Joint BAMF and IOM project evaluation: Returnees are satisfied with the support programme StarthilfePlus

20 November 2019

In this first joint research study on the return support programme StarthilfePlus, BAMF and IOM examine the return motives of migrants and their reintegration in their countries of origin. More than 80 percent of surveyed respondents have expressed their satisfaction with the support received.

In 2017 and 2018, 15,184 individuals were supported by the StarthilfePlus reintegration programme, which was launched in 2017. The programme is being implemented on behalf of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Home Affairs (BMI) by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in coordination with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The aim is to financially support migrants from more than 40 countries of origin—including those required to leave the country and persons with very limited prospects to receive protection status—in returning voluntarily, if they are lacking the means to do so. This programme is offered in addition to the REAG/GARP basic support programme. BAMF and IOM´s research initiative is part of a long-term research project. The research examines how migrants, who returned to their countries of origin between the start of the programme on February 1, 2017 and April 19, 2018, evaluate the programme and the significance of the support for their return decision and reintegration. Accordingly, data from 1,339 StarthilfePlus recipients from a total of eleven countries were evaluated. The countries include Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.

Returnees are satisfied with the information, counselling, and organizational assistance received
Most of the interviewed returnees came to Germany during the peak of immigration entries from 2014 to 2017. The study shows that most asylum applicants (70%) received asylum rejections before they took a decision to return. Surveyed migrants rated the information and counselling received from the initial contact with the counselling centre until their departure, as well as the assistance received at departure as positive. Financial support was provided to programme participants in two installments: the first was given before departure and the second one on the sixth to eighth month after arrival in the country of return. Corinna Wicher, Head of Department for Security in the Asylum Procedure, Return, Residence Law, Central Register of Foreigners in the BAMF, emphasizes: "More than 80 % of the respondents are satisfied with StarthilfePlus. The study shows how important the combination of counselling services, practical assistance with departure, and financial support is. As a result of this combination, we can help those who are interested in returning step by step, so that they can take an informed return decision and develop their individual perspective at the place of return."

Counselling is as important as financial support
In general, the reasons affecting a decision to return are many. As the most important motive for return, the interviewees mention the lack of prospects for staying in Germany. Furthermore, proximity to the family in the country of origin is important. Programme information and counselling also play a key role in the return decision of the study participants. Those findings are relevant to the majority of the study participants and are as important as financial support. However, financial support is rarely a motive for return. Nevertheless, it plays a role in the decision-making process, especially for individuals who are already considering a return based on other reasons but have not yet taken a final decision.

Financial support provides needed stability in the first few months after return
Financial support is mainly used to cover the daily needs in the first few months upon arrival. It is therefore an important benefit, as most returnees do not generate enough income of their own in the first few months. The study participants often state that they wish for even more reintegration support, especially with regard to finding work and starting their own business. Monica Goracci, Chief of Mission IOM Germany, says: "The study shows that we are filling-in a gap with StarthilfePlus by providing individual support to migrants in the time immediately after their arrival, thus giving them enough time to re-orient themselves. Building on this, further measures for sustainable reintegration can then take effect."

Overall satisfaction with life at the place of return
70 % of respondents are satisfied with life at the place of return or have a neutral disposition. The most content study participants are those who returned to Armenia. Satisfaction with the security situation differs depending on the place of return: Satisfaction levels of over 60 % can be found in Armenia, Azerbaijan, but also in Iraq. An important factor for the general life satisfaction after return is labor market integration. On average, eight months after return, respondents achieve moderate employment rates of around 39 %.

Online survey in IOM country offices
The study is based on a thematically broad standardized quantitative survey of individuals who received support from the StarthilfePlus programme. When surveyed, participants were already in their country of origin. Countries included in the study are: Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Nigeria and Ghana. For BMI, BAMF and IOM, the results of the study show how important this evaluation is for an evidence-based development of support programmes in the return context. Consequently, programmes can be better adapted to the diverse needs of migrants in the future.

The complete study and its summary can be viewed at www.bamf.de/evaluation-starthilfeplus.

An interview with the researchers can also be accessed in German, here.

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