Informed by new qualitative research, this report offers a set of recommendations to improve the process of returning irregular migrants from the EU to Nigeria, and the reintegration support available to them, to ensure that policy in this area is effective, efficient, humane and sustainable.

Nigerians represent a sizeable portion of the millions of irregular migrants currently residing within the EU. This presents significant challenges to the Nigerian government as well as European authorities. Yet assisted voluntary return (AVR) and reintegration programmes tend to be designed, administered and evaluated by European or international institutions rather than by local governments.

As a corrective, this report explores these issues from the perspective of the country of return as well those of European countries. By focusing on the experiences of former irregular migrants and other stakeholders, it provides insights into the experiences of irregular migrants who have returned from Europe to Nigeria, identifies gaps in available support and nuances in reintegration needs, and sets out the challenges that need to be addressed by agencies which engage with returnees.

The Nigerian government should cooperate with European actors and Nigerian civil society organisations to achieve the best results, particularly by developing and promoting take-up of AVR schemes. While Europe should fund reintegration support, Nigerian authorities (particularly at the state rather than national level) need to play a greater role in determining how this funding is allocated and spent.

Our recommendations for change in the European context include:

  • Voluntary return options should be available to all irregular migrants. AVR programmes should be offered by independent, well-funded organisations, and should serve all irregular migrants rather than only certain groups such as refused asylum seekers or victims of trafficking.
  • The risks involved in each return, and the returnee's subsequent support needs, should be properly assessed, and support should be offered to help prepare for return. All returnees should also be referred to a reintegration agency in Nigeria.
  • Irregular migrants returning through AVR schemes should be allowed to finalise their affairs in Europe and make arrangements for their return; some should also have their re-entry bans reduced.
  • Returnees should be given an initial payment of EUR500 to spend on goods or services for which they have an immediate need on return. Additional payments should be paid in kind and in stages.

In the Nigerian context, we would recommend that:

  • A new national return and reintegration strategy should be developed. This should include the foundation of a new 'reintegration institution' specifically responsible for coordinating and allocating funding for the reintegration of returnees by actors at all levels.
  • The allocation of reintegration support, and funding for it, should be led at a state level to address the different migration patterns and barriers to reintegration experienced by migrants in different parts of the country.
  • More funding should be ringfenced for the provision of support to non-trafficked people, to ensure that reintegration support reflects the diverse needs of all returnee irregular migrants.
  • All victims of trafficking should be provided with secure accommodation on return, and given longer-term support to access independent housing and support.