Fundamental rights and forced returns of migrants: Ombusdman opens investigation

On 20 October 2014, the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has opened an investigation into how Frontex ensures the respect of fundamental rights of migrants who are subject to forced returns from the EU to their countries of origin.

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An EU Directive lays down common EU standards and procedures for the return of irregular third-country migrants, including rejected asylum seekers. Frontex co-ordinates joint return operations in which several EU Member States co-operate.

  • In 2012, EU Member States ordered more than 484 000 non-EU nationals to leave their territory, with around 178 000 actually leaving.
  • Between 2006 and 2013, 209 such operations took place, returning 10 855 persons in total.


The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union or Frontex, is an EU agency based in Warsaw and created in 2004. In particular, it co-ordinates and finances joint return operations (JROs) in co-operation with Member States.

The EU Ombudsman inquiry

"By their very nature, forced return operations have the potential to involve serious violations of fundamental rights", asserted EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly in her inquiry letter to Frontex.

In order to make sure that Frontex respects fundamental rights and is equipped to deal with potential violations, the EU Ombudsman has launched an own-initiative inquiry. This investigation includes Frontex's relations with national monitoring bodies such as national ombudsmen and questions about the treatment of returnees, reporting and monitoring of joint return operations.

The Ombudsman's letter to Frontex is available here.

The press release related to the Ombudsman inquiry on Frontex and respect of fundamental rights in joint return operations is available here, together with other relevant documents.

Publication Date: Mon 20 Oct 2014
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