Directive 2008/115 - Common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals

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Current status

This directive has been published on December 24, 2008 and entered into force on January 13, 2009.


Key information

official title

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
Legal instrument Directive
Number legal act Directive 2008/115
Original proposal COM(2005)391 EN
CELEX number i 32008L0115


Key dates

Document 16-12-2008
Publication in Official Journal 24-12-2008; Special edition in Croatian: Chapter 19 Volume 008,OJ L 348, 24.12.2008
Effect 13-01-2009; Entry into force Date pub. + 20 See Art 22
End of validity 31-12-9999
Transposition 24-12-2010


Legislative text



Official Journal of the European Union

L 348/98



of 16 December 2008

on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals


Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community, and in particular Article 63(3)(b) thereof,

Having regard to the proposal from the Commission,

Acting in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 251 of the Treaty (1),




The Tampere European Council of 15 and 16 October 1999 established a coherent approach in the field of immigration and asylum, dealing together with the creation of a common asylum system, a legal immigration policy and the fight against illegal immigration.



The Brussels European Council of 4 and 5 November 2004 called for the establishment of an effective removal and repatriation policy, based on common standards, for persons to be returned in a humane manner and with full respect for their fundamental rights and dignity.



On 4 May 2005 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted ‘Twenty guidelines on forced return’.



Clear, transparent and fair rules need to be fixed to provide for an effective return policy as a necessary element of a well managed migration policy.



This Directive should establish a horizontal set of rules, applicable to all third-country nationals who do not or who no longer fulfil the conditions for entry, stay or residence in a Member State.



Member States should ensure that the ending of illegal stay of third-country nationals is carried out through a fair and transparent procedure. According to general principles of EU law, decisions taken under this Directive should be adopted on a case-by-case basis and based on objective criteria, implying that consideration should go beyond the mere fact of an illegal stay. When using standard forms for decisions related to return, namely return decisions and, if issued, entry-ban decisions and decisions on removal, Member States should respect that principle and fully comply with all applicable provisions of this Directive.



The need for Community and bilateral readmission agreements with third countries to facilitate the return process is underlined. International cooperation with countries of origin at all stages of the return process is a prerequisite to achieving sustainable return.



It is recognised that it is legitimate for Member States to return illegally staying third-country nationals, provided that fair and efficient asylum systems are in place which fully respect the principle of non-refoulement.



In accordance with Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status (2), a third-country national who has applied for asylum in a Member State should not be regarded as staying illegally on the territory of that Member State until a negative decision on the application, or a decision ending his or her right of stay as asylum seeker has entered into force.



Where there are no reasons to believe that this would undermine the purpose of a return procedure, voluntary return should be preferred over forced return and a period for voluntary departure should be granted. An extension of the period for voluntary departure should be provided for when considered necessary because of the specific circumstances of an individual case. In order to promote voluntary return, Member States should provide for enhanced return assistance and counselling and make best use of the relevant...


This text has been adopted from EUR-Lex.


Original proposal



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