Repatriation: Britain’s Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme

Voluntary Repatriation

Some political commentators and MPs are unaware that Britain has a scheme for the voluntary repatriation of migrants.

The Labour government under Tony Blair introduced the current system.Repatriation: European Return Fund

Blair signed the UK up to the European Return Fund which helped ‘managed migration’ by sending migrants home.

The ongoing primary scheme in the UK for those who wish to return to their country of origin is the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP).

The VARRP scheme has been funded by the UK Home Office and the European Union.

VARRP is the UK’s largest Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programme, which has existed since 1999.

The programme is explained in a Home Office — Border Agency publication:


Voluntary Repatriation—legal basis

Section 29 of the Immigration Act 1971 used to be the legal basis for the voluntary repatriation scheme.

However, Section 29 was repealed by Section 58 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act (NIA) 2002.

Therefore, Section 58 of the NIA Act 2002 is now the legal basis for the current Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP).

Section 58 permits the Secretary of State for the Home Department to make arrangements to assist ‘voluntary leavers’, including making payments relating to their travel and reintegration into a new place of residence.

Who is eligible to apply for voluntary repatriation?

Section 58 explicitly states that the existing government repatriation scheme is not for British citizens or EU citizens.

The government has a target group for the voluntary repatriation programme.

The specific target groups can be summarised as:

  • Asylum seekers who make use of voluntary return;
  • Refugees or those with Humanitarian Protection who make use of voluntary return;
  • Third – country nationals who do not or no longer fulfil the conditions for entry and/or stay in a Member State and who make use of voluntary return;
  • All other third-country nationals who do not or no longer fulfil the conditions for entry and/or stay in a Member State.

Other voluntary repatriation schemes

The Facilitated Return Scheme is a voluntary returns scheme for foreign national prisoners (FNPs) and accounts for nearly a third of all FNP removals.

The scheme was introduced in 2006.

Since October 2009, the package given to non-EEA (European Economic Area) prisoners who agree to leave the UK at the end of their sentence includes a £500 cash payment and a reintegration package worth up to £3,000 – or up to £5,000 for those who leave before the end of their sentence, either under the Early Removal Scheme or by applying to continue their sentence in their home country.

Repatriation: Hypocrisy of Labour Repatriation: Yvette Cooper said repatriation was against British values

In 2014, Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and the then Shadow Home Secretary, said:

“To hear the language of repatriation… is shameful.”

“It’s a policy that… does not reflect British values.”

It was the Labour government that brought in the current scheme of repatriation!

Further information

Return home if you’re in the UK illegally or have claimed asylum

International Organisation for Migration

Abuse of the voluntary return programme



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