Following a recent murder of a teacher in France, the French government decided to send about 230 people back to their country (they were under surveillance by the French authorities for links to terrorism).

It was mentioned that this requires the agreement of the countries these people come from (they do not have the French nationality). Why is it so?

I was under the impression that a country can always expel foreigners from their ground by simply sending them back (in a plane for instance).

1 Answer 1


If you expel someone from your territory, you usually place them on a plane to their home country, at which point they are admitted across the border and officially the other country's problem. Most of the time, it is this simple. However, some countries do not want for example terrorists returned to them. So they will refuse those people at the border by claiming for example that they are no longer citizens, at which point they are placed on a return flight to France and become France's problem again (plus they've cost France the price of the flight there and back). France can exert diplomatic pressure on other countries to get them to accept these people, but the final decision is always internal in the receiving country.

Sweden is dealing with a similar issue with Afghani asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. Afghanistan claims that those people are not Afghani and they will not accept them. There have been a number of more or less secret rounds of negotiation, leveraging foreign aid to Afghanistan among other things, in order to get Afghanistan to acknowledge that they are Afghani citizens and can be expelled there. Without Afghanistan's consent Sweden can place them on a plane to Kabul, but they will be returned to Sweden on the next flight by Afghani authorities. Sweden has no official say over who gets admitted to Afghanistan, just like how France has no say over whether any other county will accept 230 suspected terrorists across their border.

So the right to expel someone is not absolute. You have to have somewhere you are expelling them to, and if no one wants them you're stuck with them.

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    The problem is even more complex when you consider the UDHR. If a country is not a signatory to that, Western countries don't even have the power to invoke 'international law'. Even for signatories, there is the obvious loophole: That person lost their citizenship the moment they were suspected/detained/convicted of terrorist acts, making them stateless, which invokes a whole other series of laws. Messy, messy, messy.
    – ouflak
    Oct 20, 2020 at 7:16
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    This is a reason why there are still detainees at Guantanamo. Their native countries don't want them back - even some of the ones where there is clear evidence that they were not actually terrorists. Those countries are now afraid that their time in detention has potentially 'radicalized' them. Very difficult, and expensive, situation to manage.
    – ouflak
    Oct 20, 2020 at 7:37
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    @ouflak: The UDHR is a Declaration, not a Treaty. It's intentionally binding on non-signatories.You can't opt out of Human Rights. The real problem is that the UDHR doesn't help the extraditing country. They're human rights, and apply to humans not states.
    – MSalters
    Oct 20, 2020 at 9:19
  • @MSalters, "It's intentionally binding on non-signatories." - Not true.
    – ouflak
    Oct 20, 2020 at 9:49
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    @user253751 No, because they never admit them, so they never actually expel them. France can send the suspected terrorists to the border of another country, but if that country doesn't admit them then they are not expelled, they are rejected at the border which is different.
    – user141592
    Oct 20, 2020 at 11:31

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