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From Europe to Africa: Return migration to Senegal and the DRC

Population and Societies

515, October 2014

In Europe, it is often assumed that African immigrants intend to settle permanently in the host country. Is this really the case? Do migrants only return home when they are encouraged or forced to do so by the authorities? Using data from the MAFE research programme (Migrations between Africa and Europe), Marie-Laurence Flahaux, Cris Beauchemin and Bruno Schoumaker analyse the factors behind the return migration of Senegalese and Congolese migrants leaving Europe.

The MAFE surveys (Migrations between Africa and Europe) reveal a downtrend in return migrations, notably among migrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). A large majority of returns are spontaneous, rather than forced or encouraged by the host country. Only 16% of Senegalese migrants and 15% of Congolese reported returning home because of difficulties in Europe, including “problems with residence status”. Decisions to return home are strongly dependent on the prospects of reintegration in the home country. Moreover, the barriers to immigration set in place by European countries tend to lower migrants’ propensity to return home.

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