The reintegration of returning migrants
Returning more and more migrants with irregular status to their countries of origin has become a key European Union aim in efforts to reduce illegal migration. Despite its high political priority, reiterated in European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union address, the effective implementation of this objective is problematic, mainly due to resistance at the individual level, but also from the countries of origin. The 2016 partnership framework with third countries attempts to enhance cooperation with partner countries on readmission, using a wide range of positive and negative policy incentives. To make the return option more attractive for migrants with irregular status, the EU’s return policy promotes voluntary returns through reintegration assistance packages. No less than 90 specific assisted voluntary return and reintegration programmes (AVRR) have been established by EU Member States, co-financed by the European Union, and implemented mainly by the International Organization on Migration (IOM).
Maximising sustainable returns, understood not only as absence of re‑emigration, but also as a returnee’s positive impact on the development of their communities of origin, is a key challenge. The nature of return chosen, and the success of economic and social integration of migrants in host countries, are the main factors of successful reintegration at the pre-departure stage, together with social and psychological counselling in preparing the reintegration project. Following arrival, training and in-kind assistance to start up a business, accompanied by measures to re-establish social networks, are what works best. Close cooperation with local partners is necessary to include reintegration assistance within existing development initiatives, to avoid duplication, resentment against returnees, and to respond to local needs.