Refugee return in protracted refugee situations

Voluntary repatriation/return is seen as one of the durable solutions to protracted refugee situations and is the ‘preferred’ solution of the international community. Successful or sustainable return processes require the reintegration of refugees, which can be complicated by their protracted refugee experience and conditions in the country of origin.

What refugee return initiatives have occurred in Africa? What lessons have been learnt from successful/sustainable return processes across the world, especially in relation to protracted refugee situations?


Voluntary repatriation and successful reintegration are considered the preferred solutions for protracted refugee situations. Lessons from successful return initiatives highlight the importance of reliable information, understanding conflict dynamics, and addressing key factors like security, services, housing, and livelihood opportunities.

Decision-making about return is influenced by conditions in host countries and countries of origin, as well as access to assets and social networks. Resolving protracted refugee caseloads often involves a combination of resettlement, local integration, and return to the country of origin. Poverty can both hinder and encourage return, with local integration equipping refugees with resources for sustainable reintegration. Flexibility in funding, addressing land issues, and considering discrimination and gender-specific challenges are crucial for successful return and reintegration initiatives.

Evidence from case studies indicates that return is often protracted or cyclical; it can be spontaneous or assisted; returns can happen rapidly or at a slower pace; and resolving protracted refugee caseloads often involves resettlement and local integration, as well as return to country of origin. Security, access to adequate services, housing, and livelihood opportunities are key to return.


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