations with Albania have also been completed. The agreement was signed in April 2005 and it is expected that it will enter into force before the end of 2005.

Negotiations with Russia were concluded early October 2005. The agreement will be initialled at the Justice and Home Affairs Permanent Partnership Council on 13 October 2005.

Negotiations with Pakistan , Morocco, Ukraine and Turkey are ongoing..

Negotiating mandates have also been received for China, and Algeria (November 2002), but formal negotiations have not yet been launched. However, negotiations with Algeria are expected to be formally launched in autumn 2005.

Readmission Clauses

Readmission Agreements are a relatively new phenomenon and build on standard readmission clauses which have featured for some years in Association and Co-operation Agreements. Since 1996, readmission clauses have been included in trade and cooperation agreements with Algeria, the Andean Community, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Chile, the Community of Central American States, Croatia, Egypt, Georgia, Lebanon, FYROM, Syria and Uzbekistan, inter alia. These clauses do not constitute Readmission Agreements in themselves, but could establish a framework for negotiating such agreements in the future. The conclusions of the 2002 European Council in Seville urged that any future cooperation, association or equivalent agreement which the European Community concludes with any country should include a clause on joint management of migration flows and on compulsory readmission in the event of illegal immigration.

Implementation of the Agreements

Readmission Agreements establish unambiguous and reciprocal obligations and for example lay out:

  • technical provisions governing the readmission procedure and transit operations, including readmission applications, means of evidence, time limits, means of transit, etc;
  • rules on costs, data protection, and the protection of other international rights and obligations.

Readmission Agreements stipulate the obligation to readmit nationals of the country with which the EU has signed the agreement. Also, these agreements contain the commitment to readmit stateless persons or persons of another jurisdiction who entered the EU illegally from the country in question, or vice versa. These might include, for example illegal immigrants in the EU who were also illegal in the country from which they entered, or who had temporary residence permits in that country that have subsequently expired.

Consequences for the European Union

Many Member States have established bilateral readmission agreements with third countries. However, EC Readmission Agreements will, as part of comprehensive European policy on immigration, improve the effectiveness of return procedures for example through:

  • Establishment of common standards relating to all phases of return
  • Mutual recognition of definitions and decisions
  • Establishment of a Technical Support Facility to improve operational co-operation
  • Building of stronger networks of immigration liaison officers in third countries
  • Co-ordination of statistical information
  • Training of staff with responsibilities in the returns sector.

The Human Aspect

Readmission Agreements fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and as such are consistent with the European Union's human rights policies. Provision is being made for in the agreements that, if Member States’ competent authorities want to make use of them, their (national) individual expulsion decisions have to comply with the 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 Protocol on the status of refugees, internal treaties concerning extradition, transit, readmission of foreign nationals and asylum (in particular the 1990 Dublin Convention) and the 1950 Human Rights Convention.

No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Readmission Agreements as part of the common immigration and asylum policy

The foundations for a common immigration and asylum policy were laid down in the Schengen Acquis. This was strengthened by the Treaty of Amsterdam, which gave the European Community powers to negotiate a common immigration and asylum policy. At the Tampere European Council in October 1999, Heads of State and Government called for a common European Union policy on asylum and immigration.

At the European Council in Laeken on 14 and 15 December 2001 the Justice and Home Affairs Council was requested to draw up an action plan on the basis of the Commission Communication of 15 November 2001 on a common policy on immigration and asylum. This plan was adopted on 28 February 2002. It includes a section on readmission and repatriation policy. With this in mind, the Commission launched a debate on the need for a common policy for the return of illegal residents by approving a Green Paper in April 2002.[2] This served as a basis for wide-ranging consultations, including public hearings, on this issue until 31 July 2002. As a result, the Commission published a Communication to the Council and the European Parliament on a Community Return Policy on Illegal Residents.[3] This Communication highlights in particular the need to step up operational cooperation and the necessity to adopt common legal standards to facilitate the work of national authorities handling return operations and to ensure full mutual recognition of removal decisions. It suggests the elaboration of an integrated programme covering the different stages of the return process. Closer cooperation with third countries is a sine qua non for the success of a Community return policy on illegal residents.

In July 2004, as requested by the Brussels European Council of October 2004, the Commission presented a report to the Council and European Parliament in which it outlined the future priorities for a successful development of a common readmission policy. In response to this communication, in November 2004, the Council adopted a resolution on the matter, essentially confirming the Commission’s suggested course of future action.

Following the invitation made by the 2003 European Council in Thessaloniki and as a result of initial reflections on the creation of a Community Return Programme, the Commission put forward the idea of launching preparatory actions for 2005 and 2006 for integrated return programmes. In June 2004 the Council adopted conclusions on the elements for establishing preparatory actions for a financial instrument for return management, which the Commission is currently about to prepare. Such actions shall aim in particular to facilitate operational co-operation between Member States and also to promote integrated return plans, which are conducive to effective and sustainable returns. For 2005, the available funds will amount to 15 Mio €.

For more information:

[1] Readmission Agreements do not apply to Denmark because of its abstention from some of the measures in the Amsterdam Treaty. Negotiations for agreements recommend that Denmark conclude a readmission agreement in the same terms as those of the EU Agreements. Agreements completed thus far also include Joint Declarations concerning Iceland and Norway.

[2] Commission of the European Communities Green Paper on a Community Return Policy on Illegal Residents, COM (2002) 175, 10th April 2002.

[3] Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on a Community Return Policy on Illegal Residents, COM(2002) 564 final, 14.10.2002.

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