Published 30.01.2020

The AUDA project for voluntary return has emphasised the importance of co-operation with the country of origin

The main goal of the AUDA project, started in early 2018, has been to expand the system of assisted voluntary return. One particular aim has been to improve the opportunities of reintegration for the returnees. The project will end in January.

Finland offers an initial cash grant to returnees

The Finnish system of assisted voluntary return is based on reintegration assistance paid to the returnees to help them start a new life in their home country. This assistance helps the returnees with issues such as finding housing and employment. If the housing situation in the area is poor and the competition for jobs is fierce, however, the return assistance received by the returnees may not be enough. In that case, their reintegration becomes more difficult.

Many countries are in a situation in which they receive an enormous number of returnees, who must then compete with each other for the same employment and housing opportunities. In many cases, the same countries are recovering from an armed conflict, and there are no job opportunities or good enough living conditions available. This may easily lead to the returnees leaving again to find other opportunities outside their home country. In that case, there is no solid foundation for the reintegration of the returnees.

The aim is the sustainable reintegration of the returnees

In order to make the reintegration of returnees go more smoothly, the AUDA project has investigated the possibility of increasing co-operation with the country of origin. It aims to influence the improvement of structural deficiencies in the countries that receive returnees by stabilising the economy, creating jobs and improving the education sector. By influencing these factors, the returnees will have better opportunities for reintegration.

Co-operation with the country of origin would require the expertise and co-operation of several administrative branches so that it may affect the various sectors of the country of origin, such as employment, education and housing. In Finland, this would require cooperation between the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in particular. Launching actual co-operation projects, on the other hand, requires both funding and expertise in other administrative branches. Including the diaspora communities permanently resident in Finland more closely in the work would also be important, because diaspora communities that understand the language and culture of the countries of origin can play an important role in the development of those countries. A report on personal views of the diaspora with regard to stabilising their background country has been drawn up in the AUDA project by the Finnish Somalia Network.

The importance of co-operation with the country of origin was also brought up in the closing seminar of the AUDA project held in November. Several Finnish and international speakers stated one after another that more comprehensive co-operation should be carried out with the country of origin of the returnee, and opportunities for reintegration should be taken better into account. According to American researcher Kathleen Newland, the main speaker of the seminar, in the right conditions the returnees can play a very important role in the development of their country.

Monitoring, co-operation and dialogue

The AUDA project was implemented by the Finnish Immigration Service, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and Crisis Management Centre (CMC Finland). Several fact-finding missions to the target countries of the project, i.e. Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, have been carried out in the project; the aim has been to establish more permanent relationships with the authorities of the countries. The project has meant more versatile participation in the return co-operation between the EU and Schengen countries.

The Crisis Management Centre (CMC Finland) has participated in the project by developing its reporting system so that in the future it will relay information on the preconditions of return to the Finnish authorities.

A follow-up study has been conducted in the project, and it has provided information on how well the assistance for voluntary return works. According to the study, the reintegration of voluntary returnees to Iraq from Finland has succeeded to a fair extent. Problems with livelihood caused concern for almost every respondent to the survey, however. The follow-up study was conducted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and commissioned by the Finnish Immigration Service.

The project has helped to diversify the communication related to voluntary return with the aim of increasing awareness of assisted voluntary return. The project has also taken Finnish target groups into account and has implemented a Studia Generalia series of lectures on the challenges and possibilities of return migration, in co-operation with the Migration Institute of Finland and the Finnish Immigration Service.

After AUDA

The operation of the system for assisted voluntary return will continue under the Reception Unit of the Finnish Immigration Service. The field of co-operation of the system for assisted voluntary return has become more diversified with the other EU and Schengen countries and the contacts to authorities acquired through the AUDA project.

The final report of the AUDA project proposes that the Minister of the Interior should establish a permanent working group and invite, as members, other authorities and representatives of various organisations to investigate issues related to assisted voluntary return and reintegration, as well as its links with development co-operation. This makes it possible to promote more versatile co-operation with the countries of origin in the future that could offer better preconditions for the reintegration of returnees.