- Non-voluntary return? The politics of return to Afghanistan
- Blitz, Brad; Sales, Rosemary; Marzano, Lisa
- Roehampton University; Middlesex University
- Mar 2005
The aims of this research are to assess the views of Afghan residents in the UK about return and the policy measures which could assist with return. It also aims to evaluate the motivations for promoting return programmes. Refugee Action and the International Migration Organization promoted a number of return programmes and commissioned the article to gain more information about the Afghan community and their views about return.
Data was gathered mainly through a postal survey. Questionnaires were distributed to Afghans in London, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham via community groups. 117 completed questionnaires were received. Participants were from a range of occupational, social and educational backgrounds and ethnic groups. Interviews were also carried out with participants, [10 of these were in London], and 5 focus groups. The research took place in 2002 which was a particularly sensitive time in relation to Afghanistan and to the public debate on asylum. This impacted upon the research as participants were suspicious of the researchers’ connection with return programmes. The article is aimed at organisations involved with return programmes.
Using existing research the authors present three discourses of return: justice-based arguments, where returns are considered a means of resolving conflict and restoring social order; human capital arguments, which are based on the notion that returnees bring back skills vital in the reconstruction process; and burden-relieving arguments, which are based on the assumption that large numbers of refugees are result in political and social problems and countries need to share this burden. The primary research found that the views of Afghan respondents on return reflected a strong emotional attachment to Afghanistan but an overall unwillingness to return in the near future. Nearly half respondents said they would like to return to Afghanistan in the future, a third were unsure and for a minority any form of return was out of the question. The main reasons for not returning to Afghanistan cited by the interviewees were lack of security, unemployment and human right violations. Immigration status and settlement status are key variables in the decision process of return.
Although in the last few years the British government emphasized the validity of various return programmes to Afghanistan it appears that they did not have a great impact on the Afghan community. Afghanistan is still a volatile country where security remains a main concern and it is very unlikely that Afghans will decide to return in large numbers. The authors argue that voluntary return programmes were promoted using justice based arguments and human capital arguments but that in reality British policy was guided by the burden-relieving discourse. In this context the voluntary nature of return programmes is seriously compromised. The research shows that a new category of ‘non-voluntary’ return seems to be emerging. Refugee decision-making is increasingly influenced by external factors such as political interests of the country of asylum; the voluntary nature of return is undermined by coercive return policies and by the fact that return becomes the only viable alternative to deportation.
- Resource Type
- Journal article
- Political Studies 53 (1)