Consular Special Report Embassy 49
Assisted Voluntary Returns
Anuska Casas Pinto briefed consuls on a government/EU-funded service to return irregular migrants and asylum seekers home
Refugee Action is a human rights charity working for migrants and advocating for a fair system of asylum. One of their primary services is managing the Assisted Voluntary Returns (AVR) service funded jointly by the Home Office and the EU Returns Fund.
Refugee Action also supports the Gateway Protection Programme run through the UNHCR which helps to resettle refugees in the UK who are given immediate permission to settle permanently.
Although funded by Government, AVR is run independently of the Home Office. Advice given to migrants is impartial, focuses on the needs of the client and is confidential (information is not shared with third parties, such as the Home Office).
Who qualifies for AVR?
Persons qualifying for the Assisted Voluntary Return service include:
Migrants who are not eligible include:
What AVR includes:
Only asylum seekers and those with discrectionary leave to remain qualify for financial assistance. This includes:
An Embassy Caseworker is also assigned to the client and can assist with filling out application forms, acquiring supporting documents, accompanying the client to interviews at the consulate and covering the costs of obtaining an Emergency Travel Document.
During consultations, Refugee Action is also guided by certain safeguarding policies, which will take into consideration the physical and mental health of a migrant; whether the migrant is a victim of trafficking or domestic violence; returning to a high-risk country; and if the client is an unaccompanied minor.
For irregular migrants, without asylum and without family, the process takes about four to eight weeks, which includes submitting the application and obtaining funding approval from the Home Office (two to four weeks) and obtaining travel documents and booking flights (two to four weeks).
Returning asylum seekers take longer because the Home Office needs to confirm that asylum was claimed. This can take between four and six weeks.
For families with minors, the process can take up three months because social services checks need to be run to ensure there are no safeguarding issues affecting children. The entire process takes a minimum six weeks up to three months.
Approved applicants are given three months to return, after which it elapses. They may apply a maximum of two times.
Refugee Action works through overseas partners in 20 countries (see below). These will be able to assist returnees who are eligible for the reintegration package. Returnees will be met at the airport where they will receive reintegration payments. They may also offer advice on resettlement planning and may assist with education or finding employment.
AVR OVERSEAS PARTNERS
Migrants wishing to find out about Assisted Voluntary Returns programmes managed by Refugee Action, contact 0808 800 0007. Consuls requiring advice on complex cases, contact Anuska Casas Pinto direct on firstname.lastname@example.org