Reintegration support – a chance for migrants to start a new life

Jutta Stenholm
“The value of reintegration support is bigger than just covering the most urgent needs”

Return migration is not only flying back home. A flight of a few hours might change the physical location of the returnee but adjusting mentally to being back takes much more time. Reintegration should not be counted in hours but in weeks and months. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to successful reintegration, comprehensive support helps restarting the life back home.

Supporting assisted voluntary return and reintegration is a protection measure, targeted to those who have no other means to travel back home. This means vulnerable migrant groups, such as asylum seekers and victims of trafficking. IOM has understood the need to pay attention to reintegration process of those in vulnerable position.

Here in the Nordic countries, IOM is cooperating with national migration agencies in order to make reintegration more sustainable. In Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, financial support is provided for returning asylum seekers, yet the amounts and criteria vary from country to country.

At the moment, Sweden is at the forefront of providing financial support for returnees. A notable SEK 30 000 (approx. EUR 3 000) is provided for a single adult. However, this cash grant is only meant for those returning voluntarily to conflict-affected countries.

In Finland the amounts of the support were raised last autumn, for both the cash grant and the in-kind-support. These are not dependent on the returnee going back to a country in conflict.

Why do the returnees need financial assistance?

Financial assistance is important in supporting vulnerable migrants to rebuild their lives. Most of the returning asylum seekers are in dire need of financial assistance. The long and expensive road to safer ground has often cost all their savings. Back home, the returnee might be unemployed and without an apartment.

However, the value of reintegration support is bigger than just covering the most urgent needs. For example, the support enables the returnees to educate themselves or start a business. To put it short, it provides a chance to start a new life.

Assistance does not only benefit the returnees but the entire community. The support alleviates tensions that the return might cause in the community. Without assistance the returnee might be an economic burden to the family and relatives, which can possibly lead to tensions within the community.

This is problematic in areas where there is a great number of simultaneously returning migrants. Especially in areas where jobs are scarce and poverty is wide-spread, the returnees might not be welcomed whole-heartedly. Furthermore, unexpected political, societal or social changes in the home community during the absence may make the return process even harder.

What makes a reintegration successful?

According to IOM, the sustainability of the return consists of financial self-sufficiency, social stability and psychosocial well-being. Having said that, personal factors such as motivation should not be overlooked. In the end, reintegration process always depends on the individual. The support of family and friends cannot be underestimated.

So reintegration is not only about money, it is also about the dignity and self-esteem of the returnee. Feeling like a burden is an obstacle for reintegration. Trying to escape these feelings, the returnee might be encouraged to migrate again. Then the cycle would repeat itself.

The Swedish reintegration cash support project

  • IOM Finland has carried out the reintegration cash support payments since 2007
  • The project is implemented in cooperation with the Swedish Migration Agency
  • Currently, the scope is to assist 1 000 returnees from Sweden in 17 countries annually
  • The biggest returnee groups are Iraqis and Afghans

The writer works for the Swedish reintegration cash support project at IOM Finland.

The views expressed by the authors in IOM Finland's blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the International Organization for Migration.
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