This article contributes to the theorization of involuntary return and moral economies in the context of economic crisis and vulnerability prompted by restrictive migration regimes and conflicts. Drawing on fieldwork in a rural town in Ghana where international labour migration is an established livelihood, it analyses deportations from North Africa, Israel and Europe and emergency return from Libya following the civil war in 2011. The article argues that return to the home town, rather than being detained or stuck en route, constitutes a particular context precisely because migrants face family and community expectations upon their return. Involuntary return constitutes a disruption of migration projects when migrants return empty-handed, going from being remitters to burdens for their families. This creates conflicts and disappointments within family and the local community, especially in relation to norms of provision and gender ideals. The paper highlights three effects of the moral economy of involuntary return. First, that involuntary return does not constitute a priori termination of migration, as many involuntary return migrants migrate again, often in high-risk ways. Second, it discusses the ambivalence of reciprocity and interdependency in families. And third, it shows how involuntary return challenges dominant ideals of masculinity.