Kristian Harpviken

Split Return: Transnational Household Strategies in Afghan Repatriation

International Migration


Split return is a common strategy of repatriation among refugees and migrants. Facing great uncertainty, both economically and security-wise, households disperse in two or more locations to minimize risk. The phenomenon is well-known in migration studies and in studies of return from the distant diaspora but is studied less among the overwhelming majority residing in countries neighboring their own. This article draws on experiences from Afghanistan, comparing split return to similar strategies in migration generally and in refugee situations specifically. It suggests that while splits are conceived as a temporary measure, they often become a lasting form of life. Opportunities for split return are often crucial for the willingness to start repatriation, as well as for the sustainability of the household's economy upon return. The article develops the concept of split return in relation to contextual factors, intensity of networks (at origin and in exile) and household composition. ​