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Abstract

“Voluntary repatriation” to a country of origin may be necessary to restore refugees' rights, when only a country of origin will provide rights associated with citizenship. Yet, if refugees are returning because they do not have access to basic rights in a host country, their return is not voluntary according to UNHCR guidelines (1996). There is a tension between facilitating repatriation to restore rights, and ensuring that repatriation is voluntary. This article will first draw on arguments from moral philosophy to suggest an alternative policy to current UNHCR guidelines. Following this normative analysis, the article hypothesizes that, on an empirical level, a repatriation policy that attempts to only facilitate repatriation that is not coerced, out of concern for voluntariness alone, may fail both to prevent coerced returns and to restore right through repatriation. This hypothesis was then tested in the case of South Sudanese repatriation from Israel between 2009-2012.