Project News

FAiR: Workshop on Human Rights Monitoring of Forced Return

30 April 2024


On 16th April, ICMPD organised together with the Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences a workshop in Warsaw dedicated to enhancing human rights monitoring in the context of forced returns. The workshop took place within the framework of the Horizon Europe project “Finding Agreement in Return” (FAiR) which assesses the legitimacy and effectiveness of the EU’s return policies.


The FAiR foundational workshop on “Human Rights monitoring of Forced Return” brought together forced return practitioners, predominantly from National Monitoring Bodies (NMBs), including Ombudsman’s offices and Non-Governmental Organisations, national and European law enforcement agencies (including the European Border and Coast Guard Agency – Frontex), in addition to international organisations’ representatives and researchers from the FAiR consortium (ICMPD, Polish Academy of Sciences, Foundation for Access to Rights).

Integrating these different perspectives, the event laid the groundwork towards the harmonisation of monitoring standards across national contexts, including formulating a set of unified guidelines for forced return monitors to be applied in the context of returns by scheduled flight, land, and sea transportation. From this perspective, the workshop grappled with several challenges and promising practices associated with monitoring, for example in the application of restraints, reporting mechanisms, early notification systems and capacities of monitoring bodies. 

Without prejudice to differences in national approaches to monitoring, the workshop established the following:

  • The monitoring and safeguarding of rights follow broadly the same approach across land, sea, and air transportation. Conversely, escorting teams are trained to execute removals in a human rights-compliant manner irrespective of the type of operation. However, monitors need to calibrate observations in line with specificities in each operation’s legal, operational and procedural arrangements. 
  • Monitoring is found to influence human rights compliance in forced returns positively. To maximise this effect, it is recommended to increase the human and financial resources available for monitoring bodies and further consolidate information exchange with law enforcement authorities to maximise the participation and involvement of monitors in return operations.
  • There is a plurality of factors ultimately bolstering monitoring’s effectiveness. These include monitoring human rights compliance throughout the operation including in the pre-removal or detention stage, increasing the targeting and publicization of monitoring mechanisms and reports and mutualising training for monitors and escorts, for example on the application of coercive measures or on jurisprudence applicable to return.

By pointing to the pitfalls and potential of standardisation of monitoring practices, the workshop made considerable strides towards formulating harmonised monitoring guidelines. The FAiR project will continue engaging return stakeholders to gather complementary insights on return processes and establish guidelines rooted in actors’ needs and prerogatives.