‘Maybe someday I’ll return…’

The ‘super-diversity’ case-study in the PREMIG project was, unlike the other five case-studies, not defined around a country of origin. Instead we defined it based on temporal dimensions, by interviewing people who had either come to Norway

  1. during their childhood, before turning 14, or
  2. recently, in the past 1-5 years.

This was, more than anything, an experiment. And the data that came out of the experiment confirm the importance of time-related factors in migrants’ understandings of settlement processes and return considerations. The data high-light that there are many similarities in migrants’ reflections on return and settlement, across their countries of origin.

The more settled you are in, and the stronger sense of belonging you have to, Norway, the less inclined you are towards permanent return. To those who came to Norway as children, and have spent their school and adolescent years here, the questions we posed may have seemed odd: ‘Return’ to what? They might appreciate spending their holidays in the country they left behind as children, or perhaps they could imagine spending a longer period there for example as part of their studies. But permanent return is difficult to imagine because Norway is where their home is.

For recently-arrived migrants, on the other hand, return is a more likely prospect. They work under the assumption of one day returning, whether in a short-term or a long-term perspective. Or at least they keep the possibility of return open. However, as time passes and they become more settled in Norway, actual return becomes less likely for many.

The passage from one life-cycle to another can also play a role in return considerations. Small children to care for, and a partner to coordinate with, make moving to another country into a larger project than when you are single. And so the idea of return is left to when the children grow older, or maybe when you retire. Another way in which changing life-cycle stages can affect return considerations is the emerging need for taking care of elderly parents or other relatives remaining in the country of origin.

The above illustrates the importance of age at time of migration, length of stay in the country of settlement, and life-cycle stages to the return considerations that migrants make. The ‘super-diversity’ case-study in PREMIG has enabled us to explore time-related factors in migrants’ return considerations, demonstrating that time does matter – no matter the migrant’s country of origin.

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