Case management

Relocation, repatriation and reintegration: understanding the differences


When talking about options for survivors of family and sexual violence, these are three words that often come up.

But what do they mean and what is the difference between them? These definitions and the case example were provided by the PNG Family Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC).


Relocation is a general term describing the process where a service assists the survivor (and any dependent children) to move to an alternative location, possibly the survivor’s place of origin. Note that when a survivor is relocated – or repatriated or reintegrated – there are a range of costs involved e.g. assisting access to housing, schooling, employment, and suchlike.


Repatriation refers to the process where a service assists the survivor, and any dependents, to return to the survivor’s place of origin. Ideally, the survivor will have family at their place of origin able to provide supportive care once the repatriation has occurred. Additional support should be provided by the service provider, so the survivor is not completely dependent upon family. (Repatriation should not be confused with Reintegration, described below.)


Reintegration refers to a process where, at the survivor’s request, a service assists the survivor to return to the place they moved from when escaping violence. There are many reasons why it is important for survivors to be assisted to return to their communities if the threat of violence lessens sufficiently.


By way of example: a woman accused of sorcery and facing extreme threats of violence is assisted to relocate from her home in Lae to Goroka. The service provider establishes whether the relocation is likely to be permanent or temporary. If it is a temporary relocation, the service provider ascertains the likely period, and plans for future reintegration are put into effect. Four important reintegration steps are applied: 1) immediately move the survivor to safety; 2) where applicable, take legal action to protect the survivor and property of the survivor; 3) effect conflict resolution programs within the community, and communicate with community leaders, families and individuals involved, to assist the survivor’s chances of returning safely to the community at some later stage; and 4) assist the survivor’s return when all indications are that the survivor will be safe.

In this example, should the Lae woman accused of sorcery wish to return to Lae, where she owns a small patch of land she can produce food on, she can access support for safe reintegration. Ideally, from commencement, the process will assist her to secure her property rights – and potentially her future livelihood – throughout the period she was forced to flee from violence.

Reintegration planning is especially important in light of indications some extreme cases of violence, including sorcery accusations and resulting assaults and murders, are motivated by intent to obtain the victim’s property. Services, quite properly, focus upon securing survivors’ immediate safety and relocation. In order to assist survivors in the longer term, and to effectively contend with one of the causes of extreme violence, services should also be aware of – and where possible assist to protect against – violent criminals successfully driving survivors from their homes and communities. Assisting survivors to more effectively utilise the legal system and implementing conflict resolution may assist, along with law reform, advocacy and awareness-raising to increase recognition of the problem.

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