Published 06.11.2019

Successful migrant returns call for wide-scale cooperation

Returning to the country of origin can prove to be challenging. It is a process of adaptation on the part of both returnees and the communities and countries of origin in which they settle. The article Balancing acts – Policy frameworks for migrant return and reintegration by American researchers Kathleen Newland and Brian Salant point out that destination countries have not paid enough attention to the factors contributing to an individual’s reintegration.

It cannot be taken for granted that migrant returnees always get a positive reception in their country of origin. At times, the people close to the migrants have placed great expectations for them to be successful abroad and to be able to support those staying behind. In some countries, the remittances by migrants can support the national economy. Another aspect affecting reintegration of returnees is whether their return from the destination country has been compulsory or voluntary.

According to Newland and Salant, the preconditions for reintegration of returnees would be better if the return policies were designed so that the interests of both the destination country and country of origin would both be accommodated, even though they are often in conflict with each other. This would mean comprehensive co-operation across administrative sectors in which not only international legislation, but also the capability of the returnee’s country of origin to receive returnees would be taken into account.

The researchers consider that the destination countries of asylum-seekers often base their return policies on their own, selfish reasons. One example of such reasons is the belief that the basis of the rule of law is undermined if the people whose asylum has been rejected do not leave the country. At the same time, the returnee’s country of origin can find it difficult to cope with its existing population. The researchers indicate that there are six individual frameworks in which return policies and their design should be approached: rule of law, humanitarian, development, reintegration, security and stability, and political.

According to the authors, reintegration support is a key factor in helping the returnee and the receiving community in the reintegration process. In their view, there are several factors that limit the reintegration programs, such as narrow focus, and the lack of monitoring and evaluation. The researchers propose that reintegration support should be seen within the wider context of development co-operation, which could help its impacts to extend beyond the individual level. Development co-operation can be used to promote the sustainable reintegration of returnees so that the returnees will not feel compelled to remigrate from their country of origin.

The researchers suggest that under the right circumstances and with proper support, the returnees could have a major role in the development of their countries of origin with the means of entrepreneurship and resources as well as the networks they have acquired abroad. However, if migrants, communities of return and countries of origin are unprepared, they may not be able to take advantage of the competence of the returnees. A comprehensive approach to co-operation across administration is, indeed, required.


Kathleen Newland. Photo: Migration Policy Institute

Senior Fellow Kathleen Newland will present her article “Balancing acts – Policy frameworks for migrant return and reintegration” on return policies and reintegration assistance.

Date and venue: Monday 11 November at 15:30-17:00, House of Science and Letters (Tieteiden talo), lecture room 312, Kirkkokatu 6, Helsinki

The duration of the lecture is around 45 minutes following a Q&A session. The lecture is open for everyone, and entry is free. The language of the event is English.

Kathleen Newland is a Senior Fellow and Co-Founder of the Migration Policy Institute and a Member of the Board of Trustees. Her work focuses on the governance of international migration, the relationship between migration and development, and refugee protection.

Ms. Newland is invited to Finland by AUDA-project.