The efficacy of EU assisted voluntary return and reintegration programmes needs to be better measured
BRUSSELS – There has been growing interest within the European Union and among Member States in the return and reintegration of migrants determined to have no right to stay in the bloc. There has been a proliferation of assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) programmes and in April 2021, the European Commission presented its first EU Strategy on Voluntary Return and Reintegration, with the goal of promoting voluntary return and working with migrant-origin countries to foster quality reintegration. Still, there has been relatively little research on what successful reintegration looks like and, in particular, on how it can be achieved.
A new Migration Policy Institute Europe report explores the key dimensions of reintegration after voluntary return and offers recommendations to strengthen monitoring and evaluation (M&E). This work draws on four workshops co-organised by the European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) and MPI Europe during which representatives of EU+ Member States, the European Commission and Frontex discussed the various dimensions of reintegration assistance and how its impact can be measured.
AVRR assistance comes in various forms for migrants who have returned to their countries of origin, from traditional in-cash support and help starting a small business to psychosocial counselling, mentoring and community engagement to combat prejudice against returnees. Yet policymakers have often prioritised economic reintegration, the report notes, in part because of the perception that income-generating activities can help offset pressures on returnees to migrate again.
As a result, most evaluations examining the efficacy of reintegration services focus on economic dimensions. Moreover, reporting on these programmes has often consisted of raw numbers showing how many returns occurred, budget allocations for reintegration assistance and anecdotal descriptions of reintegration outcomes, rather than a broader analysis of the processes that lead to these outcomes.
The report, Putting Migrant Reintegration Programmes to the Test: A road map to a monitoring system, makes the case for strengthening M&E by using a holistic approach, based on a set of principles, including:
- Assessing the outcomes of reintegration support, but also monitoring the process that leads to them. There is a need for more data on how the design and implementation of a programme affects beneficiaries’ reintegration outcomes. In addition to examining the adequacy of the assistance compared to returnee needs, this could include an assessment of the general features of the service provider and how activities are delivered in practice.
- Weighing a programme’s impacts at the individual and community levels. While reintegration assistance has traditionally been geared towards individual returnees, the emergence of community-based activities and efforts to link returnee reintegration and broader development goals raise questions about the impact of reintegration programmes on broader communities in countries of origin.
- Drawing on the insights of a wide range of actors. Service partners, authorities in countries of origin, civil-society actors and researchers can shed light on contextual factors and reintegration needs on the ground. The framework could also draw on insights from returnees themselves and their communities as to what constitutes reintegration ‘success’ and what forms of assistance best support it.
- Having the flexibility to be used in a wide range of contexts. To produce global lessons learnt and gain different actors’ buy-in, an M&E framework should be flexible and take into account differences in how programmes are structured and the range of contexts in which they operate. For example, actors could pick and choose from a common matrix of indicators based on their local context and programmatic needs.
Reaching a consensus on these guiding principles is only the first step, the researchers argue. To roll out effective M&E systems across AVRR programmes, actors should carefully consider a range of questions, including who should be involved in the design of the M&E framework, who will fund and oversee its implementation, how comprehensive will the exercise be and how it can be inclusive of a wide range of partners to increase programme accountability as well as ensure buy-in for future recommendations.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/migrant-reintegration-monitoring-system.