Return migration and embedding: through the lens of Brexit as an unsettling event

Grabowska, Izabela and Ryan, Louise (2024) Return migration and embedding: through the lens of Brexit as an unsettling event. Comparative Migration Studies, 12 (1) (6). pp. 1-16. ISSN 2214-594X


This introductory paper, reflecting the Thematic Cluster of four papers, brings together two themes that are important for migration studies: return migration and embedding. Beyond any simplistic assumptions of settlement and permanent integration back into the origin country, following return, or notions of ongoing unfettered mobility back and forth over time, this article knits together data from the cluster papers, focusing on Lithuania and Poland, to explore factors that lead to return, or indeed non-return, and subsequent experiences in the ‘home’ country for those who do return. Moreover, using mixed methods, including longitudinal research, we advance a theoretical framework facilitating an examination of how returnees negotiate their lives in the origin society and whether they intend to stay, or migrate again, through the conceptual lens of embedding. While emphasising agency and effort, embedding also recognises structural constraints that may impede migrants’ expectations and aspirations. Hence, return migration may involve parallel processes of re-embedding but also experiences of dis-embedding as the hoped for return project encounters unexpected obstacles and may result in further migration. In mapping the field of return migration, through the concept of embedding, we focus on the impact of Brexit as ‘an unsettling event’.

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