Returnees' Perspectives on Their Re-migration Processes



The return of refugees and migrants back to their country of origin is an important topic on the agenda of Western European governments, as return is considered as the most “durable solution” for the “refugee problem”, and as an instrument with which to tackle “illegal” migration. However, these migration policies generally lack a clear evidence base, as little studies have focused on returnees' current living situations and on their perspectives on the re-migration process. In this paper we therefore try to listen to returnees' voices, through in-depth interviews with four Nepalese migrants both before (in Belgium) and after (in Nepal) their return, and with 16 returnees after their return to Nepal. The interviews show how most returnees start with a disadvantageous “point of departure” to realize a “successful” return: mostly, they do not really depart “voluntarily”, and they only have limited possibilities for preparing their return and setting realistic expectations. But also, back in the “home country”, most returnees judge their current economic, social and political living situation as bad, meeting little of the expectations that they set before they returned. The participants consider the support they received through the NGOs' return programmes as minimal, because they are mostly limited to a small amount of financial support, and thus of little significance in these returnees' efforts to rebuild their lives in their “home” country. If return programmes want to make a difference in returnees' lives, they should have two extensive components in the “home” and the “host” country, incorporating in both components an integral approach, including economic, political, social and psychological aspects. Viewing these findings, it is not surprising that most interviewees eventually evaluate their return as unsuccessful, and many returnees consider re-emigration, all of which clearly questions the current basis of worldwide migration policies.