The capacity to deport migrants without a legal claim to reside in a territory has proliferated in recent times legitimated by the obligation to readmit own-nationals, only tempered by the principle of nonrefoulement. This process oftentimes relies on a wide range of actors to facilitate a migrant’s return, leading to a diffusion of responsibility to adhere to nonrefoulement. Moreover, there remains an ongoing tension concerning the provision of security, either at the national or human level. Exemplary of this trend are bilateral agreements such as the Agreement on Immigration Matters between Ireland and Nigeria signed in 2001 focused on the readmission of irregular Nigerian migrants, and the use of AVRR programs such as the EUIOM Joint Initiative founded in 2016. Taking both a quantitative and a discursive account of human security conditions in Nigeria, this paper highlights the diverse understandings of governance actors, conceptualized as discourse coalitions, for what constitutes conditions suitable for a safe, dignified return. To overcome the limitations of a national security approach, which even at its most critical does not account for the lived experience, this paper develops a Human (In)Security Index, locating the human security conditions at a national level for Nigeria from 2000 to 2020. This reveals marked health insecurity, prolonged food, political, personal and community insecurity, and a trend towards increasing environmental insecurity; economic security is the only dimension which remains relatively secure. Overall, Nigeria scores as a relatively insecure country over the timeframe. Concurrently, this paper locates governance actors within discourse coalitions, uncovering disparate understandings of (in)security in Nigeria. Drawing on Irish and Nigerian news articles from 2000 to 2021 and promotional videos from the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, a critical discourse analysis locates governance actors’ understanding on (in)security in Nigeria. From this, the included governance actors were situated within discourse coalitions based on their shared understanding, non-dependent on the reality exhibited by the index. This results in a non-exhaustive three-fold typology in which coalitions understand Nigeria as: 1) unsafe for return, 2) safe for return, and 3) unsafe but return is possible. None of the analysed actors acknowledge the dimension of food (in)security, or the increasing environmental insecurity of Nigeria, signalling the saliency of a human security framework to articulate overlooked dimensions necessary for dignified human life – this is particularly relevant for actors seeking to resist practices of deportation, or those seeking to better abide by international human rights norms.

, , , , , , , , ,
Kaşlı, Zeynep
Governance, Migration and Diversity (GMD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Creed, Xander. (2021, December 17). The making of (un)safe countries for return: assessing the discourses and realities on conditions of return migration to Nigeria through a human security framework. Governance, Migration and Diversity (GMD). Retrieved from