Monitoring removal from the country
On 1 January 2014, the amendment to the Aliens Act and the Act on the Minority Ombudsman (now the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman) entered into force whereby the Ombudsman is required to monitor, throughout the process, the enforcement of the removal from the country of foreign nationals subjected to refusal of entry or deportation.
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman monitors removals from the country
In accordance with the Aliens Act the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman is required to monitor removals from the country. The purpose of the monitoring of removals from the country is to develop the return process in order to make it more humane, while ensuring respect for human rights. Other goals include increasing the transparency of the return system, improving the returnee’s legal protection and reducing prejudice against the operations of the authorities.
During the monitoring journey, the monitor can ask questions from the head of the escort team and express her observations, but the monitor has no authority to intervene in the execution of the return operation. Based on experiences collected from individual return trips, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman can provide authorities with proposals, recommendations, statements and advice related to the enforcement of removals.
The scope of monitoring may vary, covering all stages of return or targeting only a specific stage, such as collecting the person to be removed from the detention center. Due to the number of removals and based on an appropriateness and risk assessment, the Ombudsman has so far focused on returns in which the person to be removed is escorted to the destination. The emphasis is placed on persons in a vulnerable position and so-called risky returns during which the returnee may, for example, resist removal from the country and the police may have to use force. In the assessment of vulnerability, attention is paid to families with children, unaccompanied women, the returnee’s mental and physical health, as well as returns to challenging destination countries as for instance Iraq and Afghanistan.
During removal from the country, monitors pay attention to matters such as how the police officer heading the escort team manages the operation and how police escorts treat the persons being removed. Attention is paid to the officers’ communication with returnees, information given about the journey, taking account of the returnee’s state of health and need for interpretation, offering food and drink, the possibility to use a toilet and take along luggage, use of force proportional to resistance, and skilled use of forcible means.
With respect to individual returnees, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman must take account of privacy protection and secrecy obligations. Returns also involve numerous confidential matters from the policing viewpoint. Publicity and the broad dissemination of information do not, therefore, form the focus areas in such operations. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman and individual monitors do not disclose information, either in advance or afterwards, on return operations or their implementation.
• Päivi Keskitalo, tel. 0295 666 801
The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has been tasked with monitoring the enforcement of removal from the country since 2014. Over the 5 year period, the ombudsman has monitored a total of 155 returns. As part of the AMIF project, the ombudsman will carry out the assessment of individual returns in 2014–2018 and produce recommendations for developing the enforcement of removals in a more transparent manner that respects the fundamental and human rights of those being returned. The project also provides proposals and measures for the development of monitoring and, in particular, for improving its impact. Impact is also improved by improving internal and external communication. The European Union’s objective is to increase returns, which will mean that the importance of monitoring and the need for cooperation between Member States will increase. The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman’s development project also increases collaboration with Frontex and monitoring organisations in Member States to ensure that national monitoring and its impact are strengthened in a manner that is consistent with the EU’s objectives.
The project period is 1 February 2019 – 31 July 2020 and the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has been granted a financial contribution of 233,000 euros by the EU.