Difference Between Voluntary Deportation and Repatriation


Voluntary deportation and repatriation are two processes that involve the removal of people from one country to another. Although they may seem similar, there are important differences between voluntary deportation and repatriation.

How Voluntary Deportation Works

Voluntary deportation is the process of returning to one’s home country by choice. It enables people who do not have any legal right to stay in the UK and who would otherwise face enforced removal from the country to leave voluntarily.

The Home Office allows people with no lawful basis for their presence in the UK to return home voluntarily rather than face detention or removal proceedings. To be eligible for voluntary departure, an individual must meet certain criteria and enter into a formal agreement with the Home Office that they will leave within a specified timeframe and not return until they have permission.

To apply for voluntary deportation, individuals must contact the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) team at their nearest Home Office reporting centre. They will then be interviewed by an NRM advisor who will assess their eligibility and, if suitable, discuss the voluntary deportation process in more detail.

Once it is agreed that a person can apply for voluntary deportation, they must sign a Voluntary Departure Agreement (VDA), which sets out the terms of their departure. This includes agreeing to leave the UK within a specific timeframe, not returning until permission, and paying any outstanding fines or costs associated with their removal from the UK.

Once all the relevant agreements are signed and payment made, individuals are given 14 days to arrange travel to their home country and leave the UK voluntarily. They may also be offered assistance with arranging transportation if necessary.

How Repatriation Works

Repatriation is returning an individual, such as a refugee or a displaced person, to their homeland. Repatriation is usually voluntary and may be facilitated by UNHCR or other organizations. The process ensures that any necessary assistance is provided to ensure the person reaches their country safely. This includes reintegration support, medical care, and other services, such as bearing the financial costs of travelling.

The UK Immigration Rules define the criteria that must be met for an individual to be lawfully removed from the country or returned voluntarily under a scheme such as Voluntary Returns Service (VRS). These include addressing any necessary protection or human rights concerns before departure.

Repatriation can also occur through resettlement programs, where refugees are given permanent residence in another country. This is often done when returning home is not possible due to conflict or other conditions in their homeland. The UNHCR works with governments and other organizations to provide safe and dignified returns for those who wish to return home but cannot do so safely.

Types of Repatriations

There are several types of repatriation, each with its specific requirements:

Medical Repatriation

Medical repatriation is the process of returning a patient to their country of origin for medical treatment when such treatment is not available or affordable for them in the UK. Charities or NGOs often provide medical repatriation services, offering assistance to individuals who wish to receive healthcare back home but lack the financial means.

Sentence Transfer

Sentence transfer is the transfer of a prisoner from one country to another so that they can serve their sentence in the place where they committed the offense. Sentence transfers are often done with the consent of both countries and take place under pre-agreed conditions that preserve the individual’s rights. This process is usually only available for those convicted in the UK and who wish to spend their sentence in their home country.

Refugee Repatriation

Refugee repatriation is the process of returning a refugee to their homeland. The UNHCR works with governments and other organizations to provide safe and voluntary returns for refugees when possible. This includes providing reintegration support, legal assistance, medical care, and other services to ensure a successful transition back home.

Final Thoughts

Voluntary deportation and repatriation are two distinct processes with different implications for individuals. Voluntary deportation is a process by which an individual can leave the UK after signing a voluntary departure agreement, while repatriation is the process of returning an individual to their homeland. Repatriation may be facilitated by UNHCR or other organizations and includes providing assistance such as medical care and financial support for the individual’s journey.