EMN Inform: Incentives and motives for voluntary departure (2022)

The EMN report, Incentives and motives for voluntary departure (2022), examines the effects of instruments and possible motives for voluntary returns among third-country nationals

Download the report:

EMN Inform: Incentives and motives for voluntary departure (external website)

Executive Summary:


  • Whilst there is limited information to estimate the exact scale of irregular migration in the EU, due to the largely clandestine nature of the phenomenon, (proxy) indicators suggest that irregular migration is increasing in many Member States.
  • In view of this, the EU and its Member States are keen to develop policies and practices that can increase returns of not having a legal right to stay in the EU. The Return Directive makes clear that voluntary return is preferred at EU level over forced return, if it does not undermine the purpose of the return procedure. It is therefore positive that various Member States have recently legislated (or plan to legislate) for more effective promotion of voluntary return and that 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; engaging irregular migrants with those providing information even when the former is unwilling to return and/or is mistrustful of authorities and other actors (both of which prevent migrants from engaging with those providing information); and ensuring that migrants have access to accurate information even where they are more likely to rely primarily on informal sources of information from within their community.
  • 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 (Member States report) civil society organisations are more likely to be trusted by migrants than State authorities and they may have better links to diaspora communities, ethnic minorities than State authorities which help them to engage with irregular migrants. This study has also found that non-State providers of information (i.e. those outsourced to implement AVRR programmes) are more likely to provide tailored information on return than State Actors.
  • A wide combination of tools (posters, websites, outreach) to disseminate information are used by (Member) States; the tools differ in the extent to which they increase accessibility and the understanding of the message disseminated suggesting that employing a range of tools for information dissemination is advantageous.
  • One of the main ways that migrants learn about voluntary return is through speaking with their peers: whilst perhaps well-trusted by the migrant, such information can be inaccurate or biased.
  • Around one third of all (Member) States have targeted information campaigns specifically at irregular migrants not in contact with the authorities. They have done this by publicising the return message in mainstream and targeted (e.g. communityspecific) media, disseminating information in places frequented by migrants, and building relations with diaspora communities. Several Member States also underline the importance of informing migrants about return before they become irregular migrants / fall out of contact with the authorities.
  • In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that some (Member) States have evaluated the promotion of AVRR, 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.

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