21 Nov 2017

Panel Debate – Voluntary Return Policy as a Tool for Migration Management

From 16:30 till 20:00

Thon Hotel EU, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 75
B-1040 Brussels

Voluntary Return Policy as a Tool for Migration Management: Exchange of Best Practices

The College of Europe Development Office, in collaboration with the Swiss Mission organized the panel debate: "Voluntary Return Policy as a Tool for Migration Management" on 21 November 2017 in Brussels. 

As a consequence of an unstable geopolitical context in certain regions neighbouring the EU, the number of asylum-seekers in Europe has notably increased in the last years. This has put the European and national migration management systems under a lot of stress and has revealed some of their deficiencies.

Return Policy is a tool that is used to channel the growing number of asylum petitions in Europe. The objective of this panel discussion was firstly to explain how return policy could be a fundamental element for migration management and secondly to share the best practices that the EU and Switzerland are applying in this regard. The panel also aimed at discussing the mechanisms and procedures needed to ensure the full respect of human rights in the framework of this policy.

The event was opened by Prof. Dr Dr Jörg MONAR, Rector of the College of Europe, who stressed the importance of migration in the EU debate as it has been part of the discussions in key recent events such as Brexit. Mr Emmanuel BICHET, Second Deputy Head of the Mission of Switzerland to the EU, contributed to the opening as well, placing the emphasis on the assistance and guarantees that migrants participating in voluntary return programmes should receive. 

The first speaker of the panel, Dr Katie KUSCHMINDER, Research Fellow at the Global Governance Programme at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, opened the discussion by referring to the terminology used by practitioners, suggesting a rephrasing from ‘voluntary return’ to ‘sustainable reintegration’ and calling for more effective and long-term monitoring of returning migrants. Mr Magnus OVILIUS, second speaker of the panel and Head of Return Sector Irregular Migration at DG HOME, European Commission, invited the audience to reflect on the topic and share any innovative ideas they might have on the matter. He in turn emphasised the importance of balancing rationality and emotions when working in migration management. The third speaker of the panel, Mr Sylvain ASTIER, Head of Division at the Federal Department of Justice and Police at the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration, shared the experience of the Assisted Voluntary Returns and Reintegration (AVRR) Programme; in particular the Swiss experience with return countries such as Nigeria. For her part, Ms Kadri SOOVA, Advocacy Officer at PICUM, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, and fourth speaker of the panel, invited to reorient the current approach from a statistical approach to a more personal one, taking into account the migrants’ individual experiences. And similarly to Dr KUSCHMINDER, she emphasized the importance of monitoring the return programmes.

The panel debate was followed by a lively debate where both speakers and participants could raise their questions or remarks on the topic, following the different interventions. The event was moderated by Mr Jesús BALLESTEROS, Director of the College of Europe Development Office.

Download the full programme and the speakers' bios here
Have a look at the the pictures below! 

Panel Debate – Voluntary Return Policy as a Tool for Migration Management

The Development Office develops and manages the College of Europe’s Executive Education, tailor-made courses, e-Learning, contract services, academic cooperation and research projects.

Within the Executive Education courses, the College of Europe Development Office organizes a course on migration taking place from 24 to 26 September 2018, named: "Managing Migration in Europe: Challenge and Response." More information can be found here.

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