Since 2015, the EU has been integrating migration into its overall foreign policy through EU-initiated partnership instruments. In 2016, the EU introduced a new approach using negative incentives for partner countries that fail to cooperate with the EU’s migrant return programme. Such approaches, however, have yet to contribute to an increase in returnees, often due to a lack of cooperation by partner countries.
Drawing upon previous research on the domestic interests of West African States, this paper aims to contribute to the further understanding of domestic interests in Africa concerning return migration, using the case study of Ethiopia. Based on original interviews with various Ethiopian stakeholders, the paper shows that the country’s engagement with its diaspora and its interest in seeing increased opportunities for legal migration, coupled with a concern for the socio-economic cost of reintegrating returnees, are among critical policy interests. Ethiopian state actors’ domestic interests, in general, are similar to those identified in the West African region, although they do exhibit particular features. For instance, unlike states in West Africa, such as Senegal and Gambia, the country’s officials are not concerned with domestic public opinion. Return agreements or negotiations with the EU have not been an issue of debate in the country’s public sphere or media. Nonetheless, due to the domestic interests identified in this paper, the country’s officials remain reluctant to cooperate with the EU on migrant return.