EMN National Seminar 30th of September 2016

Return of Rejected Asylum Seekers

Summary and Presentations


The topic of the seminar was based on the recent EMN-study on the Return of rejected asylum seekers. Return issues are very topical at the moment in Europe. EU received over 1,2 million asylum seekers in 2015. Everybody will not be granted international protection, and those whose applications are rejected, are obliged to return to their countries of origin or departure.  A well-functioning and humane return process benefits all parties. Voluntary return is the main aim of the EU, although forced return is used if a person refuses to return voluntarily.


The event was held at the Radisson Blu Royal hotel in Helsinki. It attracted a record number of over 150 participants and the media was well represented.

You can find the presentations held at the seminar below after the summary.

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Kielo ja ministeri Risikko         

Minister of the Interior Ms. Paula Risikko and National Coordinator of the EMN Ms. Kielo Brewis PhD

Seminar programme

Information about the speakers

The seminar was opened by the Minister of the Interior, Ms. Paula Risikko. In her speech, she emphasized the importance of voluntary return and stated that the Finnish Government and the EU have worked hard to accomplish both EU and bilateral readmission agreements and memoranda of understanding with the countries of origin. Readmission agreements are seen as a central tool in combating irregular migration. Cooperation with the countries of origin and transit are also a key to successful returns. Minister Risikko also mentioned the public debate in Finland regarding the asylum decision making, and stated that the quality of the decisions taken by the Finnish Immigration Service has remained high, even though the pressure and workload has been immense.

Francesca Capano_ICFI                                                         

Ms. Francesca Capano ICF International

The next talk was by Ms. Francesca Capano from ICF International, the service provider for the EMN Network, responsible for compiling the synthesis report of the EMN Study on Returning Rejected Asylum Seekers. She presented preliminary findings of the study. The increasing number of rejected asylum seekers in most EU Member States results in increased pressure on the return systems. This highlights the need to find joint solutions within the EU.

Eugenio Ambrosi IOM                                                          

Mr. Eugenio Ambrosi IOM

The key note address at the seminar was given by Mr. Eugenio Ambrosi of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). He is the Regional Director for Europe with the responsibility of the European Union, EEA- and NATO Member States. He began by talking about international migration, the management of migration and the role of return as a part of it. According to Ambrosi the situation in Europe with a large influx of asylum seekers in 2015 cannot be called a crisis. Kenya alone for example has received more refugees than the whole of the EU in 2015. People have been returned to their countries of origin for decades, but that has not stopped migration, so the role of return should be reconsidered. This highlights the situation in the countries of origin and some serious questions need to be asked in this respect: is return a viable option? Is there a way to tackle the root causes for migration more effectively?

It is also essential to develop legal channels for migration to Europe. Much discussion has taken place around this issue, but nothing has happened. In the longer term, Europe needs immigrants. At present, the asylum process is also used for seeking a better life, without actual need for international protection. This poses a burden to the system and hampers its credibility when there are no alternative channels for those who primarily want to come to work in Europe.  

Arjen Leerkes_Erasmus University Rotterdam                                          

Dr. Arjen Leerkes Erasmus University Rotterdam

Dr. Arjen Leerkes from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam was the next speaker. He has researched the criminalization of unauthorized migration. His results show that an efficient migration policy has to be based on fairness. This is especially important concerning return. The returnee has to be able to trust the system. The Netherlands has experimented with so called native counsellors, who give advice on options, especially voluntary return, to rejected asylum seekers from their own countries of origin.

Jan-Paul Brekke_ Social Research Institute Norja

                                     Dr. Jan-Paul Brekke Social Research Institute Norway

After lunch, it was Dr. Jan-Paul Brekke’s turn to present his research on assisted voluntary return from Norway. He has interviewed both voluntary returnees and those considering voluntary return as well as persons promoting voluntary return, e.g. in reception facilities. According to the study, voluntary return programmes have had an impact on the individual motivations of persons to return. There is a lack of linear correlation between the introduction of programs and assisted returns, although once the decision to return had been made, the cash and in-kind support and assistance were considered to be valuable by the returnees. On the other hand, the role of cash and in-kind incentives in signing up for assisted return may be underreported due to stigma. Being motivated to give up the dream of asylum because of a cash incentive may appear stigmatizing to some. The staff at the reception facilities stressed the importance of visible forced returns for their work to motivate assisted returns. They called for more visible action by the police.

Wim Cruysberghs

                                                             Mr. Wim Cruysberghs EURLO

The next presentation dealt with European practical cooperation on return. The subject was presented by Mr. Wim Cruysberghs, International Project Coordinator from the EURLO (European Return Liason Officers) network. Before speaking about European cooperation, he stressed the importance of a well-coordinated cooperation between the national authorities responsible for return. Cooperation on the European level is needed to solve common problems related to return and to spread best practices. Practical cooperation exists in the fields of voluntary return, forced return as well as reintegration. Currently there are several EU-projects in these fields. The Return Experts’ Group (REG) within the EMN network which consists of national experts on return issues from the EU Member States, monitors and coordinates the EU-projects in the field of return. 

Anne Dussart

                                                  Ms. Anne Dussart CARITAS International

The last presentation of the seminar was held by Ms. Anne Dussart of CARITAS International. She presented the training package on returning vulnerable groups developed by CARITAS. Vulnerable groups (women, children, aged persons, people suffering from illnesses and addictions) have particular needs, that have to be considered in return and reintegration.

Paneelikeskustelu                                                                       Panel discussion

A panel discussion with Finnish stakeholders and actors in the field of return rounded off the day. The panel was moderated by journalist Kirsi Heikel (Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE). The panelists represented authorities and NGOs and also included the participation of Mr. Yousif Haddad, a journalist and a writer who fled the regime of Saddam Hussein from Iraq and settled in Finland over 25 years ago presented his views on returning rejected asylum seekers to Iraq. The discussion clearly showed that the subject provokes sentiments both for and against return. Why return people to uncertain circumstances in their countries of origin? On the other hand, why is return considered bad if there are no legal grounds to reside in Finland? A credible asylum process necessitates a well-functioning return system, but especially Ms. Kaisa Väkiparta from Refugee Aid Finland and Ms. Marja-Liisa Laihia from the Church Council stated that return should really be a voluntary choice and the conditions in the country of origin should provide a credible possibility to lead a normal life.

Seminaariyleisöä                                                                         Seminar audience

Presentations held at the seminar

  • Dr. Arjen Leerkes Erasmus University Rotterdam - Managing Migration Through Legitimacy
  • Dr. Jan-Paul Brekke Social Research Institute - Why go back? Assisted Voluntary Return From Norway
  • Wim Cruysberghs EURLO - European Practical Cooperation in the Field of Return
  • Anne Dussart CARITAS International - Training Package for Vulnerable Groups