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This article addresses under which circumstances migrants returning from European to (post-) conflict countries are willing and able to contribute to development and peace-building in their countries of origin. Based on comparative research in six countries world-wide and an in-depth study in Afghanistan, we explore (1) the heterogeneity of the post-return experience, (2) the complex meanings and motivations of return migration, and (3) the expectations of the characteristics of migrants, on which the link between return migration, development and peace-building is based. Based on these findings, we (4) explore return migrants’ potential to be agents of change. We find that while the expectations on which migration and development policies are based only count for a small minority of returnees, this is not the group that is targeted by policy. In order to formulate adequate policies that do address the needs and potential of returnees, we propose two modifications to current policy: First, de facto voluntary and involuntary return should be redefined into more relevant terms that cover the matter. Second, we propose to re-evaluate and disentangle the different goals that inform migration and development policies

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Journal article


New Diversities

Publication Date



16 (2)


71 - 87


return migration, migration and development policies, return motivation, embeddedness