Split Return: Transnational Household Strategies in Afghan Repatriation

Journal article

Harpviken, Kristian Berg (2014) Split Return: Transnational Household Strategies in Afghan Repatriation, International Migration 52 (6): 57–71.

Read the article here (Open Access)

Split return is a common strategy of repatriation among refugees and migrants. Facing great uncertainty, both economically and security-wise, households disperse in two or more locations in order to minimize risk. The phenomenon is well-known in migration studies and in studies of return from the distant diaspora, but is studied less among the overwhelming majority residing in countries neighbouring their own. This article draws on experiences from Afghanistan, comparing split return to similar strategies in migration generally and in refugee situations specifically. It suggests that while splits are conceived as a temporary measure, they often become a lasting form of life. Opportunities for split return are often crucial for the willingness to start repatriation, as well as for the sustainability of the household's economy upon return. The article develops the concept of split return in relation to contextual factors, intensity of networks (at origin and in exile) and household composition.

Key Policy Implications:

  • Split return strategies are common for households contemplating return to war-torn areas, and needs to be recognized
  • Regular home visits for exiles help cultivate networks and maintain assets, and should be facilitated
  • Continued access to economic opportunities in exile motivates return and enhances its sustainability, and should be encouraged
  • Prospective returnees often have genuine concerns about future security at origin, which can be accommodated, for example through guaranteeing renewed refuge
  • Information about conditions at origin is critical, but often secured through home visits or trusted contacts. Information campaigns may be important, but only if well targeted
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