September 28, 2021

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Examining Facilitating Factors for Safe, Voluntary, and Sustained Post-Conflict Refugee Returns (RAND Corporation)

10 min read

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

Project Overview

The world is facing the highest number of forcibly displaced people on record. Returns have not kept pace with displacement. The status quo is a growing global population of displaced people, living in limbo without full citizenship rights, and with their host countries under ever greater strains of hosting them. The need to find new solutions to facilitate safe refugee return has become ever more urgent. Yet, not enough is known about the conditions and arrangements that can best promote expeditious safe return in the largest refugee situations around the world. The international community’s preferred durable solution for forced displacement is voluntary return, and many (though not all) refugees similarly harbor dreams of returning to their homes. Yet, despite this shared interest in safe, voluntary, and sustained return, little research has focused on the topic. RAND Corporation’s study, funded by PRM, will investigate the conditions and arrangements that can best promote expeditious safe return in the largest refugee situations around the world by studying the historical pace of refugee returns including determinants and patterns, interplay among stakeholders in facilitating refugee returns, push and pull factors that shape refugees’ decisions to return to their home countries, factors required for sustainable returns and successful reintegration, and experiences and outcomes from cases of forced displacement and return. The scarcity of rigorous, systematic, comparative findings poses a problem for developing policy solutions, which are urgently needed, given the record-breaking number of forced migrants. The proposed research aims to address this gap in the literature by building on existing knowledge to generate new insights relevant to policymaking. RAND intends to conduct this research in Erbil, Iraq, and the Western Balkans and expects to finish by the end of August, 2021.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of this project is to understand factors related to successful refugee returns in order to inform policymaking about helping the globe’s millions of people displaced by conflict.

  • Identify current evidence, best practices, and knowledge gaps in refugee returns through a review of global literature on refugee returns and phone interviews.
  • Identify trends in refugee returns, through compiling and analyzing existing cross-national data, using 22 existing RAND nation-building case studies as a foundation.
  • Evaluate refugee returns in the Kurdistan Region – Iraq and the Western Balkans.
  • Develop a final report with practical recommendations to policymakers on facilitation of refugee returns.
  • Publish the report on refugee returns to: a) communicate findings to a wide policymaker and general audience; and b) to strengthen the evidence-based understanding of refugee returns.
  • Present the study though a broad dissemination strategy, including at least two workshops or conferences to disseminate findings and solicit feedback.

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