How debt and financial insecurity shape the potential for sustainable return of migrants in the South-East Asia? Trying to answer this question, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has recently published the study “Debt and the Migration Experience: Insights from Southeast Asia”.

Debt remains a major push factor for migration, with migrants using work abroad as an economic coping strategy to response to indebtedness. In Cambodia, for example – it is underscored in the study – over 40 per cent of rural remittance receiving households reports repayment of debt as the main use of remittances. The report brings attention to social and psychological struggles on return, also. The findings of the study notice some negative impacts when migrants return home, in terms of economic, social and psychosocial outcomes. Indeed, indebted returnees are more likely to report feeling of disconnection from their communities and families; and as a result being victims of gossip or stigma. According to the report, the link between indebtedness and increased vulnerability to trafficking and related exploitation is also established.

The outcomes of the report are based on qualitative interviews conducted throughout 2018 with current and returned migrants in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand, as well as survey data collected by IOM and the International Labour Organization (ILO) between July-August 2016. Over 1,800 returned migrant workers were interviewed in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.

The study was conducted under IOM’s Asia Regional Migration Programme, a regional migration management project funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).

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