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Project information

Project team

Thilo Lang, Robert Nadler


ZSI – Centre for Social Innovation, Vienna (Austria); International Organization for Migration, Prague (Czech Republic); Requalification and Information Centre, Most (Czech Republic); Association for Social and Labour Market Integration, Merseburg (Germany); Ministry of labour and social affairs Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg (Germany); Mid-Pannon Regional Development Company, Székesfehérvár (Hungary); University of Szeged (Hungary); National Union of Mountain Municipalities, Communities and Authorities – Piedmont Delegation, Turin (Italy);Lodz Region - Board of the Region - Marshal's Office, ?ód? (Poland); Marshall Office of the Swietokrzyskie Voivodship, Kielce (Poland); University of Maribor (Slovenia)

Duration of project

05/2011 – 07/2014

Funded by

European Union (INTERREG IVB)

Further information

Thilo Lang
Tel.: +49 341 600 55-159

Robert Nadler
Tel.: +49 341 600 55-140


Regions benefitting from returning migrants

With the accession of the New Member States in 2004 and 2007, competition for qualified labour increased within the European Union. Many – particularly rural – regions in Central Europe were confronted with massive emigration of young and skilled people towards economically more prosperous regions in Western Europe. In the sending regions this emigration caused a lack of skilled labour which impacts on economic and social development. Given the above average ageing and shrinking of the population, Central European rural regions face strong challenges to maintain their prosperity and social vitality.

Headed by the IfL as a Lead Partner, a transnational group of scientists was studying the potential of returning migrants for knowledge-based regional development. The Re-Turn project dealt with the following questions:

  • How can these (future) returning migrants be characterized?
  • Can return migration be understood as a permanent decision, or is it rather an episode in a more complex, circular migration biography?
  • How can policy makers and regional stakeholders in the sending regions attract qualified returning migrants?
  • How can (intercultural) knowledge and skills brought from abroad be capitalized on in the home regions?

Which strategies and concepts exist to enhance return migration in the case study regions? How can these strategies be improved and be transferred into pilot measures, which are to be tested during the project?
In Germany the two Landkreise Görlitz and Harz were selected as case study regions. The Re-Turn team at IfL coordinated a series of interviews with migrants and entrepreneurs from the region and supervised the test of pilot measures from a scientific perspective. Both these German case study regions will lose another 20% of its populations by the year 2025. This shrinkage is driven by continuous emigration of young people and low birth rates. While confronted with partly different structural contexts, also the other case study regions suffer from labour shortages: Piedmont (Italy), Ustecky (Czech Republic), Mid-Pannon (Hungary), Lodz (Poland), Swietokrzyskie (Poland), and Podravska (Slovenia).

The Re-Turn scientific study started from the observation that all case study regions suffered from the emigration of young and skilled people. It aimed at raising the awareness among stakeholders in the sending regions for the development potentials that are linked to return migration. With the testing of pilot measures to re-attract, re-integrate and re-employ returning migrants, the project developed a set of transferable tools and strategies for policy makers at the regional and local level. Involving actors from public administration, planning departments and labour offices in each of the case study regions, Re-Turn project team members experimented with online platforms, telephone hotlines, welcome agencies and professional trainings in order to support returning migrants’ reintegration back home.


Konzett-Smoliner, Stefanie (2016): Return migration as a "family project": exploring the relationship between family life and the readjustment experiences of highly skilled Austrians, Journal of Ethic and Migraton Studies. here

Lang, Thilo / Nadler, Robert (Hrsg.) (2014): Return migration to Central and Eastern Europe – the transnational migrants’ perspectives and local business needs. forum ifl, H. 23. Leipzig. Download (pdf 7.2 mb)

Nadler, Robert / Wesling, Mirko (2014): Zurück in den Osten. In: Bild der Wissenschaft, 2/2014, S. 82.

Lang, Thilo / Hämmerling, Aline (2013): Zurück nach Ostdeutschland: Bedingungen und Motivlagen der Remigration von ostdeutschen Abwanderern. In: Berichte. Geographie und Landeskunde, Bd. 87, H. 4, S. 347-374.

Nadler, Robert / Matuschewski, Anke (2013): Ostdeutsche Rückwanderer und der Fachkräftemangel: Die Sicht ostdeutscher Unternehmen. In: Berichte. Geographie und Landeskunde, Bd. 87, H. 4, S. 419-440.

Nadler, Robert / Wesling, Mirko (2013): Zunehmende Rückwanderung von Arbeitskräften nach Ostdeutschland. In: Nationalatlas aktuell, Jahrgang 7 (12.2013), Nr. 11 [13.12.2013]. here

Lang, Thilo (Hrsg.) (2013): Return Migration in Central Europe: Current trends and an analysis of policies supporting returning migrants. forum ifl, H. 21. Leipzig. here

Nadler, Robert / Lang, Thilo / Wittmann, Peter / Kubanek, Angelika (2011): „Neue Geographien Europas" Interview mit Peter Wittmann, Robert Nadler, Thilo Lang, Forschungsgruppe Rückwanderung am Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde, Leipzig. In: Ham, Murat; Kubanek, Angelika (Hrsg.): Fremde Heimat Deutschland – Leben zwischen Ankommen und Abschied. Migranten erzählen über deutsche Erfahrungen. Stuttgart, S. 89-98.


The results of the Re-Turn Online Survey among emigrants and return migrants from Central Europe are not only of interest within the scientific community. Various national and international newspapers, radio and TV stations covered these results:

More information: