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Discussion Papers (series)

A sustainable development approach to return and reintegration: Dilemmas, choices and possibilities


Anna Knoll, Pauline Veron and Niklas Mayer, ECDPM paper, January 2021

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This paper explores the role of development cooperation in reintegration support, in the context of sustainable development and aid effectiveness. Policymakers in Europe and internationally have been giving renewed attention to sustainable return and reintegration of failed asylum seekers and irregular migrants. One of the aims of European governments is for return to take place in a dignified way and for reintegration to be sustainable (which means for returnees to reach levels of economic self-sufficiency, social stability within their communities and psychosocial well-being).

Development actors have also increasingly been involved in the reintegration of returnees. They can address several factors at the individual, community or structural level – for instance, providing financial or psychosocial support, supporting community-based projects or capacity building for local and national government structures. These may matter for sustainable development and can influence the sustainability of the reintegration process. Yet, development actors have also been pushed into roles that follow migration-related priorities, which has led to scepticism about their engagement in this area.

While there is no ‘silver bullet’ for a development approach to sustainable reintegration, this paper provides guidance on how international development cooperation can best navigate the challenges and opportunities in the area of return, sustainable reintegration and development. It does so by summarising lessons, dilemmas and emerging good practices.

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Photo courtesy of Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID via Flickr.

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Migration and mobilityDiscussion Papers (series)