Assisted Voluntary Return: negotiating humanitarianism and securitization in migration management

Authors: Austin Crane*, University of Washington
Topics: Migration, Human Rights, Political Geography
Keywords: migration, humanitarianism, security, political geography, assisted voluntary return
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Studio 10, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper analyzes the political geographies of humanitarianism in Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programs for migrants. Promoted as a humanitarian policy of migration management, and often implemented by humanitarian institutions, AVR programs provide advice and assistance to undocumented immigrants and “appeals rights exhausted” asylum-seekers in Europe about returning to their country of origin. AVR policies are typically framed as a humane, dignified, and voluntary alternative to formal deportation and, as such, have become increasingly enrolled in Europe’s management of migration. This means that practitioners implementing AVR programs daily negotiate the realities of providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in a context that is increasingly securitized around governing spontaneous migration through effective returns policies. This paper discusses AVR as a paradoxical humanitarian practice of migration management through which care and enforcement, security and assistance, and organizational and migrant subjects relationally interact. Drawing from archival research and interviews with AVR practitioners in the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany, this paper addresses the productive tensions between humanitarianism and securitization that constitute migration management today. This analysis pays particular attention to the situated positions and spatial practices of national and European migration management organizations, addressing the logics and negotiations involved in implementing AVR as a humanitarian policy.

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