Image: A row of life boats in South East Asia by FMH
Where is the ‘Place’ in AVRR - AVRR stands for assisted voluntary return and reintegration of migrants. A service that begins when migrants wish to return to their country origin. International organisations situated on boarders, migrant information centres, migrant congregation points and detention centres support the people in their wish to return. This support can range from economic to psychosocial. In other words, counselling, purchase of flight tickets, administrative assistance, transit support, reception and transport on return, referral services, reintegration assistance and job training, small business grants and guidance. A video series called “A return with Dignity” an Opportunity Back Home, promotes a better understanding of the AVRR activity.
However, despite the ‘an opportunity back home’ slogan, there is little evidence as to what home means for these people that make up groupings that governments and NGOs relate to as, standard migrants, irregular migrants, regular migrants, asylum seekers, the people they left and the people they migrated to.
Home and what it means is key. A place that creates a sense of belonging and identity and place to take ownership of and to contribute too…
With that in mind, what places do we relocate these vulnerable people to?
What were (and are) the places they left behind and what were the places they had in mind when choosing to leave?
What is their physical place and their digital one?
Places are fundamental to us humans, Edward S.Casey wrote “Whatever is true for space and time, this much is true for place: we are immersed in it and could not do without it. To be at all - to exist in any way – is to be somewhere, and to be somewhere is to be in some kind of place. Place is as requisite as the air we breathe, the ground on which we stand, the bodies we have. We are surrounded by places. We walk over and through them. We live in places, relate to others in them, die in them. Nothing we do is unplaced. How could it be otherwise? How could we fail to recognise this primal fact”?
Place, however, may also stabilise and give durability to social structural categories, such as peace(s) that re-arrange(s) post-conflict power-relations, hierarchies and embody(ies) and secure(s) otherwise intangible cultural norms, identities, memories supporting the infrastructure of peace. Place can thus sustain both imagined peace(s) and the materialised everyday peace by routinising daily practices in ways that include and bring people and communities together, and by embodying the meanings ascribed to them.
Perhaps, Without addressing place properly, all the other services and support offered by well meaning and hard working people seems superficial and less permanent.
Get place right, perhaps people would think twice on leaving in the first place, understand place and we might develop a situation that nurtures a return and promote a sense of connection, trust and pride which in turn, naturally leads to economic growth and social stability.