Type of practice:
The project ‘Reintegration Support to Azerbaijani Returnees’ (RESTART) was implemented by the International Centre for migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in close cooperation with the State Migration Service of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SMS). The main objective of the project was to support the implementation of the “Agreement between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the European Union on the readmission of persons residing without authorization” in the area of reintegration through strengthening the capacities of authorities and civil society in Azerbaijan to actively facilitate the sustainable return from the European Union Member States and reintegration of Azerbaijani nationals.
Specific objectives (SO):
■■ SO 1. To enhance capacities of the Azerbaijani state institutions to develop reintegration policy documents based on actual needs and interests of returnees;
■■ SO 2. To build, maintain and pilot cooperation networks between the Azerbaijani state institutions and civil society organisations in the area of reintegration support;
■■ SO 3. To build and pilot practical skills and capacities of the Azerbaijani state institutions and civil society organisations on reintegration.
The target groups of the project were the Azerbaijani state institutions responsible for the implementation of the Readmission Agreement and reintegration of the returned nationals coordinated by the SMS, as well as the Azerbaijani civil society organisations that are able to provide reintegration support. The final beneficiaries of the action were Azerbaijani nationals returning from the EU Member States (MSs) regardless if they returned from the EU MS-donors of this action or another EU MS.
Generally, the Reintegration Programme consisted of two parts: individual mentoring and individual case-by-case support to vulnerable groups. Neither of the Reintegration Programme elements included payment in cash to returnees. All services were provided in-kind. Citizens of the Republic of Azerbaijan readmitted from the EU MSs within the last 6 months and those who were forcibly returned to Azerbaijan as to the country of origin were eligible to the Reintegration Programme. Information about the Reintegration Programme was mainly distributed by the SMS colleagues upon arrival directly at the airport. Returnees were informed about the main features of the Programme, the timeframe for application, as well as the contact information of the reintegration experts. The entire duration of the reintegration assistance varied from 3 to 12 months taking into account vulnerability level and the COVID-19 situation.
Benefit and Impact
The supported 54 cases constituted a total number of 87 individuals with 30 male, 24 female and 33 children (18 boys and 15 girls). The majority of individuals were returned from Germany except for a few from Sweden and Bulgaria. 9 children supported by the project were born abroad (8 in Germany, and one in Sweden).
A special emphasis has been made on how the project could contribute to developing the capacities of the State Migration Service to implement and monitor (with the support of non-governmental structures) the reintegration assistance to Azerbaijani returnees in the long run. Hence, the capacity-building for the state institutions, i.e. the members of the Reintegration Working Group, has been considered already at the beginning of the project.
The programmatic remarkable progress over the piloting period included: ■■ employment support and assistance to 26 individuals; ■■ educational support and assistance to 17 minor children and one adult female; ■■ mentoring and documentation support to 21 individuals for receiving personal and other documents; ■■ provision of temporary accommodation to 38 returnees in 13 families; ■■ medical check and treatment of 55 returnees and ■■ other support activities to 11 individuals for determination and receive or recovery of a disability card and respective allowance.
The produced Reintegration Guidelines in the frame of the project created a durable mechanism for reintegration in Azerbaijan. Provided that there is international or national funding for reintegration needs, this mechanism can be further used by the SMS and other stakeholders in the country to ensure all emergency needs of vulnerable returnees.
The other lessons learnt ties to the expenditure where the funds allocated for beneficiaries involved as a family were multiplied and estimated for all family members. Individuals approached alone the project merely could exceed the threshold.
Some other challenges were related to the medical issues of the beneficiaries living in the regions. On such occasions, the beneficiary was required to come to Baku and stay for a certain time requiring additional funds for lodging. In such cases, it was difficult to optimise the process because of this unplanned expenditure and the beneficiary either had to return or stay with relatives or friends in Baku.
The other challenge the project faced was related to the specific vulnerability of the returnees: many of them had psychosocial disarrays. Responding to this challenge, the team was proactive taking the required actions and responding to the issues operatively in a short period. Noteworthy to state that the project team because of having experience and competence in work with such groups professionally managed its interventions to respond to the needs of psychiatrically wicked returnees.
In addition, the project assisted children with serious cerebral disorders such as palsy, autism, epilepsy and dystrophy. While the project supported and assisted the individuals, the future treatment of these children are uncertain, due to the project’s limited resources and short duration.
The majority of applicants had serious problems especially some who did not have a place to live when they first arrived, the vast majority needed treatment, their children had educational problems – all they needed large sums of funds to solve their issues. Service provision during the pandemic was further complicated due to movement restrictions.