Back in Time? A Temporal Autobiographical Approach to Afghan Return Migration
Repatriation programmes for refugees and asylum seekers are based on the assumption that going ‘home’ is the most desirable thing to do to restore the social order that was disrupted by conflict. Yet the often-limited success of these programmes as migration management solutions, shown in poor reintegration results and re-emigration, shows that there is a need for a better understanding of the lived experiences of (return) migrants. This article studies Afghan managed and “spontaneous” return migrants from Europe through an innovative temporal autobiographical approach, using both verbal and creative participatory narrative methods. I find that some migration movements were experienced as disruptive, while others were not, and that return sometimes meant a return to a previous life, sometimes a continuation, and sometimes the start of something new. I conclude that migration management programmes aimed towards “durable solutions” and the wellbeing of returnees should enable rather than constrain post-return mobility.