Tried and Trusted? The role of NGOs in the Assisted Voluntary Returns of Asylum Seekers and Irregular Migrants

February – December 2013
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This joint research project examined issues relating to the three modes of Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) for migrants in the UK: 1) the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP); 2) the Assisted Voluntary Return for Irregular Migrants (AVRIM), and 3) the Assisted Voluntary Return for Families and Children (AVRFC). These programmes, which are administered by NGO Refugee Action and the IGO the International Organization for Migration (IOM), have specific eligibility criteria and come with different reintegration and financial assistance packages.

This research examined, among other things, the differing roles of those NGOs that administer AVRs and those that do not; how and why NGOs (and the Welfare Officers in Detention Centres they work with) advise on particular return modes; and also the place of ‘safe country’ determinations, the meaning of ‘sustainability’ in AVR advice to returnees, and the advantages and disadvantages of ‘directive’ and ‘non-directive’ approaches in NGO consultations with AVR applicants.

In addition, the research explored the wider NGO sectors’ perspectives on the current focus on programmed returns for asylum seekers (rather than irregular migrants) and foreign national prisoners and find out what information NGOs (including volunteers working with NGOs) need to support people faced with return. It also examined the relationship between those NGOs directly involved in administering AVR and the wider asylum/irregular migrant focused NGO sector.

Principal Investigator

Bridget Anderson, Derek McGhee (University of Southampton)


Sarah Walker (University of Southampton), Claire Bennett (University of Southampton)