Discussion and Conclusion
The purpose of this chapter was to examine the reintegration into Burundi of first- and second-generation child returnees. A multidimensional approach to (re-) integration was adopted, using six dimensions and 26 indicators, to provide a holistic picture of the challenges that returnees face after returning to their home country, or moving to the country of their parents. The UNHCR definition of reintegration was applied; it assumes that it is successful when there are no significant differences between returnees and non-returnees on the various reintegration dimensions. This study is the first of its kind to specifically look at the reintegration of first- and second-generation Burundi returnees who are children. Moreover, it is meant to add to the growing literature on migration, especially return migration, and multidimensional well-being.
It was found that there are significant differences in general demographics between child non-migrants, first-generation returnees, and second- generation returnees. First-generation returnees are, on average, older than their peers; are more likely to be female; and tend to live in larger households with more adults. The households in which first-generation returnees reside are also more likely to be female-headed or single-headed ones. Second-generation returnees, on the other hand, are the youngest group and tend to live in households with more children. These findings show that returnees, and the households they reside in, are not homogeneous. Significant differences exist between dissimilar returned children, and between returned children and their peers who did not experience international migration. These differences need to be taken into account when designing policies that support returnees and their families.
The multidimensional approach to well-being showed that the reintegration of returnees has been successful in some dimensions, although in others returnees were better or worse off. The results on living conditions showed that children in non-migrant households were generally better off. An exception was with regard to access to sanitation (having a proper toilet), to which second-generation returnees were more likely to have access. On most other living condition indicators, however, second-generation returned children were worse off. In general, they had poorer housing conditions and less access to electricity. These findings show that the successful management of the return of children into Burundi, and especially second-generation child returnees, may be questionable.
There were only a few differences in terms of education. First- generation returnees generally had more schooling, but this is probably because of the fact that they are older on average. They were also more likely to have attended school in the previous three months. These findings do not fully support the research findings of other studies that stressed the difficulties that returnees under 18 face when reintegrating into the school system (Fransen and Kuschminder 2012; Sommers 2013). The finding that first-generation returnees were the least likely to be in the right grade for their ages does correspond with previous studies, and it highlights the differences between the Tanzania and Burundi schooling systems. Health access between the groups was very similar with regard to access to health clinics. Returned children, and those who were part of the first-generation in particular, however, were significantly less likely to have access to hospitals.
On the economic conditions dimension, there also was a mixed picture. Second-generation returnees were better off with regard to living in households with more employed adults, but returned children in general were worse off in terms of food security compared to non-migrant children. The finding that the households of first-generation returnees are more likely to own land is surprising. Most previous studies have highlighted problems of property restitution that returnees face on return. The households in which second-generation returnees reside are, however, the least likely to own land, which confirms the findings of other studies of Burundi (see Fransen 2015; Fransen and Kuschminder 2012; Rema Ministries 2012).
Social inclusion is a clear area in which the returned children are not reintegrated—they show significantly less inclusion on most indicators. Households with returned children have fewer organizational memberships and are less likely to have savings and to own a mobile phone. Within the security dimension data show that returnee households are less concerned about new conflict but that their children are working more.
To summarize, the findings show a mixed picture about the reintegration into Burundi of child returnees. Returned children are not fully reintegrated with regard to living conditions, health access, inclusion, and security. These findings show that return migration as a successful solution for this group and the success of the reintegration program may be questionable. The reintegration of the returnee children is more mixed in the economic conditions dimension and it generally can said that they are reintegrated for the most part in education. These findings support the use of a multidimensional approach to disentangle the various areas of well-being for returning child refugees. The results highlight that more targeting of return households, and the children that reside within them, is needed in specific areas. The ones that could use clear improvement include housing conditions and access to hospitals. Better measures to improve the social inclusivity of returnees also are needed, specifically with regard to encouraging returnee households to become involved in community organizations, to have access to mobile phones, and to have better financial literacy. It is clear that returnee children live in households that are generally low-income ones with less access to land, more food insecurity, and worse living situations. Returnee households should therefore be targeted for more support from the government and international organizations.