For millions of refugees around the world, going home remains the strongest hope of finding an end to exile. A voluntary return in safety and dignity marks the successful end to their trauma.
Voluntary repatriation is one of the three durable solutions that may end a person’s plight. However, voluntary return can only take place in safety, dignity and as a sustainable solution. It needs the full commitment of the country of origin to help in reintegrating its own people. It also needs the continuing support of the international community during the crucial post-conflict phase to ensure that those who make the brave decision to go home can rebuild their lives in a stable environment. Furthermore, it needs to be guaranteed that those who decided upon return, made a free and informed decision.
The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR promotes and facilitates voluntary repatriation through various means, including organizing “go-and-see” visits for refugees, compiling updated information on their country and region of origin, engaging in peace and reconciliation activities, promoting housing and property restitution and providing return assistance and legal aid to returnees.
Over the years, UNHCR has managed numerous large-scale voluntary repatriation programmes that brought many millions of refugees home. In Afghanistan alone, some five million refugees have returned with UNHCR assistance since 2002. UNHCR also assists with many small-scale and individual repatriations on a routine basis, monitoring the reintegration to ensure the return was a durable solution.
In Central Europe, UNHCR has so far assisted small-scale voluntary returns, such as the one in October 2009 when 19 Bosnians evacuated from their hospital during the war in 1992, were taken back after 17 years from Debrecen, Hungary, to their former mental ward near Modriča in North-Eastern Bosnia.