Dissemination of information on voluntary return in Belgium and in the EU: how to reach irregular migrants not in contact with the authorities (EMN)

This EMN study analyses and compares the different approaches used by Member States to ensure irregular migrants are informed of options for return.

Background information

This EMN study aims to identify and analyze the different approaches (policies and practices) employed in the EU Member States and Norway to ensure that irregular migrants are informed of options for return, with particular reference to voluntary and assisted voluntary return.

More precisely, the study examines the scale of irregular migrant populations in the (Member) States; national approaches to disseminating information on (voluntary) return, including approaches that have been used to specifically reach out to irregular migrants who are not in contact with the authorities; the role that different actors in contact with irregular migrants play in informing them about (voluntary) return; as well as the challenges, lessons learnt and good practices in this field.

Belgian study

Among other conclusions, the Belgian study highlights that:

The target group is currently mainly composed of irregular migrants who are not or little known to the Belgian authorities.

Therefore, the information strategies have become more diversified in order to reach all the different target groups. The strategies include:

  • Provision of information about voluntary return in open reception facilities and in “open return places” to asylum seekers before they potentially become irregular migrants (in the framework of the “return path”);
  • Specific return path for irregular families with minor children;
  • Provision of information on voluntary return to persons being notified of a return decision at municipalities’ local offices through the SeFoR project;
  • Information sessions for intermediary organisations in contact with irregular migrants (such as embassies, diaspora organisations, NGOs, emergency shelters, etc.) by Fedasil’s return counsellors;
  • Fedasil’s free hotline and return desks, through which migrants can receive tailored information and submit a concrete voluntary return application.

Fedasil has started to measure, analyse and evaluate the impact of the information and communication strategies: evaluation of the return path (2014); online monitoring tool for returnees (2015); and launch of a study about irregular migrants’ perception of assisted voluntary return (end 2015).

For additional information, please read the full Belgian study in attachment.

EU synthesis

The synthesis report is based on contributions from EMN National Contact Points in 24 Member States and Norway. The EMN Inform summarises the findings from the study.

Among other key points, the synthesis report highlights:

  • There is limited information to estimate the exact scale of irregular migration in the EU, due to the largely clandestine nature of the phenomenon, but (proxy) indicators suggest that irregular migration is increasing in many Member States.
  • Various Member States have recently legislated (or plan to legislate) for more effective promotion of voluntary return and almost all (Member) States have in place rules for the provision of information on voluntary return.
  • Several challenges in disseminating information on voluntary return to irregular migrants are common to most Member States, such as: how and where to target irregular migrants when they are not in contact with disseminating actors; language barriers, etc.
  • In half of all (Member) States, state actors maintain a limited role in the dissemination of information, as this task is mainly outsourced to intergovernmental organisations or civil society organisations. This is largely because civil society organisations are more likely to be trusted by migrants and they may have better links to diaspora communities, ethnic minorities, etc.
  • A wide combination of tools (posters, websites, outreach) to disseminate information are used by (Member) States; around one third of all (Member) States have information campaigns targeted specifically at irregular migrants not in contact with the authorities.
  • There is little robust evidence of the effectiveness of different measures in reaching out to irregular migrants not in contact with the authorities. However, (Member) States have developed some lessons and potential good practices in disseminating information.

For additional information, please read the full synthesis report in attachment (available in English).

Publication Date:
Thu 17 Sep 2015
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