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20 oct 2015

South-South return migration: Challenges and opportunities

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Among the different stages of the migration process, return is the one which is least well understood. The motives guiding return cannot be easily categorized and are highly context dependent (Bastia, 2011). Scholars and policymakers have focused on understanding and analysing decisions for departure, failing to acknowledge that migration is a multidimensional process involving not only emigration, but different stages which include settlement in the host country and the possibility of return. Like departure, return also entails a complex decision-making process involving a wide array of factors.

Following recent large-scale events such as the global economic downturn, which has affected mainly economically developed nations, and the humanitarian crisis in Libya, the return of millions of migrants to their homeland has raised the awareness of policymakers, scholars and civil society, including in ACP countries. This Background Note provides a concise overview of the process of South–South return migration. The first section focuses on the definition and background regarding the topic of return migration and provides different typologies of return migrants based on the work of Gmelch (1980). Section two provides an overview of return trends in ACP countries. The third section discusses the concept of sustainable return and reintegration in countries of origin and provides an overview of current policies and best practices. The last section describes the types of impacts of return migrants on their countries of origin and the background concludes with a list of policy recommendations for ACP and other countries.