As Europe Seeks to Increase Migrant Returns with New EU Strategy on Voluntary Return and Reintegration, Cooperation with Countries of Origin Should Be Given More Consideration
WASHINGTON — While the return of irregular migrants and asylum seekers whose claims are denied has long been a priority for European policymakers, cooperation with migrants’ countries of origin on return and reintegration has historically been given short shrift. Recently, however, voluntary return and reintegration represents one area where there is growing support for improved coordination among European Union (EU) countries and with stakeholders in countries of origin, offering opportunities for greater sustainability and efficiency.
A new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) policy brief, EU Strategy on Voluntary Return and Reintegration: Crafting a Road Map to Better Cooperation with Migrants’ Countries of Origin, examines the challenges around achieving closer cooperation. Policy Analyst Camille Le Coz offers recommendations for identifying concrete areas of cooperation despite discordant priorities between EU Member States and countries of origin.
For example, while support in destination countries for voluntary return and reintegration is largely rooted in the link made between enforcing return decisions and building a well-functioning and credible migration and asylum system, countries of origin may have less interest in publicly endorsing large-scale returns given their reliance on remittances and concerns about integrating returnees into potentially fragile labor or public service systems.
Despite these challenges, the policy brief identifies key areas where progress could be made on the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) process, including:
1. Strengthening AVRR operations by establishing regular channels for information exchange. Improved information sharing, for example during counseling and pre-departure orientation, could help inform migrant expectations for their reintegration. It could also help strengthen monitoring and evaluation efforts.
2. Improving programming through concrete, joint actions where interests converge. Given their relationship and in some cases greater credibility with their diasporas, countries of origin could play an important role engaging in outreach to vulnerable migrants who may benefit from AVRR programs, as well as in organizing return logistics.
3. Bolstering origin countries’ engagement on voluntary return and reintegration through technical assistance and budget support. Capacity-building activities can help improve the governance of voluntary return and reintegration and would benefit from targeting civil society and the private sector as well as government actors to mobilize their respective strengths.
4. Making AVRR programs more effective and sustainable by improving their links with development plans and other international projects. Rather than designing AVRR programs in a vacuum, the European Commission and other relevant stakeholders could review partnerships with public authorities and development actors that have successfully linked returnees to ongoing supports and broader development efforts.
“Heightened cooperation between the European Union and countries of origin will not happen overnight,” Le Coz writes. “Both parties need to engage in sustained dialogue and recognize that there are some areas where each will remain bound by its own internal constraints. However, regular engagement, pragmatic cooperation and strategic investment in capacity-building will pave the way toward stronger and more tailored partnerships on voluntary returns and reintegration.”
You can read the policy brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/eu-strategy-voluntary-return-origin-countries.
It is the fourth in the series “Critical Migration Governance Issues in a Changed World,” which results from a partnership between MPI and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Find this and other publications in the series here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/international-program/critical-migration-governance-issues-changed-world.
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.