What incentives impact a third-country national’s decision to depart voluntarily? The new EMN inform focuses on the issue of voluntary departures from EU Member States and Norway, in compliance with, or in anticipation of a return decision.
The EU Commission’s Pact on Migration and Asylum of 2020 established the aim to develop effective and humane procedures for the return of individuals not entitled to stay in the EU, which led to the creation of an EU Strategy for Voluntary Return and Reintegration. It aims to support Member States in their efforts of encouraging voluntary return, which is viewed as more humane and dignified approach than forced return.
The inform Incentives and motives for voluntary departure focuses on the incentives and motives that Member States have developed to encourage voluntary departure, following the issuance or in anticipation of a return decision, through specific assistance (including the programmes of assisted voluntary return and reintegration - AVRR), factors that contribute to an individual’s decision-making process, and how these elements are interconnected.
Incentives refer to the measures offered by national authorities to encourage a third-county national to depart voluntarily, while motives refer to the personal or contextual reasons for which a person may take the decision to leave voluntarily or not.
The inform explores which incentives exist in the EU Member States and Norway and to what extent they affect the decision to depart voluntarily. It also examines the impact of information dissemination on the decision to take up voluntary departure. Finally, it analyses whether available incentives have impacted the motives behind a decision to depart voluntarily or to benefit from the programmes of assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR). The inform assesses changes that Member States and Norway have implemented since the EU Commission’s Pact on Migration and Asylum, with the resulting EU Strategy for Voluntary Return and Reintegration.
• Most Member States and Norway provide pre-departure and post-arrival incentives, both in-cash and in-kind. In-cash incentives vary depending on the Member State and on the third-country national’s needs and profile. However, in-kind support was found to more significantly impact a third-country national’s decision to depart voluntarily. For instance, in-kind incentives could include counselling, medical or psychological assistance, logistical support to organise the return journey, legal assistance, and the provision of basic needs prior to return such as accommodation, healthcare and food. Several Member States reported also supporting them to attend a training programme, either in the host country or the country of return (e.g. vocational training to improve the qualification or develop skills, or starting a business).
• In some cases, incentives may not be attractive enough to outweigh the benefits of remaining. There are other factors that play an important role at deciding, such as economic opportunities, security, social relations, quality of life, fear of rejection upon arrival or stigma associated with returning.
• The most cited reason why a third-country national would refuse to depart voluntarily was hope. The prospect that they will gain an asylum or that they may obtain a legal residence permit with more time is a powerful motive to remain.
• Reasons that motivate individuals to depart voluntarily included failure to find work, disappointment in the life in the host country, irregular status, fear of being forcibly returned, family reasons, health issues, or a change of situation in the country of origin.
• Voluntary return incentives that can be tailored to the needs of the beneficiary were reported to have the most impact on encouraging the voluntary departure of third-country nationals who have been issued with a return decision.
• Most Member States and Norway have opened the opportunity to benefit from AVRR programmes. In most cases, these programmes are available to nationals from all over the world, although nationals of European Economic Area countries and nationals from visa-free countries may be excluded in some Member States.
• Member States use a variety of tools to disseminate information on incentives to voluntary return. Posters, leaflets and brochures allow for wide dissemination. Provision of information in strategic locations (such as receptions, accommodation and community centres) is also a largely used tool as it enables to reach targeted audiences. Some Member States engage with local authorities and NGOs to increase their outreach and trust in the return assistance programmes.