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Accepted paper:

Promoting self-entrepreneurship through post-asylum "voluntary" repatriation programs in the Gambia

Author:

Viola Castellano (Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on "voluntary" repatriation programs for asylum seekers.The paper reflects on the entanglement between neoliberal agenda, border enforcement and developmental project, taking Gambia as a case study to interrogate categories as forced migration and voluntary repatriation.

Paper long abstract:

Based on the ethnographic data gathered during a preliminary fieldwork in the Gambia, this paper focused on the structure, objectives and impact of "voluntary" repatriation programs promoted by international and national organizations for Gambian asylum seekers. While borders are increasingly externalized in Libya and Niger to stop the Mediterranean migratory route, the borders between securitization and humanitarianism become more and more flimsy. For European countries the promotion of voluntary repatriation is a fundamental tool in pursuing border enforcement through agreements with countries of origin, negotiating economic aid in return of repatriation deals, meanwhile responding to the humanitarian crisis of the Mediterranean route. For Gambian asylum seekers caught in bureaucratic mazes with no chance of regularization in Europe and for the ones who are stuck in detention centers in Niger and Libya, voluntary repatriation seems more as a forced choice. But how the sponsored re-insertion of returnees unfolds in the local context? In the words of the people I interviewed the self-empowerment rhetoric, strongly promoted by training institutes and various repatriation "coaches", was alternatively embraced as an existential project, or rejected as unrealistic and incapable of lifting the social stigma and economic hardships returnees have to face. The paper reflects therefore on the entanglement between neoliberal agenda, border enforcement and development project, taking Gambia as a case study to interrogate categories as forced migration and voluntary repatriation, looking at the effects of securitization-turned-cooperation on the other side of the Mediterranean and at the post-asylum phase of European migration policies.

panel AA08
Trajectories of refuge: protracted displacement and humanitarian responses