Female migrants struggle to integrate back home

Friday January 21 2022

A study by the International Organisation for Migration found that women face more difficulties than men reintegrating into the community after returning to their home countries. PHOTO | AFP


Women face more difficulties reintegrating into the community after returning to their home countries compared to men, a study by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) shows.

In the report that surveyed women returnees in Somalia, Nigeria, The Gambia, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, women were found to have a hard time finding jobs, training opportunities and health care.

"The women also reported being abused and exploited as a migrant worker. Data analysis confirmed that reintegration was more sustainable for voluntary, rather than forced returnees," IOM said.

Monica Goracci, the director of the IOM Migration Management Department, said the study will be crucial in informing the design and implementation of reintegration programmes for returnees.

According to the report, voluntary returnees were economically more self-sufficient and socially stable.

"Forced returnees reported more challenges in reintegrating sustainably due to their distressing migration and return experiences, as well as difficulties in accessing housing, health care, and documentation services," it reads.


The Covid-19 pandemic amplified the economic re-integration challenges of returnees as restrictions to curb the spread of the virus made it difficult to, for instance, start a business or to find employment.

The research team conducted more than 1,200 surveys and 147 qualitative indepth interviews with returnees, family members and key informants in Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, El Salvador and the Gambia.

Affecting factors

IOM says it found that the type of return, situations of vulnerability and the type of support received affect sustainable economic, social and psychosocial reintegration.

Societal stereotypes and patriarchal norms limited opportunities available to female returnees.

In Somalia and El Salvador, female returnees said they were restricted from accessing certain types of jobs, such as industrial and construction work.

“Those who were able to work in these sectors were reportedly suffering a double burden as they were also expected to manage the household and to take care of children,” the report says.

According to IOM, family pressure and debts, societal pressures to provide for their families was a common challenge hindering men’s economic reintegration.

This was also experienced by some female returnees in Somalia, who migrated to provide for their families in the first place.

“These pressures often resulted in receiving less emotional support from the family and a heightened feeling of shame, particularly if returnees were unable to pay off debts accrued before migration,” IOM said.

In Somalia, Bangladesh and the Gambia female returnees struggled to socially reintegrate due to difficulties in accessing housing, documentation, justice and law enforcement while in Afghanistan, female returnees reintegrated better than males.