The legal frameworks of migrants’ rejections from France, Switzerland, Austria

In bilateral agreements between two EU countries, “readmission” is the technical term used to define the procedure applied to those citizens (both EU and non-EU) who don’t meet the conditions to enter and stay in a country. Conversely, in those cases of temporary suspension of the Schengen agreement – as in the French case – the appropriate term is “rejections”.

In practice, the two procedures (“readmission” and “rejection”) are experienced by irregular migrants as identical experiences, as operations carried out by border police who “reject” the migrant on the other side of the border. However, the juridical term is “readmission” when the operation is carried out by virtue of a bilateral agreement, such as in the Austrian and Swiss case, and “rejection” when the operation is carried out by virtue of a temporary suspension of the Schengen Agreement, such as in the French case.

Readmissions between Switzerland and Italy are regulated through an Agreement of 1998, entered into force in 2000.

The management of the Austrian-Italian border is the object of a trilateral agreement between Italy, Austria and Slovenia, stipulated in 2004, and a bilateral agreement between Italy and Austria stipulated in 2014.

The control of the border between Italy and France is subjected to two agreements, in 1997 and 2015, for cross-border police cooperation. However, this border is currently regulated by a different legal frame, related to concerns for public security after the attacks of 2014 and 2015. Indeed, France has declared since the end of 2015 to the end of 2017, the emergency state (etat d’urgence), which entails the suspension of the Schengen Agreement, the reestablishment of border controls and the possibility of rejecting people at the borders for reasons of public security (art.25 of the Agreement). Currently, the management of the French border is regulated by the French anti-terror law. Therefore, the formal reason why France is repeatedly extending the suspension of Schengen is not the migration flow, but the national security.


REJREG (“Rejection regimes: an ethnographic study of the social life of intra-EU borders”) is a research project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the grant agreement n. 792793.

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