Return from Migration and Issues of Social Adaptation

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)


 : Study by: Dr. Hajir Abul-Qasim Mohamed Al-Hady

This paper was presented by Dr Hajar Abul Gasim Mohamed Al Hady, and it focused on the issue of return of Sudanese migrant to their homeland and the impact of the process on the local community in the Sudan and in Khartoum in particular.

The paper was delivered at Mamoun Beheiry Hall for Economic and Social Studies and Researches in Africa, Khartoum, Sudan. The event was organized by the  Ministry of the Council of Ministers, the Sudanese Expatriates Authority and the Sudan Center for Migration, Development and Population Studies:-

The return process in this pattern is associated with factors relating to reduction in the volume of labor demand or desires of the workers to return to their homelands. It is observed that the trend of migration to the Arab oil-exporting countries has emerged with the exploration and beginning of exploitation of this crude material. Migration then increased throughout the years, particularly during the period of the rise in oil prices in 1974. The migration trend then started to slow down, settle and reduce with the reduction in oil prices.

The concept of return migration means the migrants who spent a year to 20 years abroad- some people differentiate between the return of the migrants, which we conventionally term as “return migration”. The return of expatriates means the return of some migrating workers to their homelands after termination of their residence, matter which is normal in the process of migration for work purposes.  The term “return migration” thus means final return to the homeland due to reduction in migration trend or level of employment in the hosting countries.

Geographic specialists term it as reverse migration, i.e. return to the motherland. Return migration also means a group return of expatriates in a specific period of time due to termination of their contracts by the hosting countries. The return migration has obvious impact on the economic and social structure of the country of origin. The matter requires conducting studies on issues such as effect of return migration on the community of the returning migrant.

The return migration movement started to emerge during the 1980’s of the past century as a result of the economic deterioration and revenues decrease in the official hosting countries of Arab labor.

However, after the economic conditions improved in the Gulf countries by early 1990’s due to the rise in oil prices and after the migration movement flourished once again in turn, the Gulf crisis erupted with all its impacts on all labor providing countries.

The migration and return migration experience was characterized by lack of organization on the part of labor providing countries whose role focused on facilitating the migration process without setting regulations or restrictions besides the complete absence of polices for training and reintegrating the return labor and encouraging them to contribute to the production process and face what may arise of return issues.

The return migration also causes social, economic and political issues due to the economic differences that arise between the natives in the original community and the return migrants from communities that differ in terms of living standards, behavior, patterns of consumption and social values. Scientifically, it is difficult to measure and trace the return migration phenomenon within its different stations and means.

Migrants may face certain circumstances that force them to remain abroad for 20 to 30 years. Such a long period is enough to consolidate news social behavior and social measures on the migrants and thus making it difficult for them to consider return to their motherlands. However, the migration line still remains open.

Return reasons also include the measures adopted by the host courtiers to reduce foreign labor and replace them with national or Asian labor on bases of higher levels of efficiency besides the measures putting restrictions before residence of workers.

The decrease in the oil revenues was also another reason behind the decrease in the demand for Arab labor where the Gulf crisis during the early 1990's was the main reason behind the forced return of thousands of migrants, matter which had deep economic and social effects on the returning expatriates and their families.

Migration to the oil-producing countries dominated great part of the institutional studies or individual meetings of researchers and post-graduate studies' students. The studies focused on the economic evaluation for migration and tended to generalize its advantages and limit its disadvantages particularly that migration's social effect proved to be negative at the long-run. Additionally, the effects, reflections and expectations of Sudanese return migration were considered the main consequences of the migration phenomenon.

Some migration and labor evaluations and surveys indicated low results because the studies covered only the expatriates who authenticated their contracts through the formal channels (the labor Office).

The return migration began after the Gulf war in 1990 while during 1996-1998; the migration rates increased again. Saudi Arabia is considered the biggest host country for Sudanese labor where it receives more Sudanese migrating labor than the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. Additionally, the number of migrants is continuously rising despite the decrease of salaries and wages in most of the hosting countries, matter which confirms that the factors of return migration are more than the attracting factors for the Sudanese labor.

Return migration in the Arab region, including Sudan, began after 1982 and by mid 1980's it transformed into a phenomenon with dimensions. Consequently, a number of studies were conducted to analyze this phenomenon but they were conducted on small samples that were not suitable for statistical generalization. However, those studies reached important findings concerning the occupational characteristics of the returning expatriates.

Setting up clear policies with specific objectives for the return migration phenomenon leads to crystallizing the programs and strategies which are based on accurate data and statistics and then to a new reality suiting the size of the return migration.

The most recent and comprehensive sources were the data provided by the migration and working labor survey in 1990, which was conducted in cooperation with the International Labor Organization (ILO). The survey included a relatively broad sample that covered 7500 returning expatriates. Detailed information on the returning expatriates, their characteristics and occupations after 1983 were collected.

Formulation of basic features to constitute the basic axis for a national policy to regulate the temporary migration movement from Sudan first necessitates defining the national migration policies which are to be built on a specific and clear objective, i.e. the importance of regulating the migration, whether through encouraging or restricting it.

The Gulf crisis in 1990 constituted the main reason that affected the Sudanese migrating labor where after the crisis the demand for the Sudanese labor by the Gulf countries has greatly reduced and as a result great numbers of Sudanese expatriates returned to the country for the following reasons:

1-    Decrease in the oil revenues and the international economic transformations

2-    Completion of the basic infrastructures in the hosting countries and reduction in the demand for construction workers

3-    Inclination by the hosting countries to establish industries depending on intensive capitals, matter which resulted in demanding highly competent labor

4-    Replacement of the foreign labor in government institutions by national labor

5-    The Arab labor faced great competition by the Asian labor where these economic developments disturbed the Arab labor markets in the hosting countries and cast their negative shadows on the conditions of the migrating labor there.

Return and Social Adaptation:

Since man is a social being by nature, he/she always grows within his/her surrounding group and when he/she is separated from this group by migration, he/ she gradually disassociate with his/her community and intermingles with the community of the hosting country of migration. Consequently, when he/she returns to his/her homeland, it will be difficult for him/her to adapt with his/her original community where some visions and ideas regarding the social level upon which personal behavior and dealing with others become different.

Social adaptation:

Sociologists defined social adaptation as the group of reactions with which the individual modifies his or her psychological and behavioral structure to respond to the surrounding conditions or a new experience. Procedurally, it means adaptation and intermingling with the community.

This paper intends to explain the extent in which the returning expatriates adapt to the rapidly changing life pattern in Sudan for the social life is closely connected to the life pattern together with the economic development and its reflections on the general life pattern.

The paper also discussed assimilation of the returning labor in the labor market at both the public and private sectors, because if the returning person has not found an opportunity in the economic structure or failed to obtain a job, he/she will be psychologically nonconforming and will consequently fail to mingle with the community individuals around him whether at the neighborhood or the whole area. As a result, he/she will either be isolative or dislike mingling with the community or will persistently consider traveling abroad again.

There are many matters and issues that determine the individual's trend to adapt or mingle with the community. The most important of these are:

1-    Accommodation, which is the main purpose behind travel of many expatriates where the house is the most important unit of individual's settlement. Despite the many efforts to resolve this problem by offering the expatriates plots of land or providing them community housing complexes, yet the issue remain to be a major concern for the expatriates. Owning a private house is the main reason behind the psychological settlement of the expatriate because then he/she can mingle with the community and share the community members their social and cultural activities either within the family, the neighborhood or the area in which settled after returning.

2-     Children education: University education has remained a nagging problem that concerns the expatriates where they face many obstacles in their quest to have their children admitted in the various universities in the country. Such obstacles include equalization of the Arab high school certificate with the Sudanese high school certificate, matter which requires a specialized scientific committee, besides the high fees imposed on the expatriates regardless of their occupations and jobs abroad. Additionally, some expatriates returned from abroad with high qualifications including certificates in medicines and surgery, but spent three years looking for a job without getting a single chance in any of the country's hospitals or medical centers. For instance, the study expenses for an expatriate's daughters amounted to more than 40 million SDG per year, and when they returned they were faced with such obstacles. When the expatriate returns to his homeland he discovers that all the doors are opened before him, no job and no reduction in fees, matter which makes it impossible for him to mingle with the community and instead he bears inside him the feeling of misery and unfairness towards the standing conditions of the reality he lives.

3-    Medication: The human being, regardless of his/her age, knowledge or occupation, is exposed to different types to diseases and the expatriate, more than anybody else, is subject to such diseases because he is not used to the life pattern in his country. Additionally, the expatriate's tension and worry worsen his psychological condition. And since the psychological condition is the main reason behind many physical diseases, the expatriate's psychological condition exposes him to many diseases and therefore he will need great sums of money for his treatment and treatment of his family members. This is especially difficult under the increasing cost of medication in the country and particularly that the expatriate does not belong to any government institution to obtain a health insurance card to reduce the medication cost. As result, all these health problems hamper him from mingling properly in the community.

4-    There are other social reasons that are difficult for the returning expatriate to cope with including the high cost of marriage and other relevant social events which the people compete to spend as much as they can in this respect. There is also the showing phenomenon of owning prestigious houses, cars, furniture, cloths and jewelry where the returning expatriates is surprised by these changes in the society and which are dictated for women by ignorance and imitation. For all these reasons, the returning expatriate finds great barriers between him and the community where he cannot remove them or completely separate from the community. However, there are many expatriates who returned with enough savings to great wealth and gradually managed, to some extent, to mingle in the community.

5-    Behavior and culture of the returning expatriate: Most of the returning expatriate who have spent more than ten years abroad and acquired new life patterns and consumptive behavior from the expatriation communities, on particular the Gulf countries, have returned and brought with them their consumptive culture in dressing, living, furniture and even in the way they speak to people. Such type of returning expatriates face difficulty in mingling with the community of origin except for gradually. For instance, the sons of the returning expatriates who are termed (Arab certificate), are isolated from the other students in the university community because they have terminologies and specific dressing culture besides that most of them are affected by the satellite TV channels and the most modern styles. All these false features drifted them away from mingling with their community. Such need long time to gradually adapt to their new community, which is their motherland.

As the expatriate needs long time to adapt to the community of the expatriation country, the returning expatriate is also faced with a psychological or moral barrier between him and the life pattern of his community and therefore needs long time to fully adapt.

Many of the studies which I found indicated that the returning expatriates found job opportunities in the country. One of these studies, conducted in 1992, indicated that more than %70 of the returning expatriates, particularly during the Gulf crisis, found jobs, but the reality indicated otherwise because I interviewed more than 30 returning expatriates including 7 doctors, 11 engineers, 13 university lecturers and a number of bankers and accountants, where the majority of them failed to find jobs in the country and they were forced to travel abroad again despite the urgent circumstances which necessitating them to remain in the country for their children reached university age in addition to other circumstances that dictate for the returning expatriate to remain home but would be forced to travel again and with less financial and employment conditions than the first time he was abroad. However, comparing his being jobless in his country while he is still productive with the lesser privileges abroad, he desperately accepts.

The return migration issue still needs further studies and researches. It also needs accurate statistics to be the base upon which strategies are built. Airports administrations and expatriates organs need to be involved in these statistics so that the data would not be approximate and inaccurate, matter which prevents working out fair strategies that can assimilate the returning expatriate in away that enables him to mingle with his community instead of becoming disappointed and decide to travel back, particularly that many of the returning expatriates have high qualifications and accumulated experiences that can serve the homeland if better exploited.


Every expatriate who travel outside Sudan, no matter what his motive was whether scientific, financial or political, one day must return to his motherland. Therefore, there must be preparedness for the period of the return of the expatriates from the different corners of the world. First, there must be strategic planning to enable the expatriate who return with his family and wealth to mingle with his community and the surrounding conditions. The State must expect great numbers of returning expatriates and make ready for such a phase by establishing development and investment projects to assimilate them and coordinate with the educational institutions to assimilate their children in the universities equally as their peers inside.

To face the consequences of the migration and return migration, programs and policies must be set up to assimilate thousands of graduates inside before they think of external labor markets.


·       The State is to adopt plans and programs to assimilate the returning expatriates in the labor market and assist those who plan to migrate to plan their life during and after migration,

·       Forming a mechanism to follow up the returning expatriates' social and economic conditions

·       Reactivating and supporting the statistical organ to enable it provide accurate information on migration and return migration

·       Finding bigger investment opportunities for the week categories of the returning expatriates.

·       Increasing and supporting the programmes which tend to link the expatriates with the social and cultural life in Sudan and with the developments in the country

·       Urging the researchers to conduct further studies and surveys in field of return migration to determine their numbers an setting up suitable solutions for those numbers

·       Setting up clear policies with clear objectives for the movement of migration and return migration. This is necessary for the planning for the human resources development as for these moves of deep effects on the future of development and progress

·       Reactivating the role of media and information to communicate with the expatriates and fulfill their needs and associate them with their community through facilitating their procedures and resolving their issues. The role of media and information is increasing, particularly in reflecting the country's internal political, economic and social developments, matter which contributes to filling in the gap between the citizens and the returning expatriates.

Mohamed Osman Adam

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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