Due to its increasing numbers of refugees, The Netherlands, like other European countries, has created exclusionary asylum policies. Policies are directed at the rapid processing of refugees, implying more rejections and fewer extensions of permits than in the past, and promote repatriation as well as refugee settlement-programs near the homelands.
History of the project
In February 2010, HealthNet TPO started the project “On return from the Netherlands: A pilot for providing (psychosocial) assistance to returnees returning to their homelands Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, DR Congo and Sierra Leone”. The Sustainable Return Project represented several organizations - intergovernmental (IOM), governmental (COA) and non-governmental organizations (Nidos, Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland, Maatwerk bij Terugkeer, Pharos, SMS, HIT and HealthNet TPO) - that have decided to join forces.
The project focused on capacity building, preparation and first cycle implementation. Activities were mainly implemented in Burundi and Sierra Leone, including actual support for returnees (through regular support group meetings and training). In Afghanistan and DR Congo assessments - including stakeholder analysis - have been done, and methods to provide support are now available. As the number of returnees to the target countries was much lower than expected, not all activities could be executed.
The pilot results show that reintegration of returnees in their home countries largely depends on the attitude of the community to which they return. Stigma is one aspect that needs to be addressed by supporting both the returnees and the community. Furthermore, returnees are in need of more practical information as well as economic opportunities upon their return.
Ending the pilot, continuing support
In early 2011, it became clear that the pilot will not be continued, due to slow results (especially the low number of returnees compared to set targets). Now that the pilot has stopped, the project activities and thus the support to the returnees has been reduced significantly. Due to winding down funding received to properly end the activities a minimal level of support is still provided to returnee support network in Sierra Leone (YOS) and Burundi (l’Association) until the end of October 2011. Meanwhile HealthNet TPO continues to look for funding opportunities.
Return and stress
There are many assumptions made regarding return. First of all, return is assumed a natural and durable solution for migration, of which reintegration is a smooth end. It is believed that returning home puts an end to the migration process and that there eventually is a ‘home’ to return to. It also implicates that one is able to manage migration flows in a structured and organised way. However, people’s motives to migrate are diverse, dynamic and continuing: economical, political, social and other factors can be influential factors in this process. During the process other experiences contribute to the complexities that shape needs and possibilities on return and for a successful reintegration. Migration-related stress on individual and community level is a considerable factor that leads to loss of health, productivity and economic options – both in the countries of origin as in the country of arrival.
All people going through migration experience stress, although the amount of stress and the way a person is affected by it varies. (Depending on the dynamic between psychological factors, individual thoughts, emotions and feelings, and the social world constructed of relationships, environment, culture, etc.). The challenge is to improve the overall humanitarian aspects of the migratory process in this context:
Connection project and overall vision HealthNet TPO
HealthNet TPO executes projects in several home countries of returnees. In these settings, context- and community related aspects can influence the development of health problems for certain vulnerable groups and individuals. Returnees, facing all sorts of migration and reintegration related stress, can also develop vulnerability and risk of exclusion or limited access to health care. From within their own countries, HealthNet TPO can help people regain control over their own lives.
Aim: Stimulating the collaboration between member organizations to offer an integral, unambiguous, transparent and high quality package to (former) asylum seekers, and to support this group in the reintegration in their country of origin: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, DR Congo and Sierra Leone.
Donors: Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs