When working on Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) repatriation programmes for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2007-9, it became clear that people applying for AVR could face significant barriers when accessing critical information about AVR and return. I felt these barriers could exist due to the diversity of the applicants coupled with the huge trust problem surrounding AVR and the wider asylum system.
Having studied a BA in Spanish/Linguistics and an MA in Translation, and having worked for some years in accessible information, I decided to explore these issues further from a sociolinguistic standpoint, and was lucky enough to gain funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to carry this out at Cardiff University.
My subsequent doctoral research sought to understand how linguistic inequality occurred and was challenged within AVR programmes by examining two key aspects of AVR. Firstly, the ‘voluntary’ aspect of the return, and secondly, applicants’ opportunities to make informed decisions about their return. I worked closely with staff from both IOM and Refugee Action, which were the two organisations administering AVR programmes at the time of my research.
In this postdoctoral stage of my research, I am now focusing on sharing my findings. Located once again at Cardiff University and funded by the ESRC, my current work is an opportunity to ensure that knowledge about language, literacy and communication within AVR is shared with AVR staff, applicants and institutions dealing with the programmes.
I am keen to make contact with other researchers and practitioners working on AVR, forced migration, multilingualism, institutional communication, asylum, accessible information so please do get in touch if this is of interest.