Many studies document migrants’ conditions during their journey to Europe and their stay, but not much is known about their life after they have returned back to their country of origin. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) tries to fill this knowledge gap through a new released study “Comparative Reintegration Outcomes between Forced and Voluntary Return and Through a Gender Perspective”.
The study aims at assessing and analyzing data to compare the differences in reintegration outcomes between forced and voluntary returnees, and how gender and other factors could have an impact on the process. Although the scope of the study is limited to six countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Gambia, Nigeria and Somalia), the elements that can affect the return process sustainability seem the same in all these countries. Such variables are the type of return, situations of vulnerability and the type of reintegration support received.
In particular, data shows that voluntary returnees have a better economic, social and psychological perspective. The situation is clearly different for forced returnees, who encounter more challenges in reintegrating due to their experiences and in accessing housing, health care and documentation services.
Regarding the situation of women, IOM found that female returnees face more reintegration difficulties. Compared to men, women have less access to employment opportunities, housing, documentation and justice. Feeling of physical security lacks as well. The causes are linked to societal stereotypes, distressful experiences during the migration journey, childcare responsibilities and financial dependance on relatives.
Based on the findings, IOM formulates a set of policy recommendations to improve the return process for returnees, including:
- Adopt a target group-centred approach instead of a one-size-fits-all system, paying special attention to the returnees’ migration journey and circumstances of return. For example, survivors of human trafficking have significant psycho-social problems and need immediate housing, cash assistance and health care. This is particularly the case for female survivors, who oftentimes get rejected from their families due to stigma associated with human trafficking;
- Ensure that pre-departure counseling offers a realistic and accurate understanding of what is expecting upon return;
- Strengthen community-level integration especially for mass forced returnees, survivors of gender- based violence including human trafficking, single women, including and/or particularly those who belong to sexual minorities;
- Boost support for forced returnees through increased outreach, a referral mechanism and post-arrival counseling;
- Consider the gender dimension throughout the process, from data collection to staffing and programming, both for women and sexual minorities.