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Reintegration of voluntary returnees to Iraq from Finland has succeeded to a fair extent

12.11.2019 12.00
Press release

The reintegration of Iraqi returnees to their home region has succeeded to a fair extent, according to a follow-up study conducted by the Finnish office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Settling down in the community that the returnee left has succeeded better than settling down in a completely new place of residence. A small majority of the returnees do well in psychosocial terms. Problems with livelihood caused concern for almost all returnees.

The IOM interviewed 195 returnees who had returned to various parts of Iraq in 2017 and 2018, most of them to Baghdad. The purpose was to establish how their reintegration with cash or in-kind support granted by Finland and return arrangements made by the IOM has begun. Most of the returnees were men between 18 and 34 years of age.

The study was implemented by assignment from the Finnish Immigration Service, as part of the AUDA project on voluntary return that will end in December. The study reveals that return assistance granted by Finland for voluntary returnees helps them return to their home country. The success of reintegration is affected by return assistance and also by major societal problems, such as unemployment or deficiencies in health care. According to returnees, the city of Basra in Iraq, for example, has an alarming lack of clean drinking water.

Sustainable reintegration requires co-operation

Kathleen Newland, an American researcher who will give lectures in Helsinki on 11 and 12 November 2019 as a guest of the Auda project, believes that return assistance is a good start, but it alone is not enough to secure sustainable reintegration of returnees. Besides returnees, support is also needed by people close to them. It is highly probable that even the returnee’s home country requires support, especially if that country is a fragile state. Countries to which people return from Finland and other parts of Europe are often fragile states like Iraq. They are recovering from war and primarily strive to stabilise their political system and get to a start with reconstruction, so citizens returning from abroad are not necessarily at the top of their list of priorities.

To ensure sustainable and successful reintegration, the destination country should be committed to genuine development partnership with the returnee’s country of origin, which would promote closer economic ties and collaboration in the education sector, for instance. This would call for co-operation between several administrative branches; at minimum, between the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Launching actual co-operation projects, on the other hand, requires expertise on both funding and other administrative branches. It would be important to include diaspora communities permanently resident in Finland in the work more closely; the activity of the Somali community in Finland is an excellent example of this.

Proposal for a working group on voluntary returns

The final report of the AUDA project proposes that the Minister of the Interior should set a permanent working group and invite, as members, other authorities and representatives of various organisations to determine questions of assisted voluntary return and reintegration, and its links with development cooperation. The final report was prepared by the Finnish Immigration Service, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Crisis Management Centre which implemented the AUDA project, in co-operation with the Ministry of the Interior and the Finnish office of the IOM.

Facts: The system for assisted voluntary return has been developed

  • The AUDA project has developed the national structure for assisted voluntary return in co-operation with other EU Member States and countries of return.
  • The full name of the project is ‘Assisted voluntary return to Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan’.
  • Destination countries of the project are Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, countries from which the largest number of asylum seekers have come to Finland in recent years.
  • The parties responsible for the implementation of the project include the Finnish Immigration Service, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Crisis Management Centre (CMC Finland).
  • The follow-up study conducted by the IOM will be published at the closing seminar of the AUDA project on Tuesday, 12 November 2019.
  • The project was funded by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

Further information for the media

  • AUDA project: Project Manager Tarja Rantala,
    email: [email protected], tel. +358 295 433 037
  • The IOM’s follow-up study: Programme Director Tobias van Treeck,
    email: [email protected], tel. +358 50 439 2445