6. Partnerships with origin country authorities

Sustainable return and reintegration depends not only on cooperation within destination country administrations, but partnership with origin countries – for return, but particularly when it comes to longer-term reintegration from a development perspective. Successful return requires origin countries’ cooperation in readmission, but sustainable reintegration programmes need to foster ownership by local and national authorities and other stakeholders in countries of origin, in particular through institutional capacity-building activities. In the long term, returnees cannot be indefinitely supported – financially or otherwise – through programmes and initiatives run by destination countries. With this goal in mind, existing reintegration programmes must create connections to local structures and processes in origin countries, ultimately aiming at a handover to local authorities and actors. The country of origin is responsible for its own citizens after return, no more and no less than it is responsible for its own citizens who have not migrated.

While return and the reintegration of returnees is a high priority policy issue in the destination country, and brought to the origin country as a priority issue, it often appears lower on the agenda of many origin countries, both in terms of public perception and policy maker priorities. In addition, countries of origin and countries of destination might further vary substantially in their understanding of return migration and reintegration of returning migrants. Many European countries have undertaken efforts to set the framework for activity in origin countries in migration dialogues or readmission agreements with country of origin authorities, which includes joint efforts at the EU level.

Countries of origin and countries of destination vary substantially in their understanding of return migration and reintegration of returning migrants. For many countries of origin, return is a low priority policy issue, eclipsed by the particularly contentious question of forced return (Haase and Honerath, 2016[1]). Many AVRR programmes aim at facilitating cooperative and coherent policy approaches between the countries involved. At the same time, facilitation of return to countries of origin has been used as a political instrument and bargaining chip in discussions and agreements between states on different forms of cooperation, including explicit or implicit conditionality (D’Humières, 2018[2]; Latek, 2017[3]). Some European governments are taking an explicit “more-for-more” approach in linking concerns of return to development aid, although there is a rejection of the use of aid as a “sanction”.

In order to foster ownership and design programmes that are sensitive to contexts in different countries migrants return to, the dialogue on reintegration has attempted to take into account the perspectives and interests of the countries of origin (Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), 2018[4]; 2019[5]). In order to design partnerships that ensure the sustainability of programming in the long-term, host countries have experimented with models for receiving input from key stakeholders in origin countries. Such input can be found in the outcomes of past dialogues in the form of technical workshops, for example between the African Union and the European Union, identifying challenges, good practices and recommendations for including return migrants into existing labour markets and strengthening institutional capacities (African Union, 2018[6]; 2018[7]; AU, EU, 2018[8]).

Some European governments seek to facilitate agreements on co-operation based on explicit or implicit conditionality. Most notably, Denmark has developed a “flexible return fund” to incentivise origin countries’ cooperation on return issues. The fund has been growing since its inception in 2017. It is administered in a “more-for-more” approach in linking concerns of return to development aid, rejecting of the use of aid as a “sanction”. Through these migration dialogues, the Danish government does not seek formal readmission agreements, but to arrive at an informal understanding on what the practical issues in cooperation on return and readmission are in a particular origin country, ascertaining how Denmark can support to help facilitate readmission.

At the same time, discussions in several countries have explored whether “less-for-less” approaches would be possible in principle. Besides ethical considerations, it seemed clear that the majority of the existing development portfolio, humanitarian aid in particular, would need to be continued, as they address migration drivers that also hinder motivation to return. A “less-for-less” approach would require wider agreement with development colleagues outside the return and reintegration area, dealing with more structural issues of development cooperation. These actors are unlikely to see the benefit in cutting aid in order to enable the return of a limited number of irregular migrants, especially when that might have wider political repercussions. Lastly, a difficulty of applying a “less-for-less” approach in readmission negotiations is that there is often no overlap between countries where development cooperation is already active and countries where irregular migrants need to return.

While Denmark has most extensively institutionalised linkage of development aid and readmission negotiations among countries participating in this report, others have also seen political forces press to make development assistance conditional on readmission. However, even if this were possible, aid-conditionality is difficult to implement, particularly in light of multi-year planning in development – agencies have large parts of their budget reserved and are rarely flexible. Furthermore, while even smaller OECD countries may be present in a range of origin countries, they rarely count among the top three donors in any of them, limiting their influence and leverage in migration dialogues.

As facilitation of returns has become a more important policy priority for donor countries in their relations with origin countries, contrasting objectives have emerged. Origin countries may not assign the same importance to the reintegration of returning migrants. Returns from European countries, whether forced or not, may be a lower priority; returns from non-OECD destinations are a much larger phenomenon for countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria and Senegal, for example (Samuel Hall, 2020[9]; 2020[10]; Castagnone and Ferro, 2020[11]). Internally displaced persons may be seen as a priority for national programmes (Arrat, 2020[12]). In some cases, such as Kosovo, return migrants from Europe are the main channel and return in such large numbers that they indeed represent a policy priority in the origin country. Bilateral and multilateral dialogue and agreement between European countries and African countries has seen the issue of return and readmission figure among European priorities. Return and readmission are included in the 2000 Cotonou agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, although the treaty goes far beyond cooperation on migration. More recently, reintegration has been included in migration-related EU dialogues with African countries: foremost in the 2015 Valletta Summit, where the Emergency Trust fund to promote development in Africa included an aim to cooperate more closely on return, readmission and reintegration.

A further issue is the multitude of different donor countries and the multiplication of partners active in the country of origin. Each donor country has its own programme priorities; many donor countries have different contact points for development, migration and security cooperation, sometimes without strong coordination among them. Even when there is a single voice on the side of a donor country, or a single contact point for initiatives shared among donor countries, there may be multiple contact points for the origin country, representing different institutions.

The presence of reference to reintegration policy in national strategy documents of origin countries is not necessarily a sign of political ownership or that the country assigns a priority to reintegration. Many of the national strategies in origin countries have been developed with financial support from donor countries and with technical support from international organisations, which guarantees inclusion of reference to reintegration as part of international good practice and as a means to ensure that external support for such measures – in bilateral agreements and in cooperation – aligns with official policy in the origin country. High-level coordination and policy commitment may also be visible to international actors in the country, but remain poorly connected with CSOs and other organisations active at the community level. In Afghanistan, for example, NGOs are largely unrepresented in the Displacement and Returnees Executive Committee (DiREC), the platform for coordinating government and international partner collaboration (Samuel Hall, 2020[10]).

The different forms of collaboration between destination and origin governments, at different levels, of IOM and other international organisations, of CSOs and the private sector, have not been fully investigated or evaluated. While it is apparent that no single model will be applicable in all contexts, some approaches have achieved more success than others. One example of how such multi-level cooperation could work in practice is the “National Reintegration Mechanism” in Tunisia, which involves several destination country agencies, the European Union, multiple local authorities, and implementing partners from civil society (Hammouda, 2020[13]; Muyle, 2018[14]). Not all origin country partners are involved in the mechanism; some continue to work outside of it.

The shift in reintegration assistance from cash to in-kind services necessitated a change in the way that programmes interact with countries of origin. Cash payments require limited infrastructure in the country of origin, beyond the administrative capacity for disbursal over time and to conduct any checks foreseen by evaluation. In-kind programmes require partnerships with actors in the origin country, including the coordinating service provider, which range from international organisations and representatives of the host countries and origin countries to CSOs. In addition, they require partnerships with the actors providing reintegration support directly to the returnee, which may include government partners or non-government actors in civil society and the private sector (Figure 6.1). Resources allocated to services can help build capacity beyond service provision to the individual beneficiaries of the programme, even when these investments are not sufficient to build a long-term reintegration infrastructure on their own.

Return and reintegration programmes as described are often narrow in scope, rarely provide structural support to the countries of origin, and often lack individual support over longer periods. In order for individual support and counselling to lead to sustainable reintegration, the beneficiary should be linked to local structures and services. The comprehensive approach for local development and structural long term support in countries of origin lies behind the BMZ programme “Returning to New Opportunities”, which aims to support training and employment as well as social support and opening these up to returnees. The programme is linked to existing projects focusing on the institutional, legislative and structural improvement of labour markets, vocational education or municipal development, and its main structures – Advice centres – are designed to work alongside and in coordination with local institutions (Box 6.1).

With this goal in mind, existing reintegration programmes must create connections to local structures and processes in origin countries, ultimately aiming at a handover to local authorities and actors. In the German model, reintegration support is implemented in close cooperation with origin country institutions, such as the ANETI employment agency in Tunisia (Hammouda, 2020[13]). Within this approach, German authorities stress “state-to-state” cooperation, supporting origin-country led national plans such as the Tunisian ANETI’s 2030 strategy. A similar approach can be seen in Senegal, where the national body responsible for providing returnees with economic, social and psychosocial support, the Office of Reception and Orientation (BAOS), suffers from low visibility and limited operational capacity (Samuel Hall, 2020[9]). Anchoring the reintegration support offer in existing public institutions and their programmes and building those institutions capabilities lays the groundwork for an “exit” and handover to origin country institutions.

Norway, for example, conducts smaller-scale and more select capacity-building exercises in areas that origin countries have flagged during “migration dialogues”. Together with IOM, Norway implemented training for Somali immigration authorities who receive back returnees. A common request for capacity building to handle return amongst country of origin authorities are different forms of police cooperation. Overall, the Norwegian experience seems to have shown that such interventions improve the atmosphere of cooperation and facilitate the functioning of the return process. Such interventions are particularly useful for countries which have small return caseloads and which can benefit from close relationships with gatekeeping authorities in the origin countries.

Another means for capacity building is to administer reintegration assistance jointly with institutions in the origin country. Two examples of this can be found in Tunisia and Kosovo, where commissions involving donor representatives and staff of relevant institutions decide on the range of interventions to provide to individuals receiving assistance. In Tunisia, the commissions operate in the framework of the National Reintegration Mechanism, and are hosted by ANETI but involve case workers from the reintegration programme as well as other relevant services (Hammouda, 2020[13]). The commission reviews the needs of the returnee and validates the reintegration plan, before transferring it as appropriate to an implementing partner responsible for coordinating the case. In Kosovo, a similar approach is taken at the municipal level, where caseworkers evaluate needs and establish a plan, drawing on resources provided by the reintegration programme but also using public services to which returnees have rights. The commission model is one way to deal with the problem of coordination among actors, since there remain many different services and partners, but a single institutional interlocutor for case management.


[6] African Union (2018), The AU Member States Workshop On Reintegration of Returning Migrants into the Labour Market: Outcome Document.

[7] African Union Commission (2018), Key Measures for Sustainable Reintegration of Returning Migrants into the Labour Market. Outcomes of the technical workshop on “Reintegration of Returning Migrants in the Labour Market - Scoping the Field”.

[12] Arrat, E. (2020), Effective Policies and Programs in the Successful and Sustainable Reintegration of Iraqi Returnees from OECD Countries: Report for the OECD.

[8] AU, EU, I. (2018), AU-EU technical workshoAU-EU technical workshop on sustainable reintegration. Within the Framework of the AU-EU-UN Taskforce to Address the Situation of Migrants in Libya.

[11] Castagnone, E. and A. Ferro (2020), Return and Sustainable Reintegration: Report on the Nigeria-Germany corridor, OECD, Paris.

[2] D’Humières, V. (2018), “European Union/African Cooperation: the externalisation of Europe’s migration policies”, European Issues, No. 472, Fondation Robert Schuman, Brussels.

[5] Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) (2019), Return and Reintegration of Migrants: A European Dialogue.

[4] Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) (2018), Return and Reintegration of Migrants: A European Dialogue.

[1] Haase, M. and P. Honerath (2016), Return Migration and Reintegration Policies. A primer, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.

[13] Hammouda, H. (2020), Retour et Réintegration Durable en Tunisie, OECD, Paris.

[3] Latek, M. (2017), Briefing Reintegration of Returning Migrants, European Parliamentary Research Service.

[14] Muyle, M. (2018), Cartographie des Acteurs et des Dispositifs Européens de la Réinsertion des Migrants Tunisiens de Retour, Office Francais de l’Immigration et de l’Integration.

[10] Samuel Hall (2020), Corridor Report on Sustainable Return and Reintegration: Afghanistan, OECD, Paris.

[9] Samuel Hall (2020), Corridor Report on Sustainable Return and Reintegration: Senegal, OECD, Paris.

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