On 21-22 June 2017, the Panel Meeting on return, readmission and reintegration took place in Yerevan.
The meeting organized jointly by Armenia and France with the support of the European Commission (EC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mission in Ukraine gathered representatives of Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, European Union (EU) Member States, international organizations, academia and civil society.
The meeting started with welcome statements of Mr. Robert Rybicki (EC Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG Home)), H.E. Mr. Garen Nazarian, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Mr. Gagik Yeganyan, Head of the State Migration Service of Armenia, H.E. Mr. Piotr Antoni Switalski, Ambassador, Head of EU Delegation to Armenia and H.E. Mr. Jean-Francois Charpentier, Ambassador of France to Armenia. Following the introduction, Ms. Laura Scorretti from IOM Ukraine presented an overview of the national experiences of EaP countries and EU MS related to return, readmission and reintegration.
The meeting was divided into four sessions, although all sessions were tightly interconnected. The first session devoted to return provided an opportunity to the participants to learn recent updates regarding EU legal basis and policy on return from the presentation of Mr. Tomasz Ostropolski from DG Home; to consider the significance of migration cycles for various return and reintegration patterns during the presentation of Dr. Jean-Pierre Cassarino from the Institut de Recherche sur le Maghreb Contemporain (IRMC) and; to get acknowledged with current activities of FRONTEX related to organization of return operations in the course of the presentation of Mr. Antonio Fernandez Esteban.
The second session – Readmission – started with presentation of Ms. Berta Fernandez from IOM Brussels who provided the participants with the information on recently launched European Readmission Capacity Building Facility (EURCAP), funded by EU and implemented by IOM, and those support options, which EURCAP may offer to the third countries. After that, the representatives of Armenia (Ms. Haykanush Chobanyan, State Migration Service), Czech Republic (Mr. Adam Gazda, Ministry of Interior), Ukraine (Ms. Hanna Taburianska, State Migration Service) and Georgia (Ms. Salome Tardia, Ministry of Interior) shared the national experiences regarding organization of return and readmission in their respective countries, including negotiation, conclusion and implementation of readmission agreements. The final part of the third session was dedicated to the very important aspect of return and readmission process – the human rights. This issue was considered from different perspectives in the course of presentations delivered by Ms. Inna Borisevich from UNHCR Armenia and Mr. Mihai Voda from the Ministry of Interior of Moldova.
At the end of the first day of the meeting, the third session – Reintegration- started with presentations regarding French policy on reintegration and activities of the French Office for Immigration and Reintegration (OFII), in particular the return and reintegration projects implemented in Armenia. The presentations were delivered by Ms. Agathe Winter (OFII France), Mr. Jean Domonique Fabry (OFII Armenia) and Ms. Tigranuhi Tarakhchyan (PRAM project, Armenia). Following this, Mr. Radim Zak from International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) shared the achievements of the ‘MOBILIZE’ (Support to the implementation of the Mobility Partnership with Azerbaijan) project implemented in Azerbaijan with the support of the EU, in particular its Component 5 on Return and Reintegration.
The participants continued to discuss the reintegration issues at the beginning of the second day of the meeting started with two presentations of civil society representatives. Ms. Oksana Shliusar from Ukrainan NGO ‘Revival of the Nation’ and Ms. Tata Topadze from NGO Caritas Georgia shared their respective experiences in relation to reintegration of returning migrants, the activities implemented by the NGOs and the challenges faced by the migrants, including difficulties with receiving communities. These two presentations discovering various sensitive issues of the return and reintegration process followed by the most intensive discussions between the meeting participants.
The final, fourth, session of the meeting was organized by IOM in accordance with the recently updated format of the Panel operation envisaging the interactive follow up activity directed to in-depth consideration of the issues discussed during the plenary part of the meeting. The interactive session called ‘Voluntary return vs. forced return: the way of sustainable reintegration’ facilitated by Ms. Natasha Walker (NWA) and Ms. Iryna Rozka (IOM Ukraine) provided the participants, while working in the small groups on two different case studies, with the opportunity to consider and discuss the return and reintegration process from different perspectives: migrant’s, hosting and home governments’. This included the most significant challenges experienced by all parties, pros and contras of the voluntary and forced return, the benefits of the voluntary return, stakeholders to be involved etc. At the end, each group had an opportunity to develop and present a joint strategy considering the interests of all parties of return and reintegration process. All strategies presented confirmed the significance of the reintegration for the sustainability of return and importance of the cooperation between various stakeholders to achieve the goal of sustainability.
The Panel meeting was closed by the final remarks and the words of appreciation from EC, OFII and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia. The next Panel meeting devoted to preventing facilitation of irregular migration to be held in October 2017 in Kiev, and will be co-hosed by Ukraine and Lithuania.