Inducing return to Pakistan

‘voluntary’ return programmes in Germany

  • Usman Mahar Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München
Keywords: Migration, Remigration, Asylum, Voluntary Return, Economic Refugee, Political Refugee, Germany, Pakistan


Germany welcomed over a million refugees following the so-called “long summer of migration” in 2015. Today, however, seeking asylum in Germany has become ever more difficult. Amongst other “undeserving” economic refugees, the Afghans and Pakistanis are suffering from a shift in the German asylum regime that aims to restrict migration from “safe countries.” As elsewhere in Europe, asylum in Germany is increasingly being defined by narrow ideas of deservingness and humanitarianism to seek out “deserving” political refugees. Simultaneously, two methods for the removal of rejected asylum seekers are being practised to deter “undeserving” refugees: namely, deportations and “voluntary” returns. Focusing on the latter form of removal, I scrutinize the voluntariness and sustainability of “voluntary” returns to Pakistan in this essay. I start by questioning contemporary ideas of deservingness when it comes to the right to be mobile, and provocatively try to blur the alleged humanitarian division between two categories of mobile bodies: the “deserving” political refugee vis-à-vis the “underserving” economic refugee. Then, with the help of ethnographic material from my ongoing research and three measures or scales of assessment (choice, information and assistance), I take a critical look at “voluntary” returns from Germany. In doing so, I discuss the sustainability and ethics of inducing return through such modes of repatriation to Pakistan.

How to Cite
Mahar, U. (2020). Inducing return to Pakistan. The South Asianist Journal, 7, 57-70. Retrieved from