Due to an increasing need for exchanging information on immigration in EU and fighting against different forms of abuses of the right to the free movement of people within EU, the European Council during the session in Laekenu called in 2001 the European Commission to study the possibility of “establishing an information exchange system on various aspects of migration in order to design a common asylum and migration policy“. For this purpose, the European Council adopted during the session in Thessalonica in 2003 a Decision calling upon the European Commission to establish the European Migration Network pilot project and announced the examination of the possibility for building a permanent structure in the future. In 2004-2006 European Migration Network operated as a preparatory measure. The Hague Programme 205-2009 confirmed that it was urgent to enhance the common analysis of migration phenomena including the collection, exchange, assessment and efficient use of concrete data.

Its successor, the Stockholm Programme 2010-2014 encouraged even more the EMN activities in performing its tasks for an improved exchange of information between Member States within numerous new asylum and migration policies. The Report on the assessment of the Stockholm Programme 2010-2013 published on May 2014 in cooperation with European Commission and EMN National Contact Points put an emphasis on further needs for extending the activities and cooperation of EMN and on further examination of different migration and asylum policies. It was noted that the Community institutions and national authorities of Member States rely more and more on different documents and other EMN sources in designing the EU and national legislation as well as policies.

As the result in 2014 a newly established Expert Group for Voluntary Return became part of the EMN. Its task is to prepare, analysing and using the information gathered by Eurostat, Member States and Norway. Different documents dealing with various aspects of return policy such as financial resources for the implementation of return policies and reintegration programmes in third countries, implementation of EU repatriation agreements, cooperation with third countries, different aspects of implementing the policy etc. Documents are available at the European Migration Network website and under the domain Publications/Actual/Archive.