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Return migration

Jean-Pierre Cassarino outlines the key issues regarding return migration
The act of returning to one’s country is return. So it can be a country of citizenship or a country of origin. And returnees can be first generation migrants and second generation migrants also. But anyway, a return has to be viewed as a stage in the migration cycle of a person and certainly not as the end of it. This means that return can be permanent, but it can be also temporary. I would like to add that there is a substantial difference between return and visits. When you visit your country of origin, you stay for short periods. For example, to see your parents, relatives, and friends, but for a short period– usually less than three months.
And return implies much more than regular visits. So it has to be distinguished. You see what I mean?
Well, if you refer to theory as a method to test hypotheses and to integrate social facts, I say, yes. There is a return theory. So major research interests across various disciplines revolved around how returned migrants affected and were affected by the social, economic, cultural, and political contexts in both their countries of origin and their former countries of destination. And return migrants’ individuality– individuality is defined as individual persons having motivations, aspirations, resources, and projects like any other human being– was a major research subject.
Well, in my works, I often refer to return as a stage in the migration cycle, and let me explain what I mean by this. The migration cycle has three core stages– one, departure; two, immigration; three, return. And with specific reference to return migrants– namely those who left the country, lived abroad, and returned– we can identify three different types of migration cycles.
The first one– the migration cycle is complete, or it can be viewed as being complete, when migrants consider that it is time to return owing to factors and conditions that are subjectively viewed as being favourable or positive, OK? So they feel they gathered sufficient resources to carry out the projects in their home countries, and they have developed their own networks. They have acquired skills and knowledge that can contribute to their reintegration back home. So these migrants, having a complete migration cycle, not only opted to return, but they also had the opportunity to evaluate the costs and benefits of return. This is very important. There is a second type of migration which is incomplete.
So it is incomplete when unexpected factors and conditions prompted the migrants to return whereas they intended to stay abroad for longer. Certainly, these are people who decided to return, but the option was taken owing to unfavourable and negative reasons. For example, because of unexpected family problems in the home country, ostracism in the country of destination, the lack of real opportunities in the immigration country, and so on. So these are migrants who, of course, decided to return, but actually owing to unfavourable circumstances. And the last one is very important. It is a migration cycle which is interrupted, and it occurs when disruptive events compel return migrants to return. They intended to stay abroad for longer.
But unlike migrants having an incomplete migration cycle, they never have the possibility of evaluating the costs and benefits of their return because there were factors external to their own volition which prompted them to leave their destination country. So this may result from their asylum application being rejected. For others, the unexpected non-renewal of a job contract or the loss of a job due to the economic crisis. For others, the removal from the territory of a destination country. So in this category, you can also include migrants who benefited from so-called assisted voluntary return programmes and so-called forced to return, actually. I say so-called because the dichotomy between voluntary and forced return is a political construct.
And if you prefer, it is even a hidden form of expulsion. So they have nothing to do with return as it is sociologically understood.

Interview with Jean-Pierre Cassarino, Research Institute on the Contemporary Maghreb, Tunisia.

We asked Jean-Pierre the following questions:

Question no.1: What is ‘return’?

Question no.2: Is there a theory of return migration?

Question no.3: What is the relationship between return and migration cycles?

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