Voluntary return of refugees: Chances for peace and sustainable development?

Release date: 2015-10

By the end of 2014, 6.4 million refugees found themselves in protracted situations that have been in place for over five years, and numbers are rising. Could return be a solution to these protracted situations? In BICC Policy Brief 3\2015 Heidrun Bohnet and Markus Rudolf point out what issues should not be overlooked in the process of return as a possible solution for situations of protracted forced displacement.

The authors recommend:

\ Understand return as a new beginning

Return does not mean that displaced persons will return to exactly the same place from which they fled. It is less the end of one cycle but rather a new beginning: that of reintegration.

\ Perceive post-conflict situations as a transitory process

A post-conflict situation cannot be equated with the end of all conflict. When developing concepts, one should rather take into account that a post-conflict situation is often a transitory situation in which significant levels of violence continue to exist.

\ Pay attention to internally displaced persons (IDPs)

IDPs, too, often find themselves in protracted situations and are exposed to the same risks as refugees. More advocacy is needed to protect and support IDPs.

\ Include the voices and skills of the displaced

The sustainability of return and peace is determined to a large extent by the consideration and participation of refugees and IDPs. It is therefore essential to actively include these populations in the strategic planning and implementation of return processes and to address their concerns and use their skills.

\ Bring together relief and development efforts

Return and reintegration projects are usually based on a short-term approach prioritising emergency relief. Yet the negative spiral of violent conflict and displacement can only be halted by an approach in which relief and long-term development efforts are coordinated.

\ Do not set local integration and return processes against each other  

The experiences and skills gained by the internally displaced in the host region can ease the process of return and have a positive effect on sustainable reintegration.