The Journey Home: Violence, Anchoring, and Refugee Decisions to Return

Faten Ghosn, Tiffany S. Chu, Miranda Simon, Alex Braithwaite, Michael Frith, Joanna Jandali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


While the UNHCR promotes voluntary repatriation as the preferred solution to refugee situations, there is little understanding of variation in refugees' preferences regarding return. We develop a theoretical framework suggesting two mechanisms influencing refugees' preferences. First, refugees' lived experiences in their country of origin prior to displacement and in their new host country create a trade-off in feelings of being anchored to their origin or host country. Second, firsthand exposure to traumas of war provides some refugees with a sense of competency and self-efficacy, leading them to prefer to return home. We test these relationships with data from a survey among Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon. We find refugees exposed to violence during the war have a sense of attachment to Syria and are most likely to prefer return. Refugees who have developed a detachment from Syria or an attachment to Lebanon are less likely to prefer return.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)982-998
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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