The Journey Home: Violence, Anchoring, and Refugee Decisions to Return

The Journey Home: Violence, Anchoring, and Refugee Decisions to Return

By Faten Ghosn, University of Arizona, Tiffany S. Chu, Tucson Police Department, Miranda Simon, University of Essex, Alex Braithwaite, University of Arizona, Michael Frith, University College London and Joanna Jandali, Arizona State University

While the UNHCR promotes voluntary repatriation as the preferred solution to refugee situations, there is little understanding of variation in refugees’ preferences regarding return. We develop a theoretical framework suggesting two mechanisms influencing refugees’ preferences. First, refugees’ lived experiences in their country of origin prior to displacement and in their new host country create a trade-off in feelings of being anchored to their origin or host country. Second, firsthand exposure to traumas of war provides some refugees with a sense of competency and self-efficacy, leading them to prefer to return home. We test these relationships with data from a survey among Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon. We find refugees exposed to violence during the war have a sense of attachment to Syria and are most likely to prefer return. Refugees who have developed a detachment from Syria or an attachment to Lebanon are less likely to prefer return.

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