Refugees make up roughly 30 million of the over 80 million people displaced globally. Humanitarian agencies aim for one of three durable solutions for them: voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement, with repatriation being the preferred solution. Yet, returns have not kept pace with displacement. The status quo is a growing global population of displaced people, living in limbo without full citizenship rights, and with their host countries under ever-greater strains of hosting them. The need to find new solutions to facilitate safe refugee return has become ever more urgent.
The authors of a new RAND report, In Search of a Durable Solution: Examining the Factors Influencing Postconflict Refugee Returns, examine barriers to, and facilitators of, the safe and sustained return of refugees. They found that, despite the intent of global humanitarian and development communities, most refugees are unable to return or find another durable solution even after decades of displacement. The authors found that only about one-third of refugees return after 10 years, and the other two durable solutions of resettlement and local integration are even less common. This leaves most refugees with an indeterminant status—indefinitely. In addition, the researchers present case studies of lessons learned from refugee return efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including presenting perspectives from focus groups and in-depth interviews with roughly a hundred returnees and currently displaced people.
To be serious about increasing voluntary returns, current implementation efforts need to be reexamined, and resources and actions need to align with renewed determination. The authors offer several recommendations for stakeholders, such as: