Sustainable Refugee Return: Triggers, constraints and lessons on addressing the development challenges of forced displacement
Niels Harild, Asger Christensen, Roger Zetter
By the end of 2014 the total worldwide displaced population of concern to UNHCR stood at an unprecedented 57.7 million persons, and of these 19.5 million were refugees and 38.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Significant in the context of the present study is that the number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate had increased by 23% on the previous year, 45% of the refugees are in a protracted displacement situation, and 86% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing regions. Moreover, in 2014 only 126,800 refugees returned to their country of origin, a thirty year low and significantly lower than even one year earlier. The aim of this study is to identify the conditions that influence the decisions by refugees in protracted displacement regarding return to their home country - when, why, and by whom are decisions on return or other coping strategies made, and how are these decisions affected both by life in exile and by the situation in the country of origin. The primary purpose of the study is to inform the World Bank’s country and regional strategies, as well as its operational approaches on ways to address forced displacement by showing that well thought out development actions that are responsive to the circumstances of specific displacement situations can contribute to the sustainable return and reintegration of the displaced people. In addition to the World Bank, the wider audience for this analysis is the community of development and humanitarian actors together with the governments of refugee origin and refugee hosting countries. All these actors need to better take into consideration the development dimension of displacement and return, as well as the concerns and coping strategies of the refugees themselves both while in displacement and upon return in order to promote sustainable solutions.