The second exchange visit on return counselling took place in Munich 18-22 February, organised in cooperation with the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), and the Coming Home Centre of the City of Munich.
Part of a learning cycle initiated during a Working Group on Return Counselling in Berlin in 2018, the cycle comprises four operational visits in different contexts and environments. The aim is to facilitate peer-to-peer exchange and the development of support tools.
Following the first exchange in the Netherlands looking at challenges of return counselling in semi-closed environments, this visit focused on open reception settings. A mixed group of return counsellors and frontline workers from governmental institutions and NGOs in nine Member States took part, as well as representatives from FRONTEX and ERRIN PMU.
The variety of venues from the return counselling centres to the ‘Anchor’ reception centre enabled participants to gain a first-hand insight into the organisation of return counselling at each step of the process in Germany. The Anchor Centre is one of nine currently being piloted which bring together all relevant authorities in one location – the aim is to connect authorities, and NGOs and offer joined up service provision throughout the whole asylum process.
Participants highlighted the benefit of sharing learning and insight with peers from other countries. Despite the many variations in set-ups in different countries, all agreed on the need for ensuring standards in return counselling to help the clients understand the options and make well-informed decisions.
Two Armenian counsellors working with returnees under the Gov2Gov Armenia project and the Project Officer also took part in the visit on one of the days. This provided an opportunity to exchange information on the project with other counsellors from ERRIN Member States and for capacity building purposes. The Armenian team completed their exchange visit in Europe with meetings organised in Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands.
Based on input from the discussions, ERRIN PMU is now coordinating the development of a number of practical tools and guidance materials for return counsellors. These include a checklist for pre-departure counselling, standardised briefing notes per country on the ERRIN programme and a format that gives some guidance on how to start an interaction with migrants in open settings on the option to return.