Barriers to (Re)integration: The Roma Return to the Western Balkans.

Research output: Book/ReportProject report


The focus of this paper is the migration from and return of the Roma to the Western
Balkan. This minority is distinctly marginalised and discriminated against across the
region, and its return and (re)integration pose critical questions for migration and ethnic
diversity scholars and policy makers. At the same time, Roma returns to the Western
Balkans are part of a historical moment in the EU, characterised by high immigration and
political pressure to respond to intense refugee flows. In this context, the problem with
the ‘economic asylum’ of the Roma in different EU member states appears to be the
access to the welfare system, not migration per se. The findings of this paper further
suggest that the expectation towards the Roma to (re)integrate while they have a high
tendency to be mobile and experience discrimination is linked to a hegemonic view of
societies on minorities’ integration as the end-result of their movements. While the recent
focus on vulnerability of returnees is a positive development, the data also indicate
within-group differences that call for a needs-based approach to be adopted in policy and
service provision. Nonetheless, across the board, transnational comparison is the lens
through which (re)integration is seen, especially in the initial stages post-return. A crucial
challenge for the Roma is adaptation after having experienced different lifestyles and a
sense of dignity in the host countries in the EU, and reconciling their expectations with
the standards they re-experience upon return to the Western Balkans. Time appears as a
qualitative construct as it is the experience abroad rather than chronological time that
impacts returnees’ attitudes towards (re)integration. In the context of a scarce state and
fragmented non-governmental service provision at local, national and transnational
levels, the idea of social entrepreneurship is an emerging one, with high potential to
address (re)integration in a more holistic manner.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019

Publication series

NameSCMR working paper series
PublisherUniversity of Sussex


  • Roma
  • western Balkans
  • Return Migration
  • integration


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