Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) is a key component of migration management in many host countries and high on the agenda of EU policymakers. AVR is offered by host governments to migrants without a legal right to stay, such as rejected asylum seekers or irregular migrants, enabling them to return in dignity and often with a reintegration package to re-establish themselves in their country of origin. In 2013, over 46,000 people from more than 70 host countries took part in International Organization for Migration (IOM) programmes.
As stated by William Lacy Swing, IOM’s Director General: “AVR is not without controversy”. There are several unanswered questions on AVR such as: why do people choose to participate? Is their return sustainable? Over the past year, Maastricht University has engaged with these questions on a project named ‘Comparative Research on Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration of Migrants’. Several members of the Maastricht migration team were actively involved in this project, conducting fieldwork in 15 different countries. On 16 January 2015, Prof. Khalid Koser and Katie Kushminder presented the results at a roundtable event hosted by the IOM in Geneva, with guests from country delegations invited to discuss the implications of the study results.2015-01-19_142104
This project was a collaborative effort between the Irregular Migration Research Unit of the Government of Australia’s Department of Immigration, the IOM, and Maastricht University. It was innovative in bridging the divide between research and policy to regularly have discussions regarding methodology, field challenges and results, while maintaining the independence of the research.