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When a country wants to expel, is the question of deporting to where? It can be to the country of origin, to a country by which the person has passed, for a person who applies for asylum it can be the country responsible for it according to the European regulation Dublin III. There are readmission agreements, some of which are foreseen in the Schengen Regulation for the European countries part of this area, and others with countries out of it. These agreements can be signed by the European Union, such as the one designed to facilitate expulsions to Afghanistan, or by Member States, such as the one between Italy and Sudan.

But the State to which the person is supposed to be deported remains sovereign of his decision whether to accept his return to his territory. Its acceptance is reflected by the Embassy giving a laissez-passer, a document necessary for expulsion.

And that can be annoying for the expulsion. Sometimes the authorities of the country are too slow to issue the pass, and expulsion can not take place. Sometimes they do not deliver it at all. For example, the French authorities deliver Obligation to leave the French territory with Eritrea as their destination country, and the Eritrean authorities do not give passes. Then the person is held for a while in detention, but there is a time when it must be released by a decision of a judge or because the maximum length of detention has come to an end.

Then the European authorities invented the European laissez-passer to facilitate evictions. It is the expelling country that issues the laissez-passer, so less to worry about. This measure, of course, violates the sovereignty of the State to which the person is deported to and has no basis in international law, and that country can always refuse. Mali has already done so, and the deported persons have thus returned from Bamako to Paris on the same plane. But it is planned to include the European laissez-passer in future readmission agreements, often negotiated under blackmail for development aid.

Inter-associative press release:



« The European travel document Yet another step to deport by all means

Mid-way in the Valletta processes, and as African and European high officials are meeting in Malta on 8/9 February 2017, the European Union is crossing a step further in its attempts to limit mobility of migrants and imposes its rule on countries where most of migrants originate from through the use of the “European travel document”, a document adopted last October 2016 and almost unnoticed.

The action plan established in Valletta in November 2015 by the EU, its Member States as well as 35 African states aims to “address irregular migration, human trafficking as well as the root causes of forced migration”. Currently under mid-term review, the action plan bases upon “external cooperation” in order to get “third” states’ signature on readmission agreements. Those agreements should facilitate the removal of migrants.

The European travel document (EUTD) marks yet another step in the EU’s strategy to externalise its migration policy for over twenty years. This travel document is issued exclusively by EU Member States and enables the deportation of a person without s/he has been identified by the “third” country h/she suspected of coming from, i.e. without the person being issued a consular travel document regardless of the person’s rights and of the principle of equality between sovereign states (guaranteed in the Vienna Convention).

Despite the strong opposition of African leaders against the European travel document as soon as November 2015, a position reasserted in early 2017 by civil society and the Malian government, the EUTD is already in use, irrespective of substantial shortcomings both in the format and in the content.

Beyond the negative and immediate impact of a removal order on people, it should be stressed that the complete vagueness on the use of the EUTD may lead to serious human rights violations, as illustrated by the number of interrogations and uncertainties (see attached list).

As the deportation apparatus is gaining in strength (cooperation with Turkey, Afghanistan, Libya, as well as Frontex’s new prerogatives), it is worth noting that fundamental rights are not even mentioned once in the related regulation published in the EU Official Journal.

The undersigned European and African networks of civil society organisations hereby call on the EU Member States to immediately suspend the use of the EUTD, and call on the EU authorities to provide publicly and with no delay complementary and indispensable information on its use (see attached list of required information).

Mobility is a right, not a tool for diplomacy bargain.

Signatory organisations
AEDH – European Association for the Defence of Human Rights
EuroMed Rights
FORIM – Migration based International Solidarity Organisations Forum
Medico International
West African Migration Observatory »


You can download here the text in English of “European Travel Documents: matters of concerns and unclear aspects”.