The BMZ's programme "Returning to New Opportunities"

Advice centre for jobs, migration and reintegration in Dakar, Senegal


Why are we taking action?

War, violence and persecution are forcing more and more people to leave their homes. There are now more than 68 million displaced people in the world. The majority of them are either internally displaced or have fled to a neighbouring country. Around 85 per cent of displaced people live in developing countries.

Apart from crises and conflicts, there are many other factors that make people leave their homes and homelands. These include hunger, poverty, the impacts of climate change, a lack of economic prospects or the search for better opportunities. Today, 258 million of the world’s citizens live in a country other than the country in which they were born.

Often migrants are willing to face great danger in the search for a better future for themselves and their families in a foreign country. Many of them place themselves at the mercy of criminal and ruthless human traffickers. Thousands die while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the deserts of Africa.

And not everyone who makes it to Germany is entitled to protection under the provisions of international refugee protection. Currently, some 240,000 migrants are scheduled for deportation, meaning they have to leave Germany.

Most people prefer to live in their home countries and want to stay or return there. However, for them to want to do so, they must have decent living conditions, be able to feed themselves and their families, and see prospects for the future. If these basic requirements are not fulfilled, then people will contemplate leaving their homes and going elsewhere.

Employees of the German-Ghanaian counselling centre for migrants and returnees in Accra, Ghana. The counselling centre was opened in December 2017 and has since supported more than 7,000 job placement, business start-up and qualification measures.


Each year people who do not have the right to remain in Germany, or who do not want to remain, return to their countries of origin. In 2018, some 16,000 people received support from the public purse to assist their return home (according to figures released by the returnee programmes Reintegration and Emigration Programme for Asylum-Seekers in Germany (REAG) and Government Assisted Repatriation Programme (GARP), source: Federal Ministry of the Interior).

Returnees usually face huge challenges: they need to re-organise their everyday lives, build new livelihoods and forge new social contacts. Often, they also meet with difficult conditions on the labour markets back in their home countries – for instance, few formal jobs that are subject to social insurance contributions and/or many insecure jobs which make it necessary to change jobs frequently. Where returnees or deportees have few qualifications or are affected by psychological problems such as depression, traumatic experiences of violence or addictions, they may need personal support before they can actually take up employment.

Many people awaiting repatriation to their countries of origin are unaware of what support programmes may be available back home to help them resettle and find good prospects for the future. Their decision to leave Germany may also be made more difficult by the knowledge that the communities to which they return will often have high expectations of them.

This is where the "Returning to New Opportunities" returnee programme is meant to help.

What are the objectives of the programme?

1. Creating reasons to remain and prospects for the future by fostering employment in our partner countries

What this means is that we want to:

  • show people that irregular migration is not the only option in their home country;
  • provide people with concrete job offers in our partner countries.

2. Transforming return into sustainable reintegration

What this means is that we want to:

  • provide all returnees from Germany with a job offer in their country of origin;
  • assist and accompany returnees before and during their return, and also during their reintegration;
  • make sure returnees are better informed about the assistance available back home while they are still in Germany (voluntary return and sustainable reintegration as an alternative to deportation).

3. Reducing irregular migration – contributing towards safe, orderly and regulated migration

What this means is that we want to:

  • inform people about the dangers of irregular migration;
  • give people a realistic picture of the limited prospects for irregular migrants in Germany;
  • explain what conditions must be met in order for regular migration to be possible.

What are we doing in order to achieve these objectives?

The programme is able to build on the many existing measures and initiatives carried out and structures set up as part of German development cooperation. It focuses on partner countries from where particularly large numbers of migrants who are not entitled to stay in Germany originate.

These countries currently include Afghanistan, Albania, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Iraq, Kosovo, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Serbia and Tunisia. The German government applies measures especially tailored to the situation in each country, since conditions can differ widely from one to another.

Providing advice in our partner countries

Counselling session in the Centre for jobs, migration and reintegration in Dakar, Senegal

At the core of the programme Returning to New Opportunities are the advice centres for jobs, migration and reintegration. The advice centres are set up in close collaboration with national employment agencies and other partners, and offer advice on the following aspects:

  • help with looking for a job; advice on employment, for instance, in micro and small enterprises; or advice on business start-up loans;
  • job fairs, organised together with partner countries, local associations and businesses;
  • free individual advice about training and skills development;
  • support with regard to social issues (e.g. finding a place to live, applying for education grants or getting access to health care or psycho-social support).
  • information campaigns about the dangers of irregular migration via human trafficking routes and advice about the realistic chances of being eligible for regular migration for people who are thinking of leaving their native country.
Location of the Centres for jobs, migration and reintegration on a world map

To date, advice centres have been set up in the following countries: Albania (Tirana), Kosovo (Pristina), Serbia (Belgrade), Morocco, Tunisia (Tunis), Senegal (Dakar), Ghana (Accra), Nigeria and Iraq (Erbil and Baghdad). In Afghanistan (in Kabul), Germany provides such advisory services in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

More advice centres are being planned, for example in Pakistan and Egypt, amongst other places.

Improving the situation at country level

Trainee in Tunis, Tunisia, participating in a training programme for craftsmen run by GIZ.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is working to ensure that people continue to have prospects in their own countries, or to create such prospects. In 2018 alone, the BMZ made about 4.4 billion euros available for efforts to address the causes of displacement and to support refugees and migrants, and their hosting communities. Detailed information about German activities to tackle the root causes of displacement can be found here

The programme 'Returning to New Opportunities' builds on the activities described there. So far, it has been linked up with 39 ongoing development projects in thirteen partner countries. This means that people there continue to have access to long-term measures to improve their living conditions and income opportunities.

The Returning to New Opportunities programme will help returnees to pursue any further vocational training they may need, find a permanent job or start up their own businesses back in their home country. The programme also offers social support by assisting people with the search for housing and by providing or procuring health care services and (psycho-)social support for them.

The programme works with numerous civil society organisations in the returnees' countries of origin so that it can offer the various support services that people there need.

Counselling in Germany

Wall with information material in an advice centre

The Returning to New Opportunities returnee programme is also aimed at migrants living in Germany who do not have the right to remain, or who do not want to remain, and have therefore decided to return to their native countries.

In order to provide people still living in Germany but interested in returning home with information about the opportunities on offer in their countries of origin, the Returning to New Opportunities programme is networked with Germany's advice centres for migrants. Such information and advisory networks can assist migrants who have decided to make a new start in their home countries in preparing their return more thoroughly, thus making their fresh start more likely to succeed.

To support this networking, there are currently 20 reintegration scouts deployed as advisors all over Germany. The scouts have expert knowledge about what reintegration assistance is available and thus form a link between pre-departure counselling in Germany and the development/reintegration programmes being supported by the German government abroad. People interested in returning home can also contact the advisory services on repatriation offered by the German Länder and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

We are also working with civil society organisations and state partners in Germany in order to help prepare people for reintegration by providing them with the information, orientation and starting qualifications they will need for a new start in their countries of origin. This means that we provide advice and support to returnees over an extended period of time.

Worldwide advisory support via digital means

Logo of the startfinder website

As part of the programme Returning to New Opportunities, we also offer support on-line via our "Startfinder" website at People considering returning to their own countries of origin as well as people in our partner countries can consult the website to find information about what prospects they have in their home countries and what advisory services and support are available for people returning home voluntarily.

All on-line offerings are available in the various target groups' own languages. Moreover, people will be able to hold virtual counselling sessions with the advice centres located in their respective country of origin.

In live "chat rooms" people interested in these services can make contact with counselling staff, regardless of whether they do so from Germany or from one the partner countries involved in the programme. Counselling sessions are confidential, and their outcome is open and non-binding. The advice centres can also be contacted via various social media, including Facebook.

The "Startfinder" online portal supplements the support on offer via other government websites – for example, on, the information portal hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

Support staff providing counselling in Germany can find information and advice there about German development cooperation projects offering reintegration assistance to returnees back home.

Here are links to the Facebook accounts of the advice centres in each partner country:

What have we achieved so far?

The programme Returning to New Opportunities started in 2017. Within the very first year, we managed to achieve the following:

  • We opened eleven advice centres and launched a counselling programme in Afghanistan which is being offered in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
  • We began, or intensified, talks on the subject of migration with 13 partner governments.
  • We started providing support in selected partner countries to 13 national institutions, such as employment agencies, and agreed long-term collaboration with them for the purpose of bringing about positive structural impacts.
  • We established 34 new partnerships with civil society groups in the programme's partner countries.
  • We arranged for 17 reintegration scouts to work with the returnee counselling centres in Germany. The scouts' task is to establish links with reintegration programmes in the returnees' countries of origin.
  • Across Germany, nine educational institutions are offering 17 courses designed to prepare returnees for reintegrationin their countries of origin. 
  • In the partner countries taking part in the returnee programme, around 300,000 individual support measures (such as counselling sessions, training programmes, job placements and psycho-social support) have been carried out for the benefit of local people, internally displaced persons and returnees. Some 50,000 of these measures were specifically for returnees from Germany and third countries. In addition, more than 11,000 small and medium-sized businesses in our partner countries received support to help them secure existing jobs or create new ones. "Returning to New Opportunities" managed help to find a job or develop a business already more than 57,000 times.

In addition to having direct benefits, the Returning to New Opportunities programme also produces indirect benefits for a much wider circle of people.

  • For example, on average five family members benefit from the successful job placement of one family member.
  • And where people have received assistance from the Returning to New Opportunities programme to set up in business for themselves or start up a new small business, there have been knock-on benefits for employees or suppliers.
  • The counselling services on offer in our partner countries also help to reduce irregular migration, for many of the people who get advice at one of our advice centres there go on to decide against irregular migration. The reduction in irregular migration also reduces the amount of money flowing into the pockets of human traffickers.

The repatriation measures introduced by Germany's Federal Ministry of the Interior are closely aligned with the reintegration support measures being sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Together, these measures can transform a return home into sustainable reintegration. Germany is leading the way internationally as regards support for migrants and refugees returning home.

BMZ glossary

Close window


Share page