Return in COVID-19 times (EMN Inform)

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on return procedures had been significant across EU countries as well as OECD countries in and outside Europe since March 2020. This Inform looks into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on voluntary and forced return procedures and on policy responses. 

The COVID-19 crisis and the measures taken by EU and OECD countries to stop its spread are impacting migration directly and indirectly. As was the case in other areas of migration, COVID-19 measures affected the implementation of return procedures.

This joint EMN - OECD Inform reports on voluntary and forced return procedures and policy responses in EU and OECD Member States between January and July 2020.

Some key findings:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic curbed the ability of EU Member States plus Norway, Switzerland, and other OECD countries to implement forced returns due to the travel restrictions in place and the lack of available flights. The United States however maintained forced returns at close to pre-pandemic level.
  • All returns were impacted during the travel suspension. The evolution of both forced returns and voluntary returns has not been even across the different countries.
  • Several EU and OECD Member States initially experienced a peak in voluntary returns and a dip in forced returns in March 2020. The number of returns picked up again after the lockdown periods in most countries.
  • The European Commission adopted a guidance on the implementation of the Return Directive under COVID-19 in April 2020, which was welcomed and followed by several Member States as a tool to manage the different aspects of return during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EMN and OECD have been collaborating with the European Commission in order to provide information on how the pandemic is affecting migration in the EU and beyond useful to governments and policy makers. The result of the collaboration is a series of five Informs on measures taken at national and EU level in response to COVID-19 and their impacts on migration to address the negative consequences of the pandemic. Other topics include:

  • Residence permits and migrant unemployment (July 2020);
  • Impact on international students (September 2020);
  • Impact on labour migration in essential sectors (October 2020); and
  • Impact on remittances (December 2020).
Publication Date:
Mon 01 Feb 2021
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