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Great Expectations and Reality Checks: The Role of Information in Mediating Migrants’ Experience of Return


  • R Sabates-Wheeler

    (Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, Brighton Sussex)

  • L Taylor

    (Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, Falmer Sussex)

  • C Natali

    (International Organization for Migration (IOM), Bangkok)


Using qualitative data from Ghana, this article explores the role of information in the formation of expectations of migrants and their families back home, with specific reference to the return experience. We develop a typology to illustrate (1) how information influences expectations throughout the migration experience; (2) the ability of the migrant and their family to adapt to those changing expectations, given differing levels of information; and (3) the implications (1) and (2) have for return. Latent tensions and conflicts emerge in which expectations of migrants and migrant families are not harmonious. The evidence shows that the pace of adaptation and change is regulated by access to information; information flow between migrant at destination and home; and the propensity of the migrant to adapt, which is related to the level of financial dependency (or strength of obligation) between migrant and home. The article raises policy questions around information access and information flows, community sensitisation and returnee reintegration, especially in poorer areas.Cet article utilise des données qualitatives sur le Ghana pour étudier le rôle que joue l’information dans la formation des attentes des migrants et de leurs familles, en ciblant plus particulièrement l’expérience du retour. Nous développons une typologie dans le but d’illustrer (1) comment l’information détermine les attentes dans le cas de l’expérience migratoire, (2) la capacité des migrants et de leurs familles à s’adapter à de nouvelles attentes dues à des niveaux d’information différents; et (3) les conséquences que les deux premiers points peuvent avoir sur les conditions du retour. Des tensions latentes se manifestent et des conflits émergent quand les attentes des migrants et de leurs familles ne vont pas dans le même sens. Les témoignages montrent que le rythme d’adaptation et de changement est régulé par l’accès à l’information, que l’information circule entre les migrants arrivés à destination et le pays d’origine, et que la propension des migrants à s’adapter est liée au niveau de dépendance financière (ou au poids des obligations) entre les migrants et le pays d’origine. L’article soulève des questions à propos de l’accès à l’information et les flux d’information, la sensibilisation des communautés, et la réintégration de ceux qui sont de retour, plus particulièrement dans les régions pauvres.

Suggested Citation

  • R Sabates-Wheeler & L Taylor & C Natali, 2009. "Great Expectations and Reality Checks: The Role of Information in Mediating Migrants’ Experience of Return," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 21(5), pages 752-771, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:21:y:2009:i:5:p:752-771

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    Cited by:

    1. Linguère Mbaye, 2014. "“Barcelona or die”: understanding illegal migration from Senegal," IZA Journal of Migration, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-19, December.

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