"Upon return, families face similar challenges as the ones that pushed them to leave the country, such as poverty. Children are affected in particular."
Terre des hommes improves the reintegration of migrant children and their families from Albania and Kosovo who return home. Find out more about Tdh’s work and approach in an interview with Enkelejda Kallçiu and Marije Vuksani, Tdh Programme Officers for Migration and Anti-Trafficking in Albania and Kosovo.
What are the major challenges that migrant children and their families face in the return and reintegration process?
Enkelejda: Upon return, families face similar challenges as the ones that pushed them to leave the country, such as poverty and economic instability, lack of employment opportunities, difficulties to find housing, as well as social and family problems. They have to start everything all over again. The general feeling of disappointment causes a lot of psychological distress. Children are affected in particular. They often struggle to re-establish relationships with their peers, to reconnect to the school environment and catch up with the lessons.
Marije: As a result of return migration, families from vulnerable communities are subject to discrimination and stigma. Some lack access to rights and services due to documentation and administrative issues.
How can sustainable reintegration be ensured?
Enkelejda: Through our case management approach, we focus on the individual needs of each family member to ensure they have access to quality and integrated services. We also coordinate all relevant professionals in a timely manner. It is essential to make these services available at the community level; in Albania we have supported four municipalities to create and manage multifunctional community centres by designing a package of services and training professionals to deliver them. We are expanding our support to eight municipalities, while the standards for such centres and services have been institutionalized at the national level.
Marije: Likewise, in Kosovo, we first assess needs and then provide information and counselling, after-school classes, life skills and psychosocial activities for youth and children, and parenting skills programmes. Families need to become financially independent. To empower them economically, we help them set up income-generating activities, or provide them with vocational training for better integration in the labour market.
What results have been achieved so far?
Enkelejda: The evaluation of our project shows that children are indeed better integrated in school and less prone to drop out. Also, parents are more aware of the risks of irregular migration and of leaving their children behind. Parents’ communication with their children has considerably improved, which, in turn, helped ease the tensions related to returning and reintegrating. During the first three years of our work, more than 11,300 children from Albania and Kosovo were engaged in our activities, while about 440 families became economically independent.
What are your plans for future activities?
Marije: As part of improving the coordination mechanism, Tdh will strive to set up an international multi-stakeholder platform on return and reintegration. The focus will initially be on Albania and Kosovo as countries of origin and reintegration, and on Germany, Austria and Switzerland as countries of destination. Through this platform we will aim to improve transnational cooperation and share best practices to ensure a dignified return of migrant families and make their reintegration more sustainable. It goes without saying that authorities in the countries of destination, prior to enforcing decisions, need to have an exchange with their counterparts in the countries of origin to ensure rights violations are prevented, and that reintegration is well prepared and supported. This exchange does not necessarily, or sufficiently, take place as of today.
Enkelejda Kallçiu, Programme officer in Albania