‘Voluntary repatriation’ has become the most favoured approach of recipient states to deal with managing immigration into their communities, especially in cases of large-scale displacement where local integration is not possible. However, large-scale return has various challenges stemming from the dilemmas for refugee-hosting states, origin states, and international or regional organizations. Often, these dilemmas lead to policy clashes, affecting refugees’ lives, itineraries and prospects for voluntary return. As there is no overarching authority that regulates refugee returns, a proliferation of sites of power, often with contradictory agendas, emerges. Against this background, a mix of public, private, and hybrid authorities engage in various governance functions across multiple scales: local, national-bilateral, regional and global. These actors are turning the politics of refugee returns into a matter of “fragmented” and “conflictual” rather than “ordered” governance.
Though such observations are at the heart of the global migration regime, authors have seldom sought to integrate them into the wealth of literature that tackles complex problems in polycentric governance. This points to an evident need for literature shedding light on the politics of refugee returns in order to problematize it as a sub-field of migration that exemplifies the complexities of polycentricity.
With this workshop we therefore seek to shape a new research agenda around the governance processes and convoluted decision-making pathways that constitute the structural and agentic aspects of voluntary repatriation by posing inter alia the following research questions: How do multiple actors with diverging interests engage with return processes? What factors shape the intervening actors’ discourses, interactions, and practices on the ground? What multi-layered consequences do polycentric ‘push and pull’ dynamics on refugee return yield on the ground?
This workshop is convened by our Alumni Fellows Zeynep Sahin Mencutek and Tamirace Fakhoury, together with their colleague Derya Ozkul (University of Oxford), who will gather a row of distinguished experts to discuss their work and findings on the governance of refugee returns. Outcomes of the workshop will be published in a special issue on this very topic in the high-ranking peer reviewed journal Geopolitics.