The complexity of refugees' return decision-making in a protracted exile: beyond the home-coming model and durable solutions
This article challenges the static conception of repatriation by demonstrating the dynamic and complicated nature of refugees’ return decision-making through in-depth case studies of Liberian refugees in Ghana. Institutions dealing with refugees tend to depict repatriation as a ‘home-coming’, a natural return movement driven by refugees’ desire to go back to a homeland following the termination of the root causes of their forced displacement. Given the significant changes in their life during prolonged exile in Ghana, however, for the majority of Liberian refugees, the decision to repatriate or not is a complex interplay of their current social, familial, economic and political circumstances, in which nostalgic longing for a homeland has little space. The article argues for the necessity of replacing the sedentarist perception of repatriation with a more holistic understanding that captures the untidy and negotiated nature of refugees’ return decision-making. It also highlights temporary strategies employed by Liberian refugees in response to the repatriation pressure from refugee-policy-makers and invites recognition of the critical gap between refugees and UNHCR about what stands as a ‘solution’ for refugees’ protracted exile.