Expatriates stranded abroad because of COVID-19: what do we know about the consular services offered by European countries?

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Jean-Michel Lafleur, Vice-Director of CEDEM ULiège (Centre for Ethnicity and Migration Studies / IRSS) and Daniela Vintila (Postdoctoral Researcher at CEDEM) have released preliminary findings of a survey comparing the types of consular assistance offered by  27 EU Member States (as well as Switzerland and the United Kingdom) to their citizens in distress abroad. The publication highlights the different responses of European states to the needs of their nationals temporarily or permanently residing abroad. It also provides a series of links to identify the nearest consulate and the specific measures taken by consular authorities in response to the COVID-19 crisis.


ens of thousands of EU citizens who have left their home countries for shorter of longer stays abroad are currently facing difficulties to travel back home due to travel restrictions and flights cancelations. In spite of the activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism that has facilitated the repatriation of 1,500  EU citizens so far, states retain, to a large extent, the power to set their own rules regarding repatriation and economic assistance for their citizens abroad.

In a publication released today on the open access platform of the University of Liège, Jean-Michel Lafleur, Deputy Director of the Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies (CEDEM) at ULiège and Daniela Vintila (postdoctoral researcher at CEDEM) compare the conditions of access to repatriation and economic aid from consulates in the 27 EU Member States as well as in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Data was collected by national experts as part of a research project on the access of emigrants to social protection funded by the European Research Council (ERC) on Migration and Transnational Social Protection in Post-Crisis Europe (MiTSoPro). Jean-Michel Lafleur, who is leading this research, summarises his approach as follows: "The current context which sees thousands of mobile Europeans facing difficulties in returning to their country of origin has prompted us to put a preliminary version of our data online in the hope of informing citizens stranded abroad about the conditions of access to consular assistance". The document also contains a series of links to the specific measures taken by consular authorities for each of these countries in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Convergences and disparities in consular assistance offered by EU Member States

The document published by the CEDEM team highlights certain convergences in States’ practices, such as the granting of economic assistance on the condition that any other option (insurance, family support, etc.) is unavailable and that the beneficiary commits to reimburse the assistance obtained once he or she returns to his or her country. However, some States with large numbers of nationals abroad, such as France, Italy, Portugal or Spain have much more developed consular assistance policies enabling, for example, their citizens who are permanently established abroad to receive recurrent assistance from their country of origin in the event of prolonged economic difficulties. Similarly, other Central and Eastern European states such as Poland, Slovenia and Lithuania have specific repatriation policies for ethnic minorities residing in neighbouring countries. Conversely, a final element of convergence can be observed in the use of new technologies as a means for states to get in touch with their citizens abroad quickly through an electronic travelers’ registry (e.g. Belgium, France, Luxembourg) or SIM card location services (e.g. Slovakia).

More info

The publication is freely accessible on the ORBI Open Access platform of the University of Liège

Download the publication


Jean-Michel Lafleur is Research Professor at ULiège and Deputy Director at the Centre for Ethnic and Migration Studies (CEDEM). He is also a Research Associate at the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS).

+ 32 (0)4 366 46 80 ½+32 (0)499 15 74 74 | JM.Lafleur@uliege.be

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