Socio-economic reintegration

© ILO / Andrew Quilty
There are a number of structural and circumstantial challenges that can prevent the socio-economic reintegration of labour migrants and refugees. Some are inherent to the migration or displacement experience. A prolonged stay abroad often creates challenges for returnees to find employment opportunities, primarily due to the loss of contact with prior networks in their home country.

Other factors relate to the capacity of the country to facilitate the reintegration process. Often countries that are producing large migrant or refugee populations are unable to support their effective reintegration, principally due to the lack of institutional capacity, as well as human and financial resources.  When back home, returnees may not have access to up to date information about employment services and current labour market situation. As a result, many returnees are concentrated in low-skilled informal employment or under-regulated sectors.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many labour migrants have lost their jobs in the country of destination and had to return to their country of origin, in some instances forcibly. The unexpected returns forced migrants to face situations where opportunities to access decent jobs may even be more limited due to lockdown and other restriction measures, as well as challenging economic situation in general, thus creating enormous difficulties for returnees in meeting basic needs for themselves and their families.

In some cases, returning migrant workers are coming back to countries already experiencing high unemployment and economic hardship. The pressure on job markets in areas of return with resident workers might increase competition and tension among communities. If access to jobs and livelihoods are unavailable in the place of return, then returnees tend to migrate towards urban areas in search of employment opportunities. The absence of sustainable reintegration increase the likelihood of these populations falling into poverty and/ or engaging into secondary migration or displacement is heightened.

Returnees can play an important role in facilitating the transfer of qualifications and skills to origin countries as they bring back skills, experience and entrepreneurship abilities which can help countries to rebuild better. Providing operational support through income-generating opportunities for both returnees and communities in areas of return might help the overall reintegration process.