Expulsion of immigrants and aliens

Other Names:
Extradition of foreigners
Deportation of aliens

Expulsion is an act of a public authority by which an alien is requested under threat of penalty or, if necessary, compelled to leave the territory of the country of his residence or stay.

The expression 'deportation' is used in the legislation of English-speaking countries; it has an entirely different meaning in French-speaking countries, where it denotes the punishment settlement outside the metropolitan territory of the country.

Expulsion should be distinguished from exclusion (rejection), as exclusion affects entry by aliens into the country. The distinction between expulsion and exclusion is not clearly defined in the legislation of some states and sometimes both result from the same administrative procedures. In practically all states a close link exists between the two measures: expulsion may be utilized to enforce exclusion, and aliens may be expelled without any time limitation on the grounds that they were liable to exclusion at the time of their entry.

Another measure which should be distinguished from expulsion is extradition - expulsion results from a unilateral decision of the state of residence or stay of the alien, and it is a measure taken in the interest of that state and does not prevent the expelled person, after leaving the territory of the state, from moving freely; extradition results from a bilateral arrangement between two interested states, and it is a measure taken in the interest of the state of enforced destination in cases where the person to be extradited is accused of having committed a criminal offence (other than a political offence or desertion), and consists in handing over that person to the authorities of the state requesting extradition.

Expulsion is carried out when the continued presence of an alien is considered to be undesirable by the authorities of the country of his residence or stay. This measure therefore ensures the enforcement of the country's immigration policy; it removes from its territory aliens who, since they have committed criminal offences, are deemed capable of committing such offences again, and aliens whose political views are not in accord with those of the government; expulsion diminishes public expenditure for relief to persons afflicted by indigency, illness and invalidism; and it is assumed to help the country economically by eliminating competition of foreigners with nationals and by removing manpower which is believed to be superfluous.

For the country of destination of the expelled person (generally his country of birth), his arrival is obviously considered a liability in the majority of cases. Even the family of the returning alien, if he has one, may not open its arms too widely; and the returning sick, criminal, aged, and dependent are often additional problems to plague a land usually more plentifully supplied with such than the land which has expelled them. As regards the impact of expulsion on immigrants, their removal from the country where they have been established seriously affects their material, social and moral position and that of their families. They find themselves deprived (sometimes in connection with circumstances of a temporary character, such as slackening of local production) of the positive acquisitions resulting from their residence in the country - relationships of personal, economic and social value; housing; fulfilment of periods of residence; and personal plans. Often such action causes a breaking-up of the person's family. Since the emigrant has severed his ties with his place of origin, his return there may mean greater hardship and increased difficulties.

Particular difficulties and hardships occur in the case of expelled persons who are unable to meet the costs of their return to their country of origin, which may be distant, or who are not acceptable to any country, or who are refugees whose return to their country would endanger their life or freedom. The effect on resident immigrants of the threat of removal through expulsion or exclusion, particularly if this may occur through no particular fault of their own but rather in connection with unemployment, illness or invalidism, retards the immigrants' adjustment to the environment and their assimilation.


In October 1999 in Belgium, 51 Slovak Gypsy refugees had been summoned to a Ghent police station to "check the details" of their applications for political asylum. On arrival, they were rounded up and transported to the detention centre 127 bis in Steenokkerzeel. Identical invitations had been sent to Gypsy refugees in Tienen. Up to 100 refugees were scheduled to be deported to Slovakia a week after that. The treatment of the asylum-seekers provoked angry protests from some political parties and public protests that were dispersed by police water cannons. However, the government claimed that those who refused to leave would not be forced to do so.

In October 1999, Belgium deported 74 Slovak Gypsies by plane, despite a last-minute plea from the European Court of Human Rights to delay the flight by eight days. In scenes recalling the treatment of Gypsies by the Nazis, police used indelible ink to mark seat numbers on their wrists or arms. Legislation changes were due to come into force the following week, and would have given illegal immigrants three weeks to make their case against deportation.

In 2016, Norway said it will send back refugees who had taken advantage of a legal loophole to cross its Arctic border with Russia on bicycles.

Narrower Problems:
Rejection of refugees
Forcing repatriation
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST