Voluntary return always takes precedence over forced return.
For more than 30 years, the Federal Government and the states (Länder) have promoted voluntary returns (or onward migration), especially of foreigners required to leave the country, through the Reintegration and Emigration Programme for Asylum-Seekers in Germany (REAG) and the Government-Assisted Repatriation Programme (GARP), which cover travel expenses and provide a transport allowance.
Persons from countries of origin regarded as particularly significant in terms of migration policy are granted additional start-up assistance. The programmes are carried out by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on behalf of the Federal Government and the states.
Since these programmes were initiated, more than 500,000 persons from all over the world have received financial or organizational assistance to return voluntarily to their home country or move to a third country willing to take them in. The unit responsible for federal/state coordination at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is responsible for managing the voluntary return funds (Section 75 no. 7 of the Residence Act). The Information Centre for Voluntary Return (ZIRF) at the BAMF offers information on assistance for voluntary returns, on state offerings and advising services. The European Return Fund, which runs from 2008 to 2013, supports joint projects of EU Member States involving international return policy.
For more information, please consult the BAMF website and its section on assisted returns.
Reintegration in the country of origin is increasingly important. For this reason, the Federal Government and the states of Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony-Anhalt have supported the URA 2 (“bridge" in Albanian) project for returnees to Kosovo since 2009. This project offers concrete, practical local support for all returnees from the participating states, regardless of their ethnicity or the circumstances of their return, to help them become reintegrated in Kosovar society. It offers social and psychological counselling as well as financial aid and allowances, such as for basic home furnishings, rent or wages. It also helps returnees set up their own businesses or participate in basic or advanced training. For more information on URA 2, please click on the link in the right-hand column.
The foreigners authorities of the states are responsible for enforcing the requirement to leave the country. Bilateral readmission agreements only specify the procedures for individual countries to fulfil their obligations under customary international law to re-admit their own nationals. Furthermore, the agreements concluded in recent years include the (conditional) admission and transit of persons who are required to leave the country and are not nationals of the contracting partner (third-country nationals and stateless persons). These agreements thus meet the current standards for readmission agreements concluded between the EU and 13 third countries. Operational cooperation among Member States and with the European Border Management Agency FRONTEX is also important, e.g. for organizing joint return flights. Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals creates a legal framework for an efficient return policy in compliance with EU standards for the humane treatment of the persons concerned.