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Voluntary return and the limits of individual responsibility in the EU Returns Directive

On 10 February 2022, Christian Mommers defended the thesis 'Voluntary return and the limits of individual responsibility in the EU Returns Directive'. The doctoral research was supervised by Prof. P.R. Rodrigues and Prof. P. Boeles.

Christian Mommers
10 February 2022
Leiden Repository

The concept ‘voluntary return’ is a crucial but often poorly understood part of the procedure for the return of irregularly staying third-country nationals from EU member states, as set out in Directive 2008/115 (the Returns Directive). Through this concept, member states allocate primary responsibility for the return process to individuals. This individual responsibility, however, is only vaguely defined in the Directive, creating the risk that it is used by member states in an almost entirely open-ended and limitless manner, with potentially far-reaching consequences for third-country nationals, including their fundamental rights.

This dissertation seeks to clarify the limits of this individual responsibility arising out of the concept of voluntary return in the Directive. It does soby unpacking the two component parts of voluntary return: the obligation to return and the voluntary departure period. This analysis draws on a triangle model that brings into focus the three legal relationships thattogether determine the framework for voluntary return: the individual and the EU member state, the individual and the country of return, and the country of return and the EU member state. The analysis results in the identification of 25 guidelines setting out concrete limits on individual responsibility for voluntary return.

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