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PhD Defence Beza Nisrane | Home, but not 'at home' - the reintegration of unskilled Ethiopian female return migrants from arabian gulf countries

HOME, BUT NOT 'AT HOME' - THE REINTEGRATION OF UNSKILLED EtHIOPIAN FEMALE RETURN MIGRANTS FROM ARABIAN GULF COUNTRIES

Beza Nisrane is a PhD student in the research group Public Administration (PA). Her supervisor is prof.dr. A. Need from the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences (BMS).

Reintegration of return migrants is a very challenging experience, even though the returnees are coming back to their home country. The research deals with the socio-economic reintegration of Ethiopian women return migrants from Arabian Gulf countries. It examines the lived experiences of women who migrate to these countries and then return to their home country. How female returnees make sense of migration-related trauma, how migration settings impact on the migration as well as the reintegration process, and the understated role of home country cultural values in the reintegration process were new insights developed in the dissertation. This research also pinpoints the limited or non-existent support programs for returnees when they return to Ethiopia. It points out the practical policy implications of the findings for reintegration support programs, such as the need to support psychological and mental health, which is often neglected, but requires attention, given the immensely traumatic incidents that some returnees go through while in the destination countries.

Economic reintegration as well as social reintegration such as a sense of belonging in the society and developing a good social relationship with family members, and entering a marital relationship or maintaining the existing one, was difficult for most of the returnees who participated in this study. These factors relate to migration experiences with the kafala labor system and the socio-cultural attitudes and norms that exist in the home country, which are often neglected in the discussion of the reintegration of return migrants. Particularly, the intangible social costs that women returnees from the Arabian Gulf bear (in terms of health and social relationships) and the stigma and discrimination they experience upon return are often neglected in the social science and migration debate. Often the focus is on the economic resources needed to enable returnees to reintegrate in the home society. Other societal and cultural factors are not considered in managing return crises, and reintegration programs usually focus on providing vocational and skill training that might help returnees to sustain their livelihood.

The study concludes by questioning the positive impact of women’s migration to the Arabian Gulf and highlighting beyond short-term economic gains that mainly benefit the migrant’s family, rather than the migrant herself, there are long-term intangible losses and reintegration in the home country can be difficult.