Managing Migrant Return through 'Voluntariness'


The fundamental weakness of nation state and EU efforts to effectively manage migration to Europe lies in ensuring the return of foreigners who pass or avoid border controls but are then neither granted asylum nor a residence permit. Many Member States thereby increasingly rely on public policies for the so-called ‘voluntary return’ of irregular migrants and (refused) asylum seekers. Very little is known about how these approaches work in practice and whether they meet stated policy goals and discharge state obligations regarding migrants’ human rights. The project REvolTURN addresses this research gap through a close and comparative analysis of ‘voluntary return’ policies in Austria and the UK, including their adoption, implementation and immediate outcome. It examines 1) how voluntariness of return is constructed and framed in law, policy and public discourse, 2) which notions of voluntariness are crucial for policy implementation, and 3) what impact this has on migrants’ own decision-making about their return. My innovative and interdisciplinary mixed-method approach combines comparative policy and discourse analysis, detailed institutional ethnography through observation and in-depth interviews and a survey among potential returnees. REvolTURN addresses a key priority of the Horizon 2020 work programme for 2016-17: to better manage migration, and will also contribute to recent scholarship regarding the in/effectiveness of migration policies and the agency of migrants holding no or highly precarious statuses. The project has three main objectives: 1) to better understand the role and functioning of voluntariness in the context of state-managed migratory return; 2) to develop a framework for assessing and comparing these roles and functions, including their effectiveness; and 3) to thereby contribute to evidence-based and workable policy solutions that increase the number of genuinely voluntary returns without undermining the very logic underlying this approach.
Year 2018

Taxonomy Associations

Migration processes
Migration consequences (for migrants, sending and receiving countries)
Migration governance
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