Fundamental rights at Frontex

Forced-return monitors observe and report on Frontex supported return operations on the basis of objective and transparent criteria and cover the whole return operation from the pre-departure phase until the handover of returnees in the third country of return. 

The pool of monitors was established as a subsidiary mechanism to the national monitoring mechanisms and is a requirement included in the Directive 2008/115/EC on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (Art. 8 (6) and in the Regulation (EU) 2019/1896 of 13 November 2019 on the European Border and Coast Guard (Art. 51). Forced-return monitoring is an essential tool to promote fundamental rights compliant returns.

As of October 2022, the pool of forced-return monitors counted 60 monitors from 24 EU Member States and Schengen Associated Countries. Additionally, five of the 46 fundamental rights monitors recruited by the Frontex Fundamental Rights Office were nominated as forced-return monitors to the pool. The fundamental rights monitors, who work independently on behalf of the Fundamental Rights Officer, contribute to return monitoring activities in Member States. 

The day-to-day management and the deployment of monitors to specific forced-return operations is largely handled to varying degrees by Frontex’s Capability Programming Office (CAP), European Centre for Returns (ECRET) and Fundamental Rights Office. In addition, the Fundamental Rights Officer drafts bi-annual observations on return operations based on its analysis of the monitoring reports and reports to the Frontex Management Board. The Frontex Training Unit is responsible for all training-related activities organised for the pool of forced-return monitors.

Between 2016 and 2021, the Forced-Return Monitoring (FReM) II and III projects supported Frontex in establishing the pool of forced-return monitors. The projects were implemented jointly with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights as well as several EU Member States. The FReM II and III projects were co-funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union. The aim of the FReM III project, was to ensure and protect the fundamental rights of returnees, while increasing the independence and transparency of a forced-return monitoring based on a common and harmonised European framework. The FReM projects also provided support to EU Member States in increasing the implementation of the EU Return Directive (2008/115/EC) and improving their monitoring capacity.

The management of the pool of forced-return monitors was handed over to Frontex by ICMPD in December 2021.