Life after assisted return from Germany: longitudinal study on long-term reintegration

04 April 2023

Photo: IOM / Beyond Borders Media 2022 Photo: IOM / Beyond Borders Media 2022

Berlin – In a large research study, the Research Centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) joined forces to assess the return and reintegration experiences of almost one thousand returnees who received assistance from the StarthilfePlus programme. The findings of the study provide valuable insights and contribute to furthering evidence-based policies and practices, in line with United Nations principles, for a safe and dignified return, readmission and reintegration.

To gain a more comprehensive insight into the returnees’ longer-term reintegration experiences, two successive surveys were conducted with returnees in nine countries. The first survey took place approximately eight months, and the second survey around three years after their return. In Armenia, Iraq and Lebanon, additional in-depth interviews were conducted with women to better understand their situation and experiences at the place of return.

High satisfaction with the StarthilfePlus programme

Most returnees continue to be satisfied with the federal programme StarthilfePlus. Three years after returning, 85% of respondents are satisfied with the support they received. As part of the programme, the returnees participating in the study received financial assistance in the form of two programme instalments: before leaving Germany and about half a year after in the country of return. The respondents appreciate that they can use the money according to their individual reintegration needs. The majority of returnees rate financial support as important, especially to cover daily needs but also housing and medical care costs.

Yet, the interviewees state that they need further assistance beyond the support measures they had already received. Besides financial support, in-kind assistance is beneficial for instance to establish a business, as the respondents stated. The current orientation of the StarthilfePlus programme with financial and in-kind support components helps address the needs of returnees.

Reintegration improves over time but challenges remain

Over time, more and more returnees of working age receive income from work. Three years after returning, this number has risen to 64%. This is an increase of over 20 % compared to those employed at the time of the first survey. A large majority of returnees are also satisfied with the relationships with their family and friends over the last years.

Despite these developments, the respondents continue to report a variety of challenges. For example, the income is often not sufficient to cover their daily needs and those of their families. In some countries, satisfaction with the security situation has declined over time. In addition, many respondents have little trust in state structures and returnees do not have access to public services everywhere.

Women face specific reintegration challenges

About 38 % of the women and 75 % of the men interviewed generate an income from occupation. In the in-depth interviews, however, most women express the wish for an independently generated income. Still, they experience higher barriers in accessing the labour market.

An interviewee in Armenia explains: "The most important thing for me would be to be able to work: to have a job to rely on. I would like to have a tailor shop. A shop!"

Overall, the study shows that women have a strong interest in improving their living conditions. This suggests that the unused reintegration potential of women returnees should be specifically targeted in return and reintegration programmes.

The full report in German is available here.