In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Readmission Policies in Europe

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Readmission and EU Migration Law: The Issue of Legality
  • Online Datasets and Major Sources
  • Readmission in Visual Arts

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Social Work Readmission Policies in Europe
Jean-Pierre Cassarino
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 October 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0259


According to EU law, readmission pertains to the removal of persons who do not or no longer fulfill the conditions of entry to, presence in, or residence in a destination country. Today, readmission has become a major crossover issue, weaving its way through various bilateral talks, ranging from the fight against terrorism to energy security, visa facilitation, development aid, social protection, and other diplomatic and strategic matters. To understand the reasons readmission has become so pervasive, it is important to analyze the drivers that have been conducive to its unprecedented importance in migration and asylum talks between the EU and its member states, on the one hand, and non-EU countries, on the other. The analysis of such drivers lies at the intersection of various disciplines, including political science, international relations, law, anthropology, sociology, and history, to name but a few. Since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, which empowered the European Commission to negotiate and conclude EU readmission agreements (EURAs) with non-EU (third) countries, the academic literature on this highly politicized and sensitive issue has grown substantially. Predictably, given the normative approach that initially shaped academic debates about whether or not the reacceptance of irregular nationals constitutes an obligation under customary international law, (European) lawyers became the most prominent commentators on readmission matters. The prominence of their discipline coincided with the desire of the European Union to design normatively established rules and administrative procedures aimed at removing irregular migrants and rejected asylum-seekers, in line with internationally recognized standards. Incidentally, in 1994 the Council of the European Union recommended a specimen bilateral readmission agreement, including various provisions and reciprocal commitments among the contracting parties, to be used as a basis for negotiations between a member state and a third country. Concomitantly, as the cobweb of bilateral agreements was expanding across continents, while involving highly heterogeneous countries having contrasting vested interests, political scientists and international relations scholars started to address state actors’ motivations to cooperate on readmission, as well as their respective contingencies and manifold practices. The gap between reciprocal commitments and practice was bridged with the introduction of various heuristic devices. More recently, anthropologists and sociologists have analyzed the consequences of readmission policies on migrants’ safety and psychosocial conditions, in the broadest sense, once they are removed to a third country. Manifestly, the field of investigation on readmission is huge, and interdisciplinary research is much needed. Hence, going beyond disciplinary dogmatism is a necessity.

General Overviews

The growing literature on readmission policies in Europe coincides with the major reforms introduced following the adoption of the Treaty of Amsterdam. Among many others, these reforms marked a watershed in the recognition of a supranational competence, shared with the member states, in the field of “illegal migration” and the “repatriation of illegal residents.” From a legal point of view, Schieffer 2003, Trauner and Kruse 2008, and Coleman 2009 provide a comprehensive analysis with reference to the abovementioned post–Treaty of Amsterdam legal and institutional reforms in Justice and Home Affairs. More recently, Gallagher and David 2014 and Carrera 2016 have extensively analyzed the legal rationale for readmission agreements, their various levels of implementation (Ellermann 2009), and their impact on migrants’ human rights, especially following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. Tensions between supranationalism and resilient bilateralism in the field of readmission are detailed in Cassarino 2010.

  • Carrera, Sergio. 2016. Implementation of EU readmission agreements: Identity determination dilemmas and the blurring of rights. London: Springer International.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-42505-4

    This study focuses on a key aspect of the implementation of readmission agreements: identity determination. It also captures the unsaid tensions between states’ international human rights obligations and their declared intention to accelerate the removal of irregular foreigners.

  • Cassarino, Jean-Pierre. 2010. Readmission policy in the European Union. Brussels: European Parliament.

    Providing added value to member states’ modus operandi and practices as applied to the cooperation on readmission with third countries has been a daunting challenge for the European Union. With reference to the reforms introduced following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, this study comprehensively analyzes the conditions under which the EU has tried to address this challenge, in a context marked by resilient tensions between supranationalism and bilateralism.

  • Coleman, Nils. 2009. European readmission policy: Third country interests and refugee rights. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.

    Coleman’s book is a key reference when analyzing how the EU has shared its competence in the field of readmission with its member states, once the Treaty of Amsterdam was adopted in 1999. Numerous chapters deal in a detailed manner with the history of readmission; states’ obligations under international law, including the principle of non-refoulement; how and why the Commission was mandated to negotiate a readmission agreement; and which material incentives were considered.

  • Ellermann, Antje. 2009. States against migrants: Deportation in Germany and the United States. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511626494

    The author analyzes the capacity of the liberal democratic state to control individuals within its borders. The book grapples with the question of why, in the 1990s, Germany responded to vociferous public demands for stricter immigration control by passing and implementing far-reaching policy reforms, while the United States failed to effectively respond to a comparable public mandate. Ellermann finds that these cross-national differences reflect institutionally determined variations in socially coercive state capacity.

  • Gallagher, Anne T., and Fiona David. 2014. The international law of migrant smuggling. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139059619

    Chapter 10 (pp. 664–734) provides an updated and detailed overview of how the cooperation on readmission has been legally addressed at EU and bilateral levels. Scholars interested in understanding the limitations on states’ rights to remove smuggled migrants will find much in this chapter.

  • Schieffer, Martin. 2003. Community readmission agreements with third countries—Objectives, substance and current state of negotiations. European Journal of Migration and Law 5.3: 343–357.

    DOI: 10.1163/157181603322599279

    A study, written by an official of the European Commission working for Justice and Home Affairs, which explains the mechanisms through which the EU was conferred power to negotiate readmission agreements with third countries and the challenges lying ahead for the Commission.

  • Trauner, Florian, and Imke Kruse. 2008. EC visa facilitation and readmission agreements: A new standard EU foreign policy tool? European Journal of Migration and Law 10.4: 411–438.

    DOI: 10.1163/157181608X376872

    Linking visa facilitation with effective cooperation on readmission, at the EU level, has implications for the EU’s domestic policies and for its external relations. The authors comprehensively assess the costs and benefits of this issue-linkage while referring to negotiations with third countries located in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

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