Return aspirations and the life course of refugees in Germany

Migration Department

Project head: Dr. Ramona RischkeDr. Zeynep Yanaşmayan

Project team members: Dr. Lukas M. FuchsDr. Jonna Rock

Running time April 2022 until December 2023
Status Current project

Return aspirations are determined by a highly complex set of interacting factors that may encourage or discourage migrants to return to their countries of origin. Most previous research has focused on the return aspirations of migrants in general, but little is known about the return aspirations of refugees. In this project, we aim to investigate the relationship between return aspirations and the life course of refugees living in Germany, firstly by examining the impact of demographic events such as child rearing, family formation and changes in household structure on refugees' return aspirations, and secondly by considering the additional, as yet unexplored factor of prior migration history and in particular its complexity. The project will combine quantitative analysis with biographical interviews that will allow us to explore in depth the migration trajectories of refugees and the ways in which these intersect with perceptions, spaces and temporalities. This empirical study, which sheds light on the influence of life trajectories on return aspirations, is complemented by a so-called 'evidence gap map' that sheds light on analytical limitations and possibilities of available datasets as far as return aspirations to their countries of origin are concerned.

Research questions:

1) How do refugees' return aspirations change over time? We are interested in understanding how life course demographic events, such as the birth of a child, can influence return aspirations.

2) The migration trajectory is a poorly studied determinant of return aspirations: Are more complex trajectories of arrival in Germany associated with lower return intentions? Previous research has shown that the context of reception has a mediating influence on return aspirations (Al Husein & Wagner 2020; Kayaoglu et al. 2021), but how are the different paths or trajectories of arrival in Germany related to this?

3) What kind of temporal, spatial and imaginary practices and meanings are linked to return aspirations? What lessons for supporting refugees in reception contexts can we learn from studying return aspirations using a mixed methods approach?

4) What comparative perspectives on the study of return aspirations and behaviour can be developed, particularly in light of available data sources?

Funding: Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Institutional funding)