Back home? Refugees’ experiences of their first visit back to their country of origin.

 This paper argues that the first visit ‘back home’ is important for refugees because it acts as a catalyst for renewed engagements with host country and country of origin. The study shows that conditions in both countries impact on decision-making and ultimately that integration and return can coexist. The first re-connection with ‘home’ is described as a memorable event in and of itself. Marked by an awareness of the passing of time, it provides both an end to waiting and worrying and a measure of one’s progress (or lack of) in life, thus enabling participants to move on. Establishment of safety nets in both host and home countries as a condition for permanent return distinguishes the predicament of these refugees from that of other migrants. As the meeting between imagination and reality, the first visit contributes to the re-examination of the refugee cycle, the myth of return and the meaning of home in a context where return encompasses one discrete experience, the visit, and subsequent events. Overall, the paper provides a link between the literature on return as imagined while in exile and accounts of the reality of post-return.

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