Research on European return migration policies awarded with 3.6 million euro

Horizon Europe funded project: Finding Agreement in Return (FAiR)
Migration people walking

Most migrants who receive an 'order to leave' in Europe do not demonstrably return to their country of citizenship. At the same time, such migrants also encounter significant difficulties in regularising their stay. An international research consortium led by Prof.Dr. Arjen Leerkes, Erasmus University Rotterdam, is granted 3.6 million euros for the Horizon Europe-funded project "Finding Agreement in Return" (FAiR) for conducting research on Europe’s return policies and alternatives to return policies. The project starts in May 2023 and will last for 3.5 years. 

The European Union member states have developed various initiatives to improve cooperation with third countries on the return of irregular migrants. However, most migrants who receive an 'order to leave' do not demonstrably return to their country of citizenship. At the same time, such migrants also encounter significant difficulties in regularising their stay. Consequently, a considerable number of non-returnees continue to live in Europe in a vulnerable position. Policymakers often fear that European citizens do not support offering certain alternatives to return to non-returnees, such as issuing work or study permits. Policymakers also fear that such alternatives would attract irregular migration. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support such claims.

Project leader Arjen Leerkes "In this project we will place non-EU actors' perspectives centre stage. The research will analyse the perceived legitimacy and fairness of the EU return policies, in the eyes of relevant actors in source and transit countries. We will assess how national and local authorities, NGOs, returnees, and diaspora groups interpret and frame Europe’s return policies, focusing on Georgia, Iraq, Niger, Nigeria, and Turkey. The research will also be a forum for non-EU actors to express their voices in EU-dominated return agreements."

Tested public acceptability of alternatives to return 

FAiR will produce new insights into the factors that determine whether irregular migrants return or do not return to their country of citizenship. Furthermore, it will create new insights into the feasibility of alternatives to return policies. For example, the consortium will conduct a large survey to test the public acceptability of alternatives to return for irregular migrants in various European countries, and will assess the economic, political, and human rights aspects of the most promising alternatives. The research outcomes will inform policymakers in Europe on the feasibility and costs of the alternatives.

Leerkes "One of the project's aims is also to develop indexes for a new Migrant Return Policy Index ('MIREX'), which will help to improve the existing data on return and compare returns and alternatives to return policies across different countries".

About FAiR

Together with stakeholders in EU+ and non-EU+ countries, FAiR pushes quantitative and qualitative research boundaries in the field, focusing on 5 non-EU+ (Georgia, Iraq, Niger, Nigeria, Turkey) and 5 EU+ states (Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Switzerland). FAiR is a multidisciplinary consortium of academic, private, public, and non-governmental organizations. Governmental and non-governmental stakeholders will participate in the co-creation of FAiR outputs and expand the project's impact reach.

The European Commission approved a 3 million grant to conduct the FAiR project under the Horizon Europe program "Culture, creativity and inclusive society" in response to the call "Return and readmission of irregular migrants in the EU". In addition, Switzerland, an associated country, has also made 0.6 million in funding available for the project.

FAiR's consortium

The FAiR consortium consists of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (coordinator), the University of Geneva, Samuel Hall, the Polish Academy of Sciences, the University of Milan, University for Continuing Education Krems, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), Koç University, Migration Policy Group (MPG), the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), and the Foundation for Access to Rights (FAR).   


More information

Marjolein Kooistra, communications ESSB,

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