Forty Years of IOM Assistance to Returning Migrants

Since 1979, more than 1.6 million migrants were assisted in their voluntary return, including these Iraqi returnees. Photo: IOM  

Berlin – Assisting migrants' return home and reintegrating into their communities has been a pivotal aspect of the International Organization for Migration’s work. For 40 years, IOM has been providing return and reintegration assistance to migrants wishing to return home. 

Since the beginning of the first project in cooperation with the government of Germany in 1979, 1.6 million migrants have benefited worldwide from IOM’s support under the programme now known as AVRR for Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration. Under the German REAG/GARP programme more than 700,000 migrants were assisted since then. 

The German project initiated in 1979 became a model for many other countries also implementing   voluntary return and reintegration projects. Over the years, new components have been added to voluntary return in Germany and worldwide, including outreach activities for diaspora communities, counselling and reintegration support. Vulnerable migrants have also become a priority.

“Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is an indispensable part of a comprehensive approach to migration management,” said Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM’s Chief of Staff.

“Under all circumstances, the rights of migrants must be respected and protected, regardless of their nationality or migration status and without discrimination to preserve their safety, physical integrity, well-being and dignity. IOM is fully committed to facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration with the migrant’s wellbeing at heart, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact for Migration,” he added.

Return and reintegration policy is still evolving. This week, IOM joined the German Ministry of Interior and the German Ministry of Development to co-host the second European Dialogue on Return and Sustainable Reintegration in Berlin. This event focused on the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) and specifically its Objective 21 to ‘cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified return and readmission, as well as sustainable reintegration.’

“When looking at return and reintegration within the GCM, two elements are crucial: The migrant-centred approach that should be the basis of all initiatives and programmes, as well as the coordination of the involved stakeholders. The coherent government approach of Germany, which combines return and reintegration with development cooperation, is a very positive example,” affirmed Monica Goracci, IOM Germany’s Chief of Mission.

At the European Dialogue, IOM and the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees offered a preview of a joint study dealing with the German return programme StarthilfePlus. More than 1,300 assisted returnees from Germany to 12 countries provided information on their motives to return, their first steps, and their needs in the process of reintegration. The study will be published in November.

For more information, please contact Sabine Lehmann at IOM Germany, Tel: +49 30 27877817, Email: