Frontex Deportations

By R.B., Editorial Office Migration-Control

Deportations are a central component of EU’s externalization politics.1 For many years and with increasing engagement, Frontex has been involved in this realm of externalization politics – earning themselves the label of „EU’s deportation machine.“

In 2006, Frontex coordinated the deportation of eight people. Since then, the agency’s involvement in the organization and coordination of deportations has been continuously growing.2 Under the 2016 EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, Frontex started supporting the Greek state in readmission operations.3 Then, in 2019, Frontex’s extended mandate came into force, whereby Frontex further became involved in so-called voluntary returns. This was the first time that Frontex provided technical assistance to Member States in so-called voluntary returns.4

The many forms of Frontex’s involvement in deportations are outlined in “Frontex’s reports on return operations – 1st half 2021″5

1. “Providing assistance at pre-return stage to remove obstacles related to the implementation of returns.” This includes Frontex assisting EU Member States to ensure that someone who is to be deported is identified and recognized as a citizen by a third country – a prerequisite for deportation.
2. “Providing logistical support by ticketing/chartering aircraft and deploying Return Teams of the European Border and Coast Guard Standing Corps”
3. “Financing or co-financing all types of returns.”
4. “Optimizing resources at the European level…”
5. “Organizing, promoting and coordinating activities encouraging and enabling the exchange of information and the identification and pooling of best practices in return matters between Member States.”
6. “Fostering communication and a joint approach on return across the EU.”
7. “Providing an Operational Plan that sets the rules and details regulating the operation…”
8. “Supporting the monitoring of fundamental rights with the pool of forced-return monitors.”

With these operational, coordinative as well as financial involvement in deportations, Frontex recorded 8239 people returned by or with its support in the period between 01.01.2021 and 30.06.2021. And although we are in the midst of a global pandemic, in June 2021 „the highest ever number of Frontex supported returns was registered“. To this end, Frontex states, it has ensured „flexibility when confronted with the health and safety restrictions imposed by Member States, non-EU countries and airlines, by providing Member States with tailored support.”

However, the involvement in deportations for Frontex still doesn’t seem to be enough. On the contrary, the agency is striving to further expand its competences in this area. Frontex is “actively exploring possibilities to more systematically support Member States also in return operations by land and sea.”6 This exploration has been successful. Frontex has seen an increase in its engagement, particularly in so-called voluntary return operations. This is also due to its enhanced efforts to enter into cooperation with national institutions, as recently happened with the “Bundesagentur für Betreuungs und Unterstützungsleistungen BBU”, the “Office Frainçais de l’Immigration et de l’intégration OFII” and the “Swedish Migration Agency SMA”.7 It must be expected that Frontex’s involvement in so-called voluntary returns will continue to increase in the future, as its capacities on the basis of its reinforced mandate in the area of so-called voluntary returns will be further expanded. In 2022, Frontex is to take over the activities of the “European Return and Reintegration Network” to ensure a more effective operationalization of the so-called voluntary return politics. This is to be achieved, among other things, through cooperation with „providers of reintegration countries in third countries“, through a „permanent corps of return experts“, and through more efficient cooperation and coordination between EU member states. The explicit wish is that „Frontex should increase the number of return operations it carries out – including voluntary returns.”8 The goal: 50,000 deportations in one year.9

As a side note: the involvement of Frontex in deportations does not end with official mandates. They are furthermore involved in push-backs, the “informal cross border expulsion (without due process) of individuals or groups to another country.”10 This practice operates outside legal frameworks, but is no less a common practice – as it has been documented by people on the move and activist groups for years.



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