Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Assisted Voluntary Return Schemes

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Assisted Voluntary Return Schemes

Article excerpt

In recent years, 'assisted voluntary return' (AVR) or 'assisted voluntary return and reintegration' (AVRR) schemes have spread across Europe and the Western industrialised world - from five in 1995 to 35 in 2011. These schemes, the majority of which are administered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), facilitate the return of rejected asylum seekers (and also, in some countries, irregular migrants) to their countries of origin. They typically provide return flights, offer cash allowances and in some cases also provide reintegration assistance upon return; they also usually entail a temporary re-entry ban. Such schemes allow for the 'orderly return' of unwanted migrants in that they avoid the use of outright coercion.

While AVR is clearly preferable to deportation, NGOs and academics alike have in the past criticised these schemes for being misleadingly labelled and lacking genuine voluntariness. IOM acknowledges that for many individuals the only alternative to AVR may be forced return - and some governments openly admit that the threat of deportation is used to increase participation in AVR schemes.

The UK first established an AVR scheme in 1999. Responsibility for 'enforced removals' and 'voluntary removals' now lies with the Returns Department of the UK Border Agency's Immigration Enforcement unit - and both channels are used to increase the overall number of returns per year. Despite AVR being implemented by another actor (currently the NGO Refugee Action), the central oversight for both types of return measures is thus subsumed under one institutional umbrella. …

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