Return And Reintegration
last updated September 1, 2005

The following is excepted from an International Organization for Migration (IOM) background paper, which offers information about the assistance required in return and reintegration efforts for victims of trafficking. The background paper is reproduced in the Multiyear Anti-Trafficking Action Plan for South Eastern Europe, Stability Pact Task Force for South Eastern Europe Task Force on Trafficking in Human Beings, March 2001.

Voluntary return and reintegration programs are an integral part of victim protection and assistance. [Many] [c]ountries . . . currently do not offer legal options for victims of trafficking to stay, and most women who are identified are keen to leave the country and the situation in which they find themselves, to return to their home environment. There is also much concern for the safety of victims who are in danger of being recaptured by their traffickers. Victims are of great value in terms of financial investments made and the risks of testifying against traffickers.

Prior to return home, time is required to initially stabilize victims, both psychologically and physically. Shelters and safe houses offer the immediate assistance necessary, while travel documentation and arrangements are organized. Co-operation between NGOs, Governments and International Agencies is crucial for the protection and assistance of the victim and the organization of travel home.

Upon return home, victims require assistance coming to terms with their experiences and reintegrating into life. Long and short-term assistance is required. Initial medical / psychosocial help, counseling and legal advice are necessary in the early phases. Later other options become more appropriate, including further education / vocational training and / or other income-generating activities. Clearly the co-operation of NGOs, Government and International Agencies is significant. Successful reintegration is vital in terms of stabilizing the victim, offering new life perspectives and protecting him/her against potential re-trafficking, particularly in the crucial first months.

The aim is to contribute to the safe, orderly and dignified return and reintegration of trafficked human beings, with a focus on vulnerable groups, such as women and children, to their home country as well as to support adequate NGO and Governmental structures to ensure sustainability.


Stage 1: Shelter

Victims of trafficking are often brought to shelters by law enforcement officers. These officers need to be able to identify victims, and to attend to their specific needs, thus awareness raising and training activities need to target this group. A second function of law enforcement officials in relation to shelters is ensuring the safety of the victims within. Initial protection and shelters and safe houses provide assistance. Staff must be appropriately trained to offer necessary medical, legal and psychosocial assistance, as well as inform victims of return and reintegration options.

Stage 2: Pre-departure

Once a victim has decided to return home, it is necessary to obtain travel documentation, establish an appropriate itinerary, contact NGOs / International Agencies / Government Authorities in the countries of transit and / or origin as appropriate, arrange an escort is necessary, etc.

Stage 3: Travel

During travel, transit assistance should be available as appropriate, contact with trained border guards and consular officials should be established as necessary.

Stage 4: Arrival / Reintegration

Upon arrival, it may be necessary to contact trained border guards, escort the victims to a shelter / safe house. Shelter staff should be fully trained to offer initial medical, legal and psychosocial assistance as necessary. In the longer term, other options should be available to stabilize the victims and assist him / her to fully reintegrate into life. Further, particularly in the initial months, it is important to carry out preventative work to protect victims from potential re-trafficking.

Stage 5: Testifying

The possibility of returned victims testifying against their traffickers should be explored, on the condition that the victim fully agrees and his / her personal needs and safety are considered."