Moving Back or Moving Forward? Return migration after conflict

Marieke van Houte,

This thesis examines the idea that 'when migrants return home after conflict, they will contribute to development and peace-building'. Although this optimistic idea is the basis for a number of current European national policies aiming to link together issues of migration, development and security, this thesis detects the mismatch between policy and reality.

The thesis is based on a comparative study among 178 returnees in six countries across the world, and an in-depth study among 35 returned migrants in Afghanistan. The findings highlight that return neither is a movement back to normal, nor is it easily a movement forward to change. When migrants return to their country of origin, they do not automatically contribute to development and peace-building. An important factor is the motivation for return: migrants who return voluntarily while having the legal alternative to stay and can decide to leave again after return, have more potential than rejected asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, who had no legal option to stay and returned involuntarily.

The thesis concludes that there is a mismatch between the allocation of development budgets and the development potential of return migrants: while the expectations on which Migration and Development policies are based are only true for a small minority of voluntary returnees, this is not the group that is targeted by policy. While providing an incentive for the return of unwanted migrants is in the interest of host countries, it is unjustified to use development budgets for this purpose.

This study was financially supported by Cordaid, PSO, and UNU-MERIT.

Date: 20 November 2014

Time: 10:00 - 11:30


UNU-MERIT