Over 2.500 migrants have been rescued off the Libyan coast during the last days. These are the numbers of the migratory phenomenon that has by now became a daily practice. While the European Union member states are discussing the distribution of the asylum seekers, the process of repatriation of economic migrants goes ahead with the attempt to accelerate the procedure and strengthen the role played by FRONTEX.
Besides that forced repatriation is not always possible, i.e., in case of migrants coming from countries in serious political instability as Eritrea, Somalia, Syria and Nigeria, the question arises: what happens to the migrants once they return to their home land? Nobody speaks about this thorny subject, indeed the consequences of forced repatriation are rarely mentioned in newspapers, television, studies or analyses. One of the rare exception is an old working paper by CEPSI (Centre for International Political Studies) that examines the impact of expulsions from two main prospectives: the personal tendency to re-integration and the response of the context of origin.
First of all, one should consider that only a few countries provide assistance to repatriated migrants and, sometimes, no information about them is available.
The general trend corresponds to a feeling of intolerance. The majority of returned migrants are disoriented and depressed for having failed in achieving their goals, becoming a burden on their families instead of support. “Feeling foreign in their own houses”, a sensation that could be transitory and ends with the discovery of a new balance or, in many cases, persists and creates demotivation, apathy and the rejection to try to find a job and relaunch their life. The idea to work for a minimal compensation and depending from someone else seems inacceptable and the awareness of not having specific knowledge to offer and nobody to ask help exacerbates the situation.
Professor Mehdi Lahlou, who interviewed years ago some migrants on behalf of CEPSI, reported that repatriated wake up late in the morning, feel a sense of emptiness and rarely go out from their home, they just wait for something. Some of them are resigned to their destiny whereas others only think about a new departure. For some migrants, organizing another departure is quite impossible, on account of the expulsion affecting them or for the fear of a second failure. However, for a lot of repatriated people being back in Europe becomes the reason of living.
How the family and the community of origin respond to the return of a son, a daughter, or kin in general? In those countries where the migratory phenomenon is frequent, illegal migration is considered the only opportunity leading to a better life and the repatriation is included among the risks of the challenge. Bravery is highly appreciated by people and the community shares a feeling of solidarity towards the repatriated vis à vis richer countries and their restrictive policies.
Thus, family is the first figurative place where to find hospitality. From their families, returned migrants receive food, accommodation and some money if available. Families’ first reaction is certainly positive; the happiness to see their own son alive dominates the scene. A few days after, the relatives deal with the question of repartition and their roles in re-building a prospective of life change case by case.
During last year, a series of aid programs for forced returned migrants have been implemented. The payment of travel expenses, exceptions aids, microcredit or aid to find a job and professional courses to favor re-integration. In this sense, France and Netherland recognize certain efficiency to these practices, but the engagement of others European countries in the post-repatriation phase would have a positive impact on the future of returned migrants.
Surely, in order to address the problem of migration, the international community should not limit its action to return economic migrants to their homeland. A deeper understanding of the consequences of forced repartition is needed to ensure a successful re-integration of migrants in the countries of origin, which could results in a reduction of future migratory waves.
Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)