“Voluntary Return” without Civil Society?

How the Exclusion of Nongovernment Actors from the Austrian and British Return Regimes Affects the Quality of Voluntariness

in Migration and Society
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This article looks at the implementation of so-called “assisted voluntary return” policies in Austria and Britain, where state agencies have recently replaced nongovernmental organizations as providers of return counseling. To better understand how such a shift affects the in/voluntariness of return, I identify three dimensions along which the “quality” of voluntariness can be assessed and relate them to concrete aspects of return counseling practice: absence of coercion; availability of acceptable alternatives; and access to adequate and trusted information. Based on original qualitative data, I show that even within an overall restrictive and oppressive regime, return counselors can make room for voluntariness by upholding ethical and procedural standards—if they retain substantial independence from the government.

Migration and Society

Advances in Research

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