PUBLI : Shoshana Fine & William Walters, No place like home ? The International Organization for Migration and the new political imaginary of deportation, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2021


Programmes to encourage the return of migrants living with irreg­ular status are promi­nent in many OECD coun­tries. Bearing titles like ‘assisted volun­tary return and rein­te­gra­tion’ (AVRR), they are often ratio­nal­ized as a more humane alter­na­tive to forced depor­ta­tion. Critics ques­tion their volun­tari­ness, suggesting they are actu­ally an exten­sion of the depor­ta­tion appa­ratus. While broadly sympa­thetic to these crit­i­cisms, this paper offers a novel perspec­tive on AVRR. We argue AVRR is reshaping what we call the polit­ical imag­i­nary of depor­ta­tion. Focusing on the Inter­na­tional Orga­ni­za­tion for Migra­tion (IOM), a leading archi­tect of AVRR, we insist scholars take seri­ously the visual images and narra­tives through which volun­tary return is discur­sively constructed. First, we discuss the polit­ical imag­i­nary, and clarify what this concept brings to depor­ta­tion studies. Second, we present a mapping of the polit­ical imag­i­nary of depor­ta­tion as this appears within IOM infor­ma­tion campaigns concerning AVRR. We orga­nize this mate­rial i­n terms of three analytics : returnees as activists, return jour­neys as home­coming, and depor­ta­tion as self-rein­ven­tion. In the eyes of many activists and migrants, depor­ta­tion has very nega­tive and painful conno­ta­tions. We show that IOM reimag­ines the land­scape of depor­ta­tion in a posi­tive light. We call this move the depor­ta­tion twist.