Return Migration and Reintegration Policies: A Primer

December 01, 2016
Marianne Haase
Pia Honerath
2 min read
Photo credit: 06photo / Shutterstock, Inc.

Photo credit: 06photo / Shutterstock, Inc.

The so-called refugee crisis of 2015 focused the international policy community’s attention on return migration, be it voluntary or forced. Bilateral and international political frameworks for return now have greater relevance for both domestic and foreign policy. Alongside bilateral approaches between states, there are also numerous approaches at the international and supranational level which address the challenges and prospects of return migration. At the same time, return to country of origin is increasingly used as a political instrument and bargaining chip in discussions and agreements between states. Moreover, domestic policies on return migration usually neglect connection with development policies. Instead of simply pushing countries of origin to readmit nationals and focusing on the number of returnees, development cooperation research and practice indicates that countries of origin and destination must cooperate closely in order to facilitate return and sustainable reintegration, and to enhance returnees’ potential to contribute to the development of their countries of origin. From a domestic policy-perspective, sustainable reintegration is achieved when returnees do not re-emigrate; in development cooperation, sustainable return focuses on the impact of the return itself, for example in terms of knowledge transfer.

This primer focuses on the return and reintegration of migrants and refused asylum-seekers. It discusses different groups of return migrants, examines the complexities, challenges and potentials surrounding return and reintegration, and sheds light on the various actors and motivations involved. Rather than analyzing international or supranational approaches such as the European Union’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility and its policies, the primer concentrates on nation states – countries of origin and destination – and possible areas where they might intervene. The primer rests on the assumption that conditions for sustainable return hinge on individual factors (for example whether return is voluntary or not) as well as structural ones (such as access to the labor market). Home and host countries face different situations and therefore use different intervention measures. Given the challenges migrants face during their process of return and reintegration, and the need to acknowledge the often untapped potentials of return migration, this primer seeks to identify good practices and recommendations for better return policies by addressing nation states as responsible and generally capable actors for policy improvement. Finally, this policy primer defines guidelines for sustainable and development-oriented return, and reintegration policies and instruments.

Photo credit: Ggia

Related reading: