The Usefulness of Reintegration Support: The Dual Perspectives of Returnees and Caseworkers
Many European countries have developed assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) programmes to support the return and reintegration of migrants who do not have a legal residence permit. There is substantial involvement of social-care professionals in the implementation of these programmes. However, the contested nature of AVRR programmes has limited an in-depth understanding of the exact nature of reintegration support and the ways it affects migrants’ lives after return. Through exploring the usefulness of AVRR support from the perspectives of those receiving it and experienced caseworkers providing it in the context of the Belgian AVRR return programme to Armenia and Georgia, this article contributes to a better understanding of the possibilities and constraints of reintegration support. Based on interviews with seventy-nine returnees during the initial two years after their return, interviews with the caseworkers and observations of day-to-day interactions between both parties, four different understandings of the ‘usefulness’ of reintegration support are delineated: reintegration support (i) as central and necessary financial support; (ii) as insufficient, decontextualised and deceptive support; (iii) as selective support; and lastly (iv) as humane and negotiated support. These understandings then evoke reflections on the implications for those stakeholders developing or implementing AVRR support programmes.