The return of refugees and other migrants represents an issue of growing concern for governments and international organisations working in the refugee and migration fields. In the Balkans in particular, large-scale international returns of refugees to Bosnia and Kosovo have occurred alongside intense efforts to promote so-called 'minority return' of displaced people within the two territories. This interest in return comes from a number of directions, including domestic political concerns in countries and regions of origin, as well as a desire to promote 'durable solutions' for forced migrants. Yet return has also become a highly politically charged process in a number of contexts, both for returnees and those who did not migrate or flee, leading many observers to question the notion of an unproblematic return 'home'. Specifically, doubts remain both about the conditions and voluntariness of return, the ability of individual returnees to re-integrate in their home countries and regions, and the wider sustainability of the return process.
This paper seeks to provide an overview of recent policy interest in returns globally, as well as to and within the Balkans, before setting out a definition of what might be considered 'sustainable' return in the region. For example, it is possible to draw a distinction between narrow indicators of the 'sustainability' of return, such as whether returnees subsequently re-emigrate after their return, and wider definitions, which see 'sustainability' as including both the extent to which individual returnees are able to reintegrate in their home societies, and the wider impact of return on macro-economic and political indicators. It is argued that the development of robust indicators of the sustainability of return could assist in monitoring the impact of return programmes, providing valuable insight on return policies. Equally important, such indicators present one way in which return can be assessed against broader development objectives in countries of origin in general, and post-conflict countries in particular.
WP-T7, Sussex, UK, DRC on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty, 23 pp.