THE RETURN MIGRANT AS AN ‘ACTOR OF CHANGE’, The perspective of the return migrant

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Currently Dutch policymakers and politicians are directing a lot of energy, resources and attention to limiting migration. The growth of South-North migration is mainly seen as a problem that should be stopped by investing aid budgets towards the so called core cause: poverty. But why see migration as a problem when it can also be seen as a solution? As experts on the matter are already opting: return migrants could also be seen as ‘actors of change’. This idea is not new, debates on migration and development have been conducted for over the past five decades. But what is missing in these debates is the perspective of the return migrant themselves. Therefore the central research question of this thesis is: Can return migrants see themselves as a possible ‘actor of change’? By conducting a qualitative research in which the organisations involved in the return process, the social and economic remittances and the influence the return migrants feel these remittances can have on the lives of others, are central, this thesis tries to answer this question. Based on the research conducted three groups of actors have been identified. The first group, named non-actors, do not see themselves positively impacting other people’s lives at all. They do not believe they have the power to change the lives of anyone else but their own. The inner actors are the people that can see themselves having an impact on their own livelihood as well as that of their relatives and acquaintances. By starting a business that would provide for their own lives they might be able to give their families and future employees a better life as well. The third group identified is public actors. They can see themselves having an positive influence on their own livelihoods as well as that of others, both people that they know and people beyond their inner circle. The study shows that the perspective of the literature up until now and the organisations involved in the return process do not completely align with the perspective of the return migrants. The literature is focussing mainly on economic remittances that might be the resources for the return migrants to influence the development in their country of origin. Although many organisations are also providing the return migrants with social remittances they are still missing one important resource. What really makes an ‘actor of change’, according to the return migrants, are personal characteristics. By combining both economic remittances, social remittances and personal characteristics more insight will be possible in why some return migrants can see themselves as an ‘actor of change’ and others cannot.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen