Between two societies (2011)
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Selected review findings
For over half of the 60 respondents in Iraqi Kurdistan, the refusal of legal status in Norway was theprimary motivation for return, followed by poor living conditions/ill treatment in Norway. Only 7 persons cited family related issues for return, and only 2 the benefits of a return programme. That differed for those in Baghdad, where equal numbers cited conditions in Norway and family related issues to care for in Iraq as reasons for return. Not more than 5 mentioned perceived improvements of the situation in Iraq.
In Norway, the large majority of those interviewed had obtained information about the IRRINI programme at the reception centres, including information sessions held by IOM. Although more than half felt they had obtained sufficient information, during the interview many appeared unaware of important details of the programme – not least regarding the reintegration support. In Iraq, approximately three-quarters of the returnees reported learning of IRRINI from IOM. Other sources of information included BIP, friends, reception centres and UDI.
Cash assistance, on the other hand, came up prominently when respondents were asked both about their knowledge of the IRRINI programme and what they considered to be most useful for their return. In terms of return conditions at home, most respondents in Norway (79 percent) reported being well informed from the media, family, friends, and the internet. However, nearly three-quarters of returnees in Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad found the situation to be very different from what they had expected. The situation differed from region to region. In Iraqi Kurdistan 38 per cent judged the situation to have improved, 22 per cent found it worse, while in Bagdad only 8 per cent found improvements, and 56 per cent found it to have deteriorated.
This perception affects returnees’ views on the sustainability of return. In Iraqi Kurdistan approximately three-quarters of the respondents said they would remain. In Baghdad, however, nearly half the returnees did not know if they would remain in the area they returned to.
All but one of the returnees to Iraqi Kurdistan returned to where they had lived before leaving for Norway, although some had already first fled internally in Iraq. For Baghdad, a different picture emerged, with 40 per cent of returnees not returning to their previous location. We were unable to determine the reason for this difference, but expect that it may be found in the history of conflict and altered demographic map of Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq. The interviews revealed a range of factors concerning the will and ability of potential returnees to
relate to and absorb the information provided:
- A lack of interest among participants in the return package: it was not the cash/ reintegration support that triggered the decision to return for the majority.
- Confusion over the reintegration support: is it in cash or in kind?
- Lack of adequate knowledge on the part of reception centre staff, reducing the possibility for close and daily dialogue with returnees;
- Distrust of information provided by IOM and BIP; exacerbated by
- Fragmented information sessions that make it difficult to obtain a holistic understanding of IRRINI;
- Excessive use of acronyms causing further confusion; and
- A rather unstructured follow-up with IRRINI applicants.
The majority of returnees do not regard IRRINI as a voluntary programme, and many express distrust in the Norwegian government’s handling of asylum applications from Iraqi nationals. For them the term “mandatory return”, as suggested by the European Council on Returnees and Exiles (ECRE), appears to be a more accurate description of their options and of the IRRINI programme.
What is very positively perceived, (with the exception of a few returnees to Baghdad), is how the return travel is organised and the cash assistance received at the airport upon return. 37 per centreturning to Iraqi Kurdistan explained that they spent the cash grant on themselves/daily expenses, 27 per cent spent it on transportation, 17 per cent invested it in income generating activities, 12 per cent used it to pay back loans, while the remainder either invested in the home or saved the grant. Returnees emphasized the importance of being able to offer gifts to the family upon return and receive visitors, as “it would be a very big shame for them to come back without any gifts”. Exchange rate fluctuations between the US dollar and the Norwegian kroner (NOK), and the resulting large variations in the cash amount provided at different times, created suspicion among returnees about corruption in the programme.
With respect to reintegration support, a slight majority chose the “business option”, including 48 per cent of those returning to Iraqi Kurdistan and 64 per cent of those returning to Baghdad. 28 per cent of Bagdad returnees cited previous experience in their current line of business. This selection was followed by job referral (33 per cent for Iraqi Kurdistan and 24 per cent for Baghdad, of which 16 per cent reported to have secured long term jobs). 8 per cent in Iraqi Kurdistan and none in Baghdad opted for education/vocational training. Assessments of IOM’s support for the reintegration process were uneven. 43 per cent of those returning to Iraqi Kurdistan were positive about their performance, 23 per cent negative, 25 per cent mixed and 8 per cent unclear. There are, however, major regional differences. Returnees to Duhok were much more critical than returnees to other areas, primarily due to the time and money spent commuting to the IOM office in Erbil for obtaining reintegration assistance. Returnees to Suleimaniah, on the other hand, mentioned IOM’s close follow-up as a main reason for their satisfaction.
Approximately two-thirds of the returnees to Baghdad reported satisfaction with IOM. IOM’s contact and reintegration management was cited as the primary reason for frustration, especially for those returning to Duhok. Three complaints were frequently mentioned in the interviews:
- Inaccurate information pre-return and discrepancies between information given before and after return.
- A time-consuming and frustrating bureaucracy.
- A lack of follow-up. This was of particular concern for vulnerable groups in need of additional assistance.
Specifically, frustration resulted from uncertainty of whether the reintegration support was in cash or in kind, the requirement to produce “three quotes” for all procurements, the lack of one contact person to relate to at IOM, and a lengthy application process that many regarded as obstructing rather than facilitating their reintegration.
Four major findings emerged from this study:
- The IRRINI programme has provided a large number of Iraqi asylum seekers in Norway a dignified alternative to what they perceive to be their only other option, a forced return.
- The majority of the returnees give a positive assessment of the support provided by IOM, though with significant regional variations regarding the reintegration component.
- The majority of those who have returned expect to remain in their area of origin, although this is true for only half the returnees in Baghdad.
- Perceptions formed in Norway regarding conditions in Iraq diverged significantly from returnee experiences, leading to frustrated expectations.
The study identified three areas of concern with the programme:
- The way information about IRRINI is organized and conveyed.
- The way IOM organises and manages the reintegration process, and whether they allocate sufficient resources to handle it.
- Whether the current reintegration package meets the real needs of the returnees.
We also found that the IRRINI programme’s reputation was affected by the fact that most returnees do not perceive return to be a “voluntary” option, but rather a last resort once other options are exhausted.In addition, many respondents from Iraqi Kurdistan expressed a belief that the Norwegian government had stopped granting them asylum as a group, irrespective of their individual background. Regarding the pre-departure return information: Many asylum seekers are not receptive to return information until they have actually decided to return. Once the decision has been made, they receive information mainly through fragmented presentations (by IOM and BIP, separately) and discussions with reception centre staff, who often lack detailed information themselves. The entire process is hampered by an excessive use of acronyms, and the lack of a personalized return dialogue with staff from IOM. Regarding return and reintegration: The return travel is well organised by IOM, and the cash support provided upon arrival in Iraq meets an important need and allows the returnees a more dignified return.
As for the reintegration package, a striking number of returnees claimed that there was a discrepancy between what they understood about their entitlements in Norway and what they actually received in Iraq. Reintegration support often comes late due to extensive IOM procedures and overburdened field staff. This lengthy process is unexpected by the returnees and causes grievances not easily addressed by the fragmented IOM bureaucracy. Many returnees entered into short term businesses to secure faster access to cash, and “money” was explained as the biggest advantage of the IRRINI programme. A lack of sufficiently broad, specific and comparable data inhibit any firm conclusion on the sustainability of the business establishments, though there are indications that a high proportion of businesses either close or cannot be monitored
The reported lack of systematic follow-up from IOM makes it difficult to document the sustainability
of return and ensure that the needs of especially vulnerable groups are catered for. However,
experiences from Suleimaniah indicate that a structured and sustained contact from IOM with the
returnees can generate a trust in IOM staff critical to identifying and supporting the most vulnerable
Based on the above findings, our recommendation to UDI is to consider a different model for the
reintegration component of the programme. In place of a comprehensive reintegration package, we
suggest provision of a cash amount equal in value to the present reintegration package (NOK 35,000),
provided in two instalments. The justifications for a new model include:
• The majority of returnees place the highest value on cash support already, while there is a
general lack of interest in the return package.
• Our research suggests that many of the returnees treat the reintegration assistance (for
example support to open a kiosk) not as a long-term solution but rather as a means of
accessing cash as quickly as possible. Giving cash outright will avoid time-consuming and
• The cash support model is more flexible and empowering as it places more trust on the
returnee’s ability to cater for his or her own future, and reduces incentives to “cheat the
• Many returnees invest the cash they already receive to cover basic expenses after return to
support their longer-term reintegration (investing in their homes, income-generating activities,
• Reduced bureaucracy will speed up application handling procedures and lower transaction
costs. The prospective returnee will have an exact idea of what the reintegration assistance
consists of, which is more conducive to realistic and active planning on the part of the
beneficiary before returning. This, together with more transparent and consistent message
delivery, will enable the IOM to assume the role of a trusted facilitator and helper, rather than
• Since every returnee will now get their support more easily, disappointed returnees will be
less likely to communicate back to their compatriots in Norway that IRRINI beneficiaries do
not get what they are entitled to, potentially producing rumours that undermine the credibility
of the programme.
A cash grant system must however be supplemented by a stronger emphasis on advice and planning
pre-departure, in addition to targeted follow up in Iraq.
Another option is to improve the current reintegration support model, with an emphasis on a more
personal, and thorough, follow-up process.
The following recommendations relate to both options.
CMI REPORT Review of the Information, Return, and Reintegration of
Iraqi Nationals to Iraq (IRRINI) Programme
A. Sustainable return starts in Norway
1. Ensure information about IRRINI is both dynamic and up-to-date by facilitating contact
between potential returnees and people who have already returned, in addition to IOM and
BIP staff. Maintaining email lists, a blog, or a Facebook group updated with personal stories
and videos, and available for comments and questions are a few possible ideas for connecting
potential and current returnees. Improve the relevance of reception centre presentations of
IRRINI, and separate basic information from the reintegration components of the programme.
For the latter, joint presentations by IOM and BIP would help ensure that reintegration
assistance options in Iraq are portrayed in a comprehensive and clear manner.
2. Clarify all entitlements and expected processing times to reduce criticism among returnees. Be
explicit in communicating what is given as cash and what (if anything) is given as in-kind
assistance. Explain the nature of follow-up, how other reintegration schemes differ from the
Norwegian one, and what roles and responsibilities IOM and BIP have in the programme.
3. Begin the reintegration process before return. Combine reintegration planning with short,
targeted courses that enhance the returnees’ skills and improve their chances of finding jobs
after return. This can include a BIP business establishment planning session for those wishing
to establish a business, targeted to the specific returnee age groups and backgrounds to ensure
4. Improve communication between IOM, BIP and the reception centres in order to ensure better
coordinated information and dialogue with prospective returnees.
5. Allow returnees part of the return grant that is currently paid upon arrival, before departure
from Norway, in order to facilitate purchases of clothes and gifts in preparation of return.
B. Sustainable return continues in Iraq
1. The cash grant provided at the airport should be fixed in US dollars, and US dollars should be
considered for all money transfers in the programme.
2. UDI is advised to replace the present in-kind reintegration package with a cash support
package. Such a package would give returnees' greater control over the reintegration process,
reduce frustrating bureaucracy and minimize the perverse incentives that exist in the current
3. Otherwise, we recommend the programme implementer, IOM, to improve their handling of
the reintegration component and their follow-up of the returnees. Changes should include:
• Improving their procedures to ensure a swift and less bureaucratic processing of
reintegration applications, with the assignment of one personal contact point at IOM
for each returnee – to establish contact, communication and trust.
• Reviewing the division of responsibility and task between field offices in Iraq and the
Iraq office in Jordan to ensure that more decisions are made inside Iraq, potentially by
seconding main office staff on rotation bases to the field offices. A separate unit can
pay random and unannounced visits to offices for spot checks on financial
management and the fund/in-kind distributions to returnees.
• Training IOM staff in addressing the returnees as customers in need of support and
advice during their reintegration process, and ensuring returnees are aware of what the
reintegration processes implies and the length of time required.
• Providing increased individual follow-up and ensuring that IOM staff (or other
contracted actors) have the required qualifications and capacity to enter into a
dialogue and mentoring process with the returnees. It is especially important to have
CMI REPORT Review of the Information, Return, and Reintegration of
Iraqi Nationals to Iraq (IRRINI) Programme
staff-members that are qualified to help vulnerable returnees in seeking assistance, not
least women and children and those who might suffer psychological problems upon
• Ensuring that IOM has offices in locations with high levels of return to ease the
application and reintegration process and reduce travel time and expenses.
4. Increase the visibility and relevance of BIP with respect to the programme. This includes
functioning as a network hub for sharing experiences and providing advice on business
development and access to credit schemes. Ensure information is disseminated to returnees
and create linkages between information and pre-return business planning sessions. Provide
information tailored in form and style to the target age groups.
5. For both organisations: secure proper documentation of the return process and to what extent
different reintegration options help secure a sustainable return. Analyse and utilize findings to
make knowledge based adjustments to the programme.
6. Improve the coordination with other governments and initiate common reviews with central
and regional governments in Iraq and promote greater standardization of return packages.
7. Suggest to the Iraqi authorities that they establish a microcredit programme available to
returnees and non-migrants alike.
Utført av: Chr. Michelsen Institutt
Bestilt av: UDI