Theorising Return Migration: the Conceptual Approach to Return Migrants Revisited

Jean-Pierre Cassarino

Read this article


The attention paid by international organisations to the link between migration and development in migrants’ origin countries has highlighted the need to revisit approaches to return migration. Moreover, the growing diversity of migratory categories (ranging from economic migrants to refugees and asylum seekers) necessitates a distinction between the various types of returnee. We still need to know who returns when, and why; and why some returnees appear as actors of change, in specific social and institutional circumstances at home, whereas others do not. The first objective of this paper is to analyse how return has been dealt with by international migration theories, emphasising particularly the assumptions on which they rest. This theoretical overview is necessary to show how return has been defined and located in time and space, and how the returnee has been depicted. The second objective is to take the various approaches to return migration a step further by elaborating on the theoretical insights that have been extensively proposed. The conceptual approach to returnees is then revisited, taking into account a set of distinguishing criteria, i.e. the returnee’s “preparedness” and “resource mobilisation”.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Cassarino, Jean-Pierre. Theorising Return Migration: the Conceptual Approach to Return Migrants Revisited.IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2004, vol. 6, no.2, pp. 253-279. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574.

Back to top