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Sustainability of return migration to Sri Lanka

Final Activity Report Summary - RETURN TO SRI LANKA (Sustainability of return migration to Sri Lanka)

Research in the social sciences has traditionally sub-divided human migration in a number of ways, significantly between international and internal migration, between forced and voluntary migration and between outward and return migration. These particular specialities have resulted in distinct areas of research but interest in the connections between these sub-sections has grown recently in both academic and policy fields of research. This research fellowship set out to investigate these connections, looking at the ways in which international and internal migration are both chronologically and causally linked, the continuum which links forced and voluntary migration and the ways in which, in increasingly complex migration systems, involving multiple displacements outward and return migration become less distinct.

Sri Lanka provided an excellent case study to examine these issues. The conflict has generated substantial forced migration within the country but also refugee movements to India and further afield, particularly Europe and North America. At the same time and over a similar period, there has been substantial labour migration, particularly to the Gulf. Internal displacement, refugee movement and international labour migration have always been studied separately but research for this project focused on the intersection between these various migration systems, developing longitudinal research in three sites of internal displacement in Sri Lanka and research with return migrants from the United Kingdom. A variety of methods were used combing an ethnographic approach, focus groups and large scale questionnaire surveys, resulting in hundreds of hours of recorded interviews and discussions and more than 3 000 completed questionnaires.

Dissemination of these results to all relevant institutions in Sri Lanka and to research participants themselves is now complete and publication of results is underway. Relevant ministries in the Sri Lanka government, local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and relevant international organisations such as the International Organisation for Migration and the UNHCR were kept informed with regular reports throughout the research process. A summary of research results for all migrant communities was translated into Tamil and distributed when the main research came to an end in September 2008. In August 2008, the fellow organised a two day academic conference, in Colombo, followed by a one day policy workshop to which academic colleagues and other interested parties were invited to discuss the results of the research. A summary of these discussions has been published in the Sri Lanka Journal of Population Studies, which provides a summary of the entire project and an edited book arising from the conference is in preparation. A number of other publications are forthcoming in international journals and a research monograph is in preparation. The fellow has also been successful in applications for further research to build on this fellowship and has just begun a three year British Academy grant.