Citizenship Rights and Repatriation of Refugees



This article examines the relationship between access to or lack of access to citizenship rights in countries of asylum and the propensity of refugees to return. It hypothesizes that in situations where refugees enjoy civil, social and economic citizenship rights in the context of favorable structural factors - relatively secure employment, self-employment, social services such as housing, schools, health care and social security - the importance of repatriation may diminish as a viable option. In North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, where refugees are able to enjoy rights of citizenship with definite prospects for becoming citizens (through naturalization) or denizens through acquisition of permanent status, and where favorable structural factors provide for the enjoyment of a decent standard of living, they tend to remain regardless of whether the conditions that prompted displacement are eliminated. The policy environments and the structural factors for refugees sheltering in Less Developed Countries (LDCs) are the antithesis of those refugees in Developed Countries (DCs). As a result, millions of refugees in the South have been ‘voting with their feet’ homewards to recoup citizenship rights which they lost in connection with displacement and which they have been unable to achieve in exile.