Conference: The Implementation of the Return Directive: challenges and good practices from the perspective of the Central and Eastern European countries
On 26 and 27 May Latvian Centre for Human Rights conducted an international conference 'The Implementation of the Return Directive: challenges and good practices from the perspective of the Central and Eastern European countries.' The conference was organised in the framework of the project „Developing good practices: promoting compliance with the Return Directive in Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia” implemented by the Latvian Centre for Human Rights in cooperation with Lithuanian Red Cross Society and Human Rights League, Slovakia.
Project is co-financed by the European Union under the European Return Fund - Community Actions 2012
Conclusions of the conference:
1. There are certain areas where further improvements could be made and states could benefit from good practices that exist and exchanges among them. A number of tools could be used to address the main concerns. The upcoming Handbook on the Return Directive’s implementation to be produced by FRA will be particularly timely for this purpose.
2. Return monitoring is becoming an issue of increased attention and in this context the new monitoring systems in the region still need to be developed and strengthened.
3. Detention of migrants continues to be a challenge in many European countries thus this region is not an exception. Detention cannot be considered a routine practice and should only be applied when necessary and proportionate taking into account the objectives of return. Detention should not serve as an obstacle for effective return.
4. The main challenges for the region in the area of treatment of vulnerable migrants include identification, age assessment procedures and access to services to address their specific needs (health in particular).
In the area of monitoring forced return:
- Further sharing of experience and proven good practices where independent observers are used for monitoring forced return should be encouraged and beneficial for proper implementation of the European commitments;
- Secondly, building of trust between the return authorities and the monitors is essential;
- It is necessary to continue discussions at national level among the authorities and NGOs or other stakeholders to translate the added value of monitoring to practice, as well as build capacities for it (including establishment of training for forced monitors with focus on coercive measures at national level and ensuring that monitors are also on joint flights in order to strengthen the competences of FRONTEX). Use of the ICMPD guidelines for forced monitors and building contacts, exchanging information with experienced monitors shall be encouraged;
- Forced return monitoring would also benefit from enhanced engagement of the returnee in the process in order to increase compliance and address the motivation factors. In this respect, more information, counseling for returnees and their preparation might serve the purpose.
In the area of detention and alternatives to detention:
- Considering that detention is detrimental for human rights and is costly, increased used of a wide choice of alternatives to detention should be explored. At the same time, alternatives have to be viable in view of its’ practical implementation and fit to ensure the objectives of return;
- In this regard, increased engagement of municipalities, communities and NGOs could help to increase the compliance of returnees with their obligations and diminish the need to abscond;
- Discussions at national and European level about the developing case law in this area would add value as well;
- Standards of the CPT shall further be promoted where detention conditions need substantive improvements and effective judicial review in detention cases shall be ensured by entrusting this task to independent bodies with free legal assistance available to detainees.
In the area of treatment of vulnerable migrants:
- Identification should take place as early as possible as it may affect the decision, the presumption of minority shall be applied, while age assessment systems should incorporate not only medical, but also complementary methods in order to come to a more reliable solution, and exchange of existing good practices shall be further promoted.
- In this respect, the guidance from the European Commission on identification would be of particular assistance, and possibly links to parallel developments under the EU Reception Conditions Directive could be built.
9:00 – 9:15 Registration of participants
9:15 – 9:30 Welcome: introduction to the conference
Anhelita Kamenska, Director, Latvian Centre for Human Rights (LCHR)
Svetlana Djackova, LCHR researcher
9:50 – 10:50 Panel 1 – Setting the scene (discussion on standards)
This panel session will provide an overview of the existing international and European legal framework concerning return and the situation and challenges with regard to the implementation of the standards. In particular, the issues of the protection of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, the role of the standards of the CPT and its experience in monitoring forced return and well the situation at the EU level will be addressed.
Chair: Svetlana Djackova, LCHR
- The CPT standards and practice of monitoring immigration detention and forced return, Antonius Van Kalmthout, member of the CPT in respect of the Netherlands
- Developments at the EU level, Molnár Tamás, a former member (2009 – 2015) of the Contact Group Return Directive, Chief international law advisor, Deputy State Secretariat for Hungarian Minorities and Diaspora (Hungary)
10:50 – 11:00 – Questions, discussion
11.00– 11.30 – Coffee/tea break
11.30 - 13.15 – Panel 2 – Detention and alternatives to detention in the return procedure
This panel session will provide an overview of legal and procedural safeguards (or lack thereof) available in a selected range of countries. In particular, it will look at detention practice and alternatives to detention.
Chair: Zuzana Stevulova, Human Rights League (Slovakia)
- Presentation of a research on alternatives to detention in Europe, Jerome Phelps, International Detention Coalition Europe Regional Advisor and Director of Detention Action in the UK
- Presentation of key findings from the project„Developing good practices” (Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia), Lyra Jakuleviciene, expert for the comparative report of the project
- Judicial control over detention in Europe and in Hungary, Molnár Tamás, Chief international law advisor, Deputy State Secretariat for Hungarian Minorities and Diaspora
- The use of detention and alternatives to detention in the context of immigration policy in Poland, Anna Pilaszek, Halina Niec Legal Aid Center (Poland), lawyer
13:15 – 13:30 – Questions, discussion
13:30 – 14:30 – Lunch
14:30 – 15:00 - Presentation of the Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration, Adriano Silvestri, Head of Sector Asylum, Migration and Borders Freedoms and Justice Department, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)
15:00 – 16:50 – Panel 3 – Monitoring forced return
This Panel will address the situation with regard to the situation and good practices of monitoring forced return. The experiences from the states with good practices will be highlighted.
Chair: Svetlana Djackova, LCHR
- Monitoring forced return in the EU: standards, good practices and problematic issues, Adriano Silvestri, FRA
- Presentation of the Forced Return Monitoring project, Charlotte d’Elloy, Programme Assistant International Centre for Migration Policy Development
- The Austrian experience in monitoring forced return, Günter Ecker, Director of the Human Rights Association
- The role of the Czech ombudsperson in monitoring forced return, Ondrej Vala, lawyer from the office of the Czech ombudsperson
16:50 – 17:15 – Questions, discussion
17:30 – 18:30 – Project coordination meeting (for partner organisations)
19:00 – Dinner
9:30 – 10:00 – Morning coffee/tea
10:00 – 11:00 – Panel 4 – Vulnerable groups pending return
This Panel will look on the issues of identification and protection of vulnerable groups, in particular with regard to unaccompanied minors. The age assessment issues will also be covered with a view to raising awareness on the standards and the recent developments.
Chair: Egle Samuchovaite, Lithuanian Red Cross Society
- Vulnerable groups in return procedures and age assessment: Perspective from Slovakia, Zuzana Stevulova, Director of the Human Rights League
- The case of Lithuania: developments and challenges, Egle Samuchovaite, lawyer, Lithuanian Red Cross Society
11:00 – 11:30 – Questions, discussion
12:00 – 13:00 - Lunch
13:00 – 14:00 Working groups on elaboration of recommendations on good practices
- Alternatives to detention
- Monitoring forced return
- Vulnerable groups
14:00 – 14:30 Presentation of the working groups
14:30 – 15:00 Conclusions and recommendations
- Lyra Jakuleviciene, expert
- Svetlana Djackova, LCHR
- The CPT standards and practice of monitoring immigration detention and forced return, Antonius Van Kalmthout
- Developments at the EU level, Molnár Tamás
- Aalternatives to detention in Europe, Jerome Phelps
- Key findings on detention and alternatives in Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Lyra Jakuleviciene
- Judicial control over detention in Europe and in Hungary, Molnár Tamás
- The use of detention and alternatives to detention in the context of immigration policy in Poland, Anna Pilaszek
- The Austrian experience in monitoring forced return, Günter Ecker
- The role of the Czech ombudsperson in monitoring forced return, Ondrej Vala
- Vulnerable groups in return procedures and age assessment: Perspective from Slovakia, Zuzana Stevulova
- The case of Lithuania: developments and challenges, Egle Samuchovaite
- Forced Return Monitoring project, Charlotte d’Elloy