Governments present the assisted return of rejected asylum seekers and other ‘unwanted’ migrants as the cornerstone of an effective migration management policy. However, it is also a practice criticised by migrants’ rights advocates for being a form of coerced, rather than voluntary, return. One response to critiques is to highlight the potential such programmes have in the successful reintegration of returnees.
But what is meant by ‘successful’ reintegration? Based on research in Afghanistan with returnees from Norway and the United Kingdom, we highlight the extreme difficulties faced in achieving reintegration.
- Most Afghan research participants did not want to return to Afghanistan; although those with secure residence status in Europe were willing to visit.
- Insecurity, lack of livelihood opportunities and distrust of the Afghan government were stated reasons for not returning.
- The term ‘reintegration’ should be questioned; our research showed that reintegration could be just as complicated as migrant integration.
- Reintegration is particularly difficult to achieve when returnees did not want to return in the first place.