Female migrants returning to their countries of origin had more difficulty than men reintegrating long-term into the community, an International Organization for Migration (IOM) study released today shows.
Women reported more challenges in accessing employment and training opportunities, as well as health-care services, mostly following abuses and exploitation during their migration journey, according to research on factors affecting the sustainable reintegration of returnees.
Coordinated by the EU-IOM Knowledge Management Hub (KMH) with the financial support of the European Union and conducted by the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance of Maastricht University, the study presents key findings of two combined research projects aimed at highlighting the differences in reintegration outcomes among returnees.
The first study examines the impact of whether or not the return was voluntary, by analyzing the economic, social and psychosocial dimensions. A similar approach was adopted in the second study aimed at examining sex-based differences in reintegration outcomes and at better understanding gender-sensitive reintegration programming.
“The study identifies programmatic and policy recommendations that will be crucial to inform the design and implementation of reintegration programmes that address the diverse needs of different categories of returnees,” said Monica Goracci, IOM Migration Management Department Director.
The research team conducted more than 1,200 surveys and 147 qualitative in-depth interviews with returnees, family members and key informants in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, El Salvador, the Gambia, Nigeria and Somalia. Results showed that, among other factors, the type of return, situations of vulnerability and the type of reintegration support received can seriously affect sustainable economic, social and psychosocial reintegration.
Data analysis confirmed that reintegration was more sustainable for voluntary, rather than forced, returnees. Voluntary returnees were economically more self-sufficient and socially stable. On the psychosocial dimension, forced returnees reported more challenges in reintegrating sustainably due to their distressing migration and return experiences, as well as difficulties in accessing housing, health care, and documentation services.
“So far, little comparative evidence had existed on the reintegration experiences of forced and voluntary returnees, male and female returnees and on the understanding of gender-related issues in reintegration outcomes,” said Sonja Fransen, research project manager of Maastricht University.
“The study specifically aimed at closing these gaps while identifying areas of reintegration support in need of further evidence.”
General programmatic recommendations underlined the importance of pre-departure counselling to manage returnees’ expectations, immediate and timely assistance upon return, particularly in terms of economic and psychosocial support, and of community-engagement to overcome barriers linked to returnees’ stigmatization.
The study was undertaken under the KMH’s Research Fund. Recently, another research study was released by the KMH in collaboration with the research entity Samuel Hall on the development of a Monitoring Toolkit for the Sustainable Reintegration of Child Returnees. Future studies will focus on how factors such as indebtedness of returnees and health-related needs relate to reintegration sustainability.
The KMH was established in September 2017 in the framework of the Pilot Action on Voluntary Return and Sustainable, Community-Based Reintegration funded by the European Union to support the harmonization of approaches, processes and tools, and strengthen learning across the EU-IOM Actions in support of migrant protection and sustainable reintegration and beyond.