Why do ethnoculturally defined states pursue favourable policies to integrate some returnees from their historical diasporas while neglecting or excluding others? We study this question by looking at members of two historical diasporas that, in the 1990s, returned to their respective ethnic homelands, Greece and Serbia, but were not treated uniformly by their respective governments. Utilising a wide range of primary sources, we consider evidence for a number of plausible explanations for such policy variation, including the economic profile of an ethnic returnee group, its status in internal ethnic hierarchies, its lobbying power, and dynamics of party politics. We find, instead, that the observed variation is best explained by the role that each particular group played in the ruling elites’ ex ante foreign policy objectives. Elites discouraged the repatriation of co-ethnics 142from parts of the world they still had claims over, by pursuing unfavourable repatriation policies. Conversely, absent a revisionist claim, states adopted favourable repatriation policies to encourage their repatriation and facilitate their integration upon return. Methodologically, the article illustrates the importance of focused comparisons across dyads of states and particular sub-diaspora groups.