Return

Due out October 2019

Deadline for submission of articles: Monday 17th June 2019

As one of the three ‘durable solutions’, voluntary return in safety and dignity has been a core tenet of the international refugee regime since the signing of the 1951 Refugee Convention, and is also reaffirmed in the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Voluntary return may be spontaneous or it may be organised by the international community; some cases of return, however, may be more problematic, and controversially less ‘voluntary’ than the term would imply. Only limited numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have access to integration and settlement elsewhere (the other two traditional durable solutions), or indeed to other complementary pathways to protection. As a result, the impetus to encourage or enforce return will remain high.

The development and implementation of bilateral or multilateral readmission or tripartite agreements to facilitate the return of persons without authorisation to stay or refugees may raise concerns around responsibility sharing and protection. Amnesties and designated zones for return, which are being considered currently in the context of the return of Syrian refugees and IDPs, have been tried historically in various contexts with varied degrees of success; and securing such zones usually requires military support which may in itself pose additional challenges.

Debates around the subject are complex, touching on political, legal and socio-economic questions as well as the central principle of non-refoulement and the humanitarian imperative to ensure that returns are informed, safe, voluntary and dignified. Whether people who move to another country are classified as refugees or as migrants has an important effect on how they are treated and how they return, even if the boundaries between such distinctions can be blurred at times. And most discussions around the subject of return fail to reflect the views of displaced people ­– what refugees and IDPs themselves want.

The success and sustainability of return are dependent on a number of critical factors, including access to: civil documentation, safety and security, productive livelihoods, national social protection mechanisms, essential services, the opportunity to build or rebuild social support networks, and housing, land and property rights. However, monitoring of returning refugees’ and IDPs’ ability to re-establish their lives is often limited or non-existent. Furthermore, challenges around the return of IDPs may differ from those affecting returning refugees, and may require different approaches and actors. However, the involvement of civil society and local actors in both IDP and refugee returns is crucial.

This issue of FMR will provide a forum for practitioners, advocates, policymakers and researchers to share experience, debate perspectives and offer recommendations around these issues. In particular, the FMR Editors are looking for practice-oriented submissions, reflecting a diverse range of experience and opinions, which address questions such as the following:

  • What conditions must be in place and which needs must be met for the safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and IDPs?
  • How do the outsourcing of border controls and the focus on ‘migration governance’ affect the return of refugees and other displaced people?
  • What is the impact of tripartite agreements and other multilateral readmissions agreements on responsibility sharing and protection?
  • To what extent are refugees and IDPs able to freely decide whether or not to return? Under what circumstances do refugees and IDPs make this decision?
  • What factors contribute to the decision of States to encourage the return of refugees and IDPs? Does the international community have a role to play, whether to offer support or facilitation – or to attempt prevention, if return is seen as premature or inappropriate, or risking refoulement?
  • What can be learned by analysing which refugees and IDPs return? Are some more likely to return than others? Is the return of some groups prioritised over the return of others?
  • What particular protection and reintegration needs must be taken into account for those who are returning to post-conflict contexts where ethnically based violence has taken place? Are there examples of contexts in which return under such circumstances has been successfully achieved?
  • How can protection and reintegration needs be best met in the case of minority returns?
  • What role can and should returnees play in reconciliation and peace building?
  • How can local, national and international actors take steps to ensure the active participation of returning refugee and IDP women in decisions to return and in the planning and implementation of reintegration programmes?
  • Does the potential contribution of refugees and IDPs to State reconstruction, national development planning and peace building contribute to the decision about when it is desirable – and safe – for returns?
  • How can States, the international community and other actors best protect and support those who return spontaneously to conditions that are not yet stable – when return might be considered premature?
  • What can be learned from the historical – or current – establishment of designated zones for return of refugees or IDPs in (post-) displacement contexts?
  • In what ways can local, national and international actors help prevent further/repeat displacement of refugees or IDPs who have returned?
  • How can host countries, countries of origin and national and international actors best ensure the free availability of accurate, up-to-date information about conditions in countries and areas of potential return, including with respect to security, food security, livelihoods opportunities and essential services?
  • What part do formally arranged ‘go-and-see’ visits play in information sharing? Who might be best placed to facilitate these?
  • How do refugees’ and IDPs’ perceptions of assistance and incentivisation affect their decisions?
  • How can the international community and other actors involved in programmes of organised return ensure that such returns are not happening under duress, and that returnees’ human rights are protected during this process?
  • Do refugees and IDPs with seen or unseen disabilities face particular challenges in returning? What can be done to facilitate their informed, voluntary return, and to ensure that it takes place in safety, with their rights and dignity protected?
  • Is sufficient attention paid to the clearance of physical barriers such as landmines, unexploded ordnance and other hazards that can have an impact on the possibility or reality of safe return?  
  • Is there sufficient provision to address the psychosocial needs of returning refugees and IDPs, including those who have been detained in displacement? Are there examples of best practice in this area?
  • What are the particular risks and challenges facing returning children? How do those engaged in facilitating and supporting returns ensure that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected?
  • What instances are there of best practice in supporting housing and property restitution in refugee and IDP return? What challenges are there to ensuring adherence to the Pinheiro Principles and how are these being met?
  • Are there contexts in which return is seen as the only appropriate or desirable durable solution?
  • How does the cessation of refugee status relate to return and repatriation?
  • How does the cause of displacement affect the likelihood, means and result of return? Are there key differences between those who have had access to asylum, and those displaced by disasters and climate change who may not have had access to such protection?

 

We ask all authors to give appropriate consideration to the particular relevance of their responses to persons with disabilities, to LGBTIQ+ persons, to older persons, and to other groups with specific vulnerabilities, and to seek to include a gendered approach as part of their articles. And we are particularly keen to reflect the experiences and knowledge of communities and individuals directly affected by these questions.

While we are looking for examples of good, replicable practice and experience as well as sound analysis of the issues at stake, we also urge writers to discuss failures and difficulties: what does/did not work so well, and why?

Maximum length: 2,500 words.
Please note that space is always at a premium in FMR and that published articles are usually shorter than this maximum length. Your article, if accepted for publication, may well be shortened but you will of course be consulted about any editing changes.

Deadline for submission of articles: Monday 17th June 2019

In advance of writing:
If you are interested in contributing, please email the Editors at fmr@qeh.ox.ac.uk to discuss your ideas for an article; we will let you know if we are interested in receiving your proposed submission and will provide feedback and guidance.

Please note that we have prepared a ‘thematic listing’ of most of the articles published to date in FMR focusing on ‘return’, as a durable solution. You may wish to consult this to avoid duplication. (Please do also feel free to share it with others.) Online on our thematic listings page.

If you have suggestions of colleagues or community representatives who may wish to contribute, please do email us; we are happy to work with individuals to help them develop an article and very keen to have displaced people’s perspectives reflected in the magazine.

When writing your article:
Please take note of our guidelines for authors and ensure your article, when submitted, complies with our submission checklist: details at www.fmreview.org/writing-fmr.

This issue will also include a mini-feature on Root causes of displacement
This special mini-feature will seek to enhance collective understanding of the root causes of displacement and to inform discussions on protection and solutions which will take place at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019.

A separate call for articles for this mini-feature is at www.fmreview.org/root-causes. Note that this has an earlier submission deadline than the call for the main feature theme and that we ask anyone interested in writing for the mini-feature to first contact the Editors to discuss their ideas.

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Forced Migration Review
Refugee Studies Centre
Oxford Department of International Development
University of Oxford
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