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This article interrogates the assumptions that returned migrants can be agents of change in development and peace-building in the country of origin. In current political and academic debates, it remains under-defined which category of returnees can contribute to what kind of change. This article identifies four ways in which voluntary and involuntary returnees relate to the conflict after return: physically, institutionally, psychologically and with regard to the future. It finds that the only returnees who could potentially live up to the expectations raised in the migration-development-peace-building debate, are voluntary returnees, while involuntary returnees were in no way potential contributors to Afghan peace-building and development. It concludes that, first, the human dimension of returnees' involvement is the most important potential contribution to change. Second, while the international community sees repatriation as the ultimate proof of peace that represents the restoring of normalcy, it is rather continued transnational mobility that could be the basis for Afghan migrants to contribute to change in Afghanistan.

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Journal article


Conflict, Security & Development

Publication Date



14 (5)


565 - 591