Fostering a Constructive Dialogue on Return, Reintegration and Development. Florence, 23 – 24 November 2007
The first consultative meeting, organised in the framework of the MIREM project, was held on 23rd and 24th November 2007 at the European University Institute. This meeting introduced the rationale for the MIREM project as well as most of the analytical tools and data produced by the team. The meeting gathered together various participants from governmental and intergovernmental bodies, public and private institutions, associations and trade unions from the Maghreb countries and the European Union. The programme included two sessions. The President of the European University Institute, Yves Mény, and the General Director of the Office des Tunisiens à l’Etranger, Fredj Souissi, introduced the meeting. Session One: Talking about returnNumerous regional talks and dialogues have dealt with the link between migration and development. In contrast, scant attention has been devoted to the link between return migration and development in such regional talks. This paradox is not reflective of a lack of interest on the part of the public authorities of the origin and destination countries. Rather, it stems from the lack of tools capable of:
- Informing about the sociodemographic characteristics of returnees, their human and financial capital as well as their post-return perspectives in the Maghreb countries;
- Fostering the understanding of all the challenges linked to the return of migrants in the Maghreb countries;
- Sustaining a constructive dialogue on a thorny issue in the Euro-Maghrebi relations.
The objective of the first session was to enhance the analytical potential of the MIREM survey carried out in the Maghreb countries. The presentations given by the project partners drew on the global report based on the preliminary analysis of the empirical data collected in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Various key variables impacting on migrants’ reintegration patterns have been identified; whether return is temporary or permanent. Such variables pertain to the place of reintegration, the duration and the type of the experience of migration lived abroad, the factors and circumstances motivating return. The choice to return constitutes another explanatory variable of returnees’ patterns of reintegration. The distinction between chosen and compelled return raised the interest of the audience insofar as it goes far beyond the mere dichotomy between so-called voluntary and forced return. Moreover, it places the migrant, as a person, at the centre of the analysis of return. This vision focussing on the migrant’s free will, as applied to return, was of great interest to the participants during the debates. The various exchanges of viewpoints that took place during the first session of the meeting reflected the fact that return is a controversial issue in migration talks. However, it is less so when analytical tools are provided, for these allow various general principles that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to reinforcing the link between return migration and development. These principles were identified in the course of the second session. Session Two: Ten questions and thematic areas on return and development The second session was devoted to a thematic debate. Informal exchanges of viewpoints amongst all the participants raised various queries to which the project team will reply on the occasion of the second MIREM meeting. These queries may be summarised in ten central questions:
- How do the returnees’ socio-professional profiles differ in terms of post-return conditions?
- How do temporary returnees differ from permanent returnees?
- When dealing with circular migration, which mechanisms are the EU and its Member State promoting in order to sustain the temporary return of circular migrants?
- To what extent does the institutional environment, as well as the rural/urban context, impact on the returnees’ reintegration opportunities and on their capacity to invest back home?
- Which contextual factors in destination and origin countries impact on the decision to invest back home or not? How can we secure the durability of returnees’ investments?
- On the basis on the MIREM survey, which profile of returnee seems to be the most prone to investments?
- The free choice to return constitutes an explanatory variable of returnees’ patterns of reintegration. Can information campaigns induce migrants to choose to return?
- To what extent and why does the return of highly-skilled migrants (the brain gain) in the Maghreb differ from the return of the less skilled migrants? What are their respective return conditions?
- Is it possible to delve into the past experience of migration lived by the migrant abroad before returning back home in order to understand how it impacts on reintegration patterns? Is there a cause-and-effect relationship? Can we argue that a successful integration experience lived abroad may lead to a successful reintegration experience back home (whether return is temporary or permanent)?
- You talked extensively about return preparation in the framework of your project. Do you think that return can be optimally prepared by adopting adequate provisions aimed at granting ad hoc rights to returnees with a view to sustaining their reintegration? Are there experiences of the kind in other countries which may allow the impact of such provisions to be better understood?
General Principles stemming from the meetingBeyond the lessons learnt from the presentations of the MIREM partners, various general principles regarding the preconditions to sustain returnees’ reintegration processes have been jointly identified by the participants. The following principles appeared during the debates:
- Return is the process through which a person goes back to his/her own country of origin, on a temporary or permanent basis. Return should not be viewed as the end of the migration cycle;
- Return is a process which requires time;
- Among others, return preparation is based on the free choice of migrants to return back home as well as on their capacity to mobilise the necessary resources to secure their reintegration process;
- There exist various degrees of return preparation which are shaped by pre- and post-return conditions;
- There exist various profiles of returnees having different needs in terms of reintegration support;
- Return and reintegration equally concern migrants’ countries of origin and destination;
- A genuine return policy, able to sustain the temporary or permanent reintegration of migrant for developmental ends, should be jointly drafted by countries of origin and destination