The European Union’s objective to constitute an area of freedom, security and justice should be achieved, inter alia, through common measures framing a policy on asylum and immigration, based on solidarity between Member States, which is fair towards third countries and their nationals.
In order to contribute to the development of the common Union policy on asylum and immigration and to the strengthening of the area of freedom, security and justice in the light of the application of the principles of solidarity and responsibility-sharing between the Member States and cooperation with third countries, the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) was set up. It aims at supporting actions to contribute to the efficient management of migration flows and the implementation, strengthening and development of a common Union approach to asylum and immigration.
In May 2015 the European Commission adopted the European Agenda on Migration (EAM), which brings together the different steps the European Union should take now, and in the coming years, to build up a coherent and comprehensive approach to reap the benefits and address the challenges deriving from migration. It sets out four levels of action for an EU migration policy which is fair, robust and realistic. When implemented, they will provide the EU with a migration policy which respects the right to seek asylum, responds to the humanitarian challenge, provides a clear European framework for a common migration policy, and stands the test of time: reducing the incentives for irregular migration, border management – saving lives and securing external borders, Europe's duty to protect: a strong common asylum policy, and a new policy on legal migration.
Legal basis of AMIF are the following regulations:
- Regulation (EU) No 516/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 establishing the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (OJ L 150 of 20 May 2014)
- Regulation (EU) No 514/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 laying down general provisions on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and on the instrument for financial support for police cooperation, preventing and combating crime, and crisis management (OJ L 150 of 20 May 2014).
The AMIF Regulation sets out four specific objectives, respectively to:
(i) strengthen and develop all aspects of the Common European Asylum System, including its external dimension;
(ii) support legal migration to the Member States in accordance with their economic and social needs, such as labour market needs, while safeguarding the integrity of the immigration systems of Member States, and to promote the effective integration of third-country nationals;
(iii) enhance fair and effective return strategies in the Member States which contribute to combating illegal immigration, with an emphasis on sustainability of return and effective readmission in the countries of origin and transit;
(iv) enhance solidarity and responsibility-sharing between the Member States, in particular towards those most affected by migration and asylum flows, including through practical cooperation.
In conformity with Regulation (EU) No 514/2014 Article 6(2), in order to implement the AMIF, the Commission has adopted, on 3 August 2015, the 2015 Annual Work Programme for Union Actions, which includes this Call for Proposals.
Overview of policy context
While voluntary return remains the preferred option for returning irregularly staying third country nationals, Member States' authorities will not always be able to avoid the use of forced return. It is therefore important that dignified procedures, fully respecting the fundamental rights of returnees, are guaranteed. A key element in this respect is the forced return monitoring system, as foreseen in the Return Directive1. Based on the Council of Europe Guidelines on Forced Return from May 2005, Article 8(6) of the Directive states that "Member States shall provide for an effective forced-return monitoring system".
Under the Return Fund (RF) Community Actions, several projects focusing on the humane treatment of returnees during forced return have taken place. As part of the 2009 Community Actions, the Commission financed the "Comparative Study for Best Practice in Forced Return Monitoring" which analysed and highlighted best practices relating to forced return monitoring systems in the Member States2. After the results of the study became available at the end of 2011, the Forced Return Monitoring (FReM) project3 was funded under the 2012 Return Fund Community Actions and focused on the best practices identified in the study and their practical implementation.
The necessary foundation for a possible European pool of forced return monitors as well as guidelines and monitoring tools to support Member States in strengthening their national monitoring system were created. Moreover, a first set of monitors was selected for the pool and participated in an intensive training programme, which focused both on the theoretical as well as the practical side of forced return monitoring.
1 Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (OJ L 348, 24.12.2008, p. 98)
2 See http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/e-library/documents/policies/legal migration/pdf/general/forced_return_ monitoring_study_final_report.pdf
3 For more information see http://www.icmpd.org/Ongoing-Projects.1570.0.html
PRIORITIES OF THIS CALL FOR PROPOSALS
The present Call for Proposals aims at funding transnational projects to support the effective implementation of the Return Directive, most particularly that of Article 8(6) which foresees that Member States shall provide for a forced return monitoring system.
Project applications submitted under the present Call for Proposals should build onto the results of previous projects and must address both priorities 1 and 2 presented below and be designed to achieve all outcomes defined under each of the two priorities:
Priority 1: Further development of the European pool of forced return monitors available to the countries in need of implementing a forced return monitoring system and to FRONTEX.
Outcome 1.1: Increased size of the European pool of forced return monitors by the selection of additional monitors, preferably from Member States whose nationals are currently under-represented in the pool. A vital element for the monitoring to be successful is the independence of the monitors. To that end, a selection protocol should be set up which should include third parties different from the authorities enforcing return. Monitors could represent relevant international and non-governmental organizations, public bodies (such as national Ombudsman), etc. This should include development of a protocol for appointment of independent monitors, based on best practices and experiences among the Member States.
Outcome 1.2: Training of the forced return monitors registered in the European pool. The monitors should be prepared for their missions by trainings covering all aspects necessary for the proper fulfilment of their duties. Trained monitors should also be able to contribute to trainings of monitors at national level.
Outcome 1.3: Deployment of the European pool forced return monitors for the monitoring of forced returns organized by countries in need of (additional) monitors for national Forced Return Operations (FROs) or by FRONTEX, including in particular Joint Return Operations (JROs). The monitoring should cover at least the following stages: the pre-departure phase, the operation (return itself) procedure, a possible transit phase and the arrival and reception of the returnee in the country of return and independent reporting on the monitored return operations. To this end, guidelines for independent reporting requirements, based on best practices, should be developed. In line with the general approach taken with regard to Article 8(6) of the Return Directive, this does not cover post-return monitoring (the period following reception of the returnee in a third country).
Outcome 1.4: Embedding of the European pool of forced monitors into a (future) permanent structure incorporated into a larger European framework pertaining to migration and return. Proposals should include a clear sustainability plan to ensure that the results of the project are useful in the long-term and after the end of the funding. The results of the projects, including data on the selected monitors and documents developed for the management of the pool (procedures, guidelines, training materials) must be made fully available for the use by FRONTEX or other body or third party designed by the Commission by the end of the project duration. Projects should be implemented in full co-operation with FRONTEX and other Agencies (e.g. the Fundamental Rights Agency).
Priority 2: Further harmonisation of rules and support to especially those Member States that have not yet managed to build well-functioning monitoring systems.
Outcome 2.1: Exchange of experience and best practices. The results and standards from the previous projects should be further improved and developed by encouraging exchange of experience between different actors of the return
community. In order to increase the harmonisation to the fullest, this should be done in consultation with as many relevant partners as possible.
Outcome 2.2: Replication of best practises in the forced return monitoring. Support to Member States in the process of building up or strengthening their national forced return monitoring system should be provided by emulating best practices identified previously.
Outcome 2.3: Sending of representatives from national return enforcing institutions of selected Member States to observe the monitoring of forced returns carried-out by other Member States and/or EU Agencies (including Frontex). These observers will not be entitled to undertake any monitoring tasks; their role would be to gain experience on how monitoring has to be implemented in practice so that they could replicate the model in their own Member State.
Any actions under this Call for Proposals shall respect and shall be implemented in line with the rights and principles enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the relevant return acquis. Applications should pay appropriate attention to the effects of the project on individual rights and freedoms, as well as to possible remedies. In addition, any action under this Call for Proposals should comply with all relevant ethical principles and all applicable international, EU and national law on ethical issues while carrying out the project.
The actions should also contribute to and operate under the overall co-ordination of the EU integrated system for return management, as stipulated in the EU Action Plan on Return4 and supported by the Council in its Conclusions on the future of the return policy of October 2015.