Homeward bound? Questions on promoting the reintegration of returning migrants.

Author:Nair, Parvati

The idea of return migration, with the aim of assisting voluntary returnees to settle back in their home countries, can seem an attractive way forward for governments that seek to manage migration humanely. In recent years, nevertheless, as return migration has become a preferred strategy for governments and one of the very few options open to migrants, the problems emerging from this practice and the policies that support it have increasingly come into view. Between the priorities of governance and the very complex, multiple and historically determined circumstances in which migration, as a global phenomenon, takes place, the consequences of implementing strategies that can be seen as unifocal become clear. This is evident in the disruption wrought by numerous government interventions that result in measures that counter, contain and displace the needs, aspirations and rights of migrants. Never is this more so than in the case of migration from the Global South to the Global North.

As a practice that involves cooperation between host or target country and sender governments, and very often the governments of middle countries as well, return migration has arisen in response to the precept that migration is, in and of itself, an unwelcome or problematic phenomenon which must be controlled, managed and stemmed. Assisted return migration is seen as the logical and measured response to policies and laws that have all too often denied the basic rights of citizenship, often for years at a time, to migrants across borders. The absence of citizenship rights leads in multiple ways to forms of bondage, whereby migrants in such situations find themselves marginalized legally, politically, economically and culturally by laws and policies that maintain their marginality and offer them very few options, if any at all. It is also the response to other, more sinister, forms of bondage, such as in the case of trafficked persons, so that assisted return and reintegration become processes of rescue and reform. Fundamental, also, is the assumption that, through good governance, the return of migrants to their home countries can not only be humane, but can also be somehow beneficial.

For the United Nations High-level Dialogue on Migration and Development, a priority will surely be to address the knotted crux of migrant realities. In order to do so, it is imperative that there be a very clear understanding of not only the many triggers that drive this mass global phenomenon that puts peoples on the road and pushes them across borders, but also of the consequences...

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