The Role of Return Preparedness, Assistance and Networks in Returnees’ Reintegration in Origin Countries (Synthesis Report)
Across the destination countries of migration, i.e. migrant-receiving countries, in Europe there has been an increasing emphasis on return and reintegration programmes. These programmes particularly target rejected asylum-seekers forced to return, irregular migrants unable to legalise their stay in the migration country and migrants wishing to return of their own volition.
Reintegration commonly refers to the processes that unfold after the return of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons to their country of origin or place of residence as they set about trying to re-establish their lives. However, the reintegration trajectories of assisted and non-assisted returning migrants in different contexts have scarcely been researched. Funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) under a Special Initiative on “Tackling the root causes of displacement and (re-)integrating refugees”, BICC has undertaken over the past four years (2019-2022) a qualitative research project entitled “Trajectories of reintegration” designed to tackle this desideratum.
This Synthesis Report brings together selected findings of the project’s empirical studies in the Western Balkans (Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo), West Africa (Ghana, Senegal, the Gambia) and the Middle East (Iraq). The BICC project team conducted an in-depth, long-term investigation into reintegration trajectories focusing on the perceptions, experiences and strategies of returning migrants. We collected data through in-depth qualitative interviews, life-stories, informal conversations and observations. The interview sample includes returnees who were displaced persons (refugees, rejected asylum-seekers), long-term labour migrants, ‘irregular’ migrants, student migrants, and circular or seasonal migrants. We conducted semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, including government officials, municipal actors and representatives of local NGOs and development agencies. The project team also cooperated closely with local researchers and research assistants, integrating their feedback into the ongoing research findings. To this end we ran training courses and organised several stakeholder workshops in the countries of research.
Our research findings illustrate that: \ the standard approach to reintegration processes focuses on social, economic, and psychosocial dimensions. We offer a complementary understanding of reintegration by arguing that reintegration processes often relate to returnees’ access to livelihood options, their long-term aspirations and life plans, their sense of belonging to a place and community of return, as well as the political context and governance structures in the origin country; \ formal return and reintegration assistance schemes have only short-term and partial impacts on reintegration processes by, for instance, easing access to accommodation, offering in-kind or cash assistance and providing legal aid in the first few years of returns, but it is return preparedness—the returnee’s willingness and readiness to return—along with the support of social networks that proves to be more impactful on reintegration than the formal assistance given by organisations; \ returnees see mobility and translocal connectedness as essential livelihood options and part of their trajectories. Thus, returns are likely to be followed by remigration, including circular movements or pendular migration. Our research suggests that there can be no one-size-fits-all approach for return and reintegration policies and programmes. To ensure that reintegration assistance programmes are evidence-based there must be systematic monitoring to establish what assistance these programmes offer in different contexts and how they are being used. Moreover, as returnees’ own mobility and livelihoods are critical to their trajectories, remigration and circular migration should be considered a component of reintegration.
Serbia , Albania , Bosnia-Herzegovina , Kosovo , Ghana , Senegal , The Gambia , Iraq