Latin American Return Migration Countries Analyse Policy Challenges

Ecuador - In partnership with Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its National Migration Secretariat, and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences of Ecuador, IOM is this week bringing together migration experts, government officials, and academics from Europe and the Americas for two days in the Ecuadorian capital Quito to discuss return migration in Latin America.

“Latin American countries, which have been characterized by the outflow of migrants in search of employment and better opportunities, are now facing a new migration challenge as an increasing number of migrants are returning to their countries of origin,” explains IOM migration expert Juan Artola.

Most of those returning have been hit by the financial crisis in host countries and many have lost their jobs.  Increasingly restrictive migration policies in host countries, a lack of economic opportunities, and the personal circumstances of migrants and their families they leave behind, combine to create a range of socio-economic challenges.

Participants at the Quito meeting will discuss return migration in complex socio-economic times for many countries in the world; the European Union’s migrant return policies; the role of civil societies; international cooperation and return migration; reintegration policies of countries of origin; Latin America’s regional return migration policies; the individual return policies of Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, and Uruguay; lessons learnt from migrants who have returned home during economic recessions; and the links between return migration, transfer of human capital and the private sector.

“Rather than being viewed as an isolated phenomenon, return migration is an integral part of international migration. Return can occur at different stages of the individual`s migration process. The growing dynamics of return migration with human rights, development, trade, and health need to be understood and taken into consideration by States and civil societies,” explains IOM Senior Migration Specialist Ana Fonseca.

IOM began its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programmes (AVRR) in the late 1970s.  Since then, more than 1.2 million migrants have been assisted to return home voluntarily.

In 2011, IOM AVRR programmes assisted 31,134 migrants to return to their home countries.  Another 24,000 migrants, who were returned by host governments, received IOM post-arrival reception and reintegration assistance in their countries of origin. 

Seventeen per cent or 5,233 persons assisted in 2011 were from Latin America and the Caribbean.  Nearly 80 per cent of migrants from this region were from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

IOM’s Migration Profile for Ecuador, published earlier this month, pointed to return migration as one of the fundamental characteristics that has impacted migration in that country in the last decade, adding that for every four migrants who left the country from 2001-2010, one has returned home.  It is expected that the number of returnees will continue to climb as a result of the economic crisis in the main destination countries (Spain, Italy and the USA).

In 2011, IOM Colombia assisted 2,664 returnees through its Bienvenido a Casa or Welcome Home project, which provides reception and reintegration support to returnees, and includes emergency assistance upon arrival, psychosocial assistance, legal assistance, support with economic reintegration, and monitoring of the reintegration process. It is implemented in cooperation with municipal and provincial governments.

“Our analysis shows a considerable increase in return migration in the past few years.  The returns are attributed to the economic crisis in European countries, especially Spain which hosts the majority of Uruguayan migrants, but also due to positive economic indicators in Uruguay, where unemployment is at a historic low,” says Prof. Martín Koolhaas of La Universidad de la República of Uruguay.

From 2005 until the end of 2011, IOM Mexico assisted 7,982 migrants to return to their countries. Some 7,541 were from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The majority were from Ecuador, followed by Dominicans, Peruvians, Colombians and Brazilians.

The conclusions and recommendations of the Quito meeting will be presented at this year’s annual meeting of the South American Conference on Migration, scheduled to take place in Chile in November.

IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Annual Report of Activities 2011 is available at:

IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Fact Sheet is available at:

For more information, please contact 

Rogelio Bernal
IOM Ecuador
Tel: +593-2-2444929/8/6