E.g., 04/18/2014
E.g., 04/18/2014

Fostering Cooperation Between Source and Destination Countries

Adjust Font    |    Print    |    RSS    |    Reprint Permission

Fostering Cooperation Between Source and Destination Countries

Increasing numbers of people are working outside their home countries, often moving en masse along economic avenues widened by globalization. A complex set of factors is driving these population movements, including an oversupply of workers in countries of origin, labor needs in destination countries, and formal and informal networks that link supply with demand.

This movement of people, while often beneficial to both sending and receiving countries, is not without problems. Many of the source countries of migration to industrialized states in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region are in transition to more democratic governments, adherence to human rights norms, privatized industries, market-set prices, and integration into regional and global economies. A failure to manage migration streams either through or from source countries can undermine their economic development and democratization, thus generating additional migrants. Industrial countries, meanwhile, are hard-pressed to handle unregulated influxes of many migrants, and have much to lose when their poorer neighbors suffer political and economic ills. With so much at stake, effective cooperation to manage migration is becoming more urgent for both source and destination countries.

The Cooperative Efforts to Manage Emigration (CEME) project of the Migration Dialogue examines ways in which immigration destinations can work more effectively with source and transit countries to manage migration and reduce emigration pressures. The best practices identified to date by CEME deal with all of the main factors driving this migration, focusing on the causes of emigration in source countries, the networks that move people over borders, and managing migration in a cooperative manner that is consistent with both source and receiving countries' interests. In an increasingly interconnected world, fostering sustained cooperation of this type is essential not only in migration management, but also in building support for market economies and democratic principles.

To research the best practices in the field, CEME's 20 immigration experts from Europe and North America have completed site visits to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania, Turkey, Mali, and the Dominican Republic. Lessons from other countries in transition, such as Mexico and Morocco, have also been considered. Best practices fall into the following areas:

Cooperation on International Migration Management

There are a number of ways to achieve cooperation between source and receiving countries, including bilateral agreements and efforts mounted under international organizations.

As one example, Mali and France have established the Mali-France Consultation on Migration, an annual bilateral discussion at the ministerial level. In an official agreement signed in December 2000, representatives of the two countries agreed to meet at least once a year to deal with three issues: 1) the integration of Malians who want to remain in France; 2) co-management of migration flows; and 3) cooperative development in emigration areas of Mali.

"No one strategy is sufficient to overcome the economic and political problems that compel international movements. Rather, a combination of trade, investment, and aid is needed."

The United States and Mexico also have a joint working group that discusses border issues, visa policy, documentation, cooperation in combating smuggling and trafficking, protection of the rights of Mexican migrant workers in the U.S., removal of criminal aliens, joint research projects, among other issues. The Regional Migration Conference, or Puebla Group, convenes similar discussions among a broader set of countries in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

These mechanisms are not meant to undermine the sovereign responsibility of each government to manage the movements of people into or out of their countries, but instead to provide an opportunity to negotiate more manageable policies and procedures. They also enable the countries to respond jointly to such problems as smuggling and trafficking that can only be effectively tackled by efforts at the regional and bilateral levels.

One of the most significant Italian-Albanian cooperative efforts is a joint police program to combat smuggling and trafficking. Initially targeted at training and technical assistance, the Italian-Albanian cooperation on migration enforcement has undergone a shift during the past year. The Italian presence has been reduced, but the new cooperation takes the form of joint operations against smugglers. Much of this bilateral cooperation is now focused on the problem of transit migration, rather than stopping illegal Albanian migration. By some estimates, 80 percent of the migrants leaving Albania for Italy are not Albanians. The mutual interest of Italy and Albania in reducing these flows makes it easier for them to cooperate. Similar cooperation was seen in the efforts of officials of the United States and the Dominican Republic to work together to stem smuggling and trafficking of third country nationals destined for Puerto Rico and then onto the mainland of the United States.

There is also considerable interest in destination countries in helping source and transit countries to establish the systems needed to manage immigration to their own territory. With the help of international organizations, Albania is developing governmental capacity to deal with foreigners seeking asylum. The Albanian government signed the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992, and began developing the appropriate domestic legislation and institutions with the aim of having asylum laws that would speed integration into the European Union.

Soon after the October 2000 ouster of the then president of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia also felt pressure from the EU to prepare new legislation and mechanisms for adjudicating asylum applications and began a process similar to that of Albania. These interactions were not always smooth, however. Although recognized as important, the Yugoslav authorities felt the new government should place greater emphasis on demilitarizing its border police and combating the smuggling and trafficking operations that had been established under the old regime.

The governments of many source countries believe the tradeoff for such cooperation should be the expansion of legal channels for immigration as irregular movements from and through their countries are curtailed. This is an area where fewer best practices exist. Negotiations between the United States and Mexico for temporary work and regularization programs broke down after the September 11 attacks and have not yet been resuscitated. Similarly, the failure of the Italian government to announce this year's quota of labor visas for Albanians could well undermine cooperation on managing transit movements. Part of the unofficial quid pro quo - cooperation on enforcement in exchange for work visas and other assistance - was now missing.

On the other hand, France and Mali appear to have achieved some progress in this area. Traditionally, visa policies seriously restricted family reunification and visits as well as business travel and study abroad. Since 1997, France has had a new visa policy that requires French consulates to justify some denials of visas (to parents of French citizens, students, etc). France issued about 25,000 visas to Malians in 2001 compared to 7,000 in 1997. In exchange for facilitating free circulation of bona fide travelers, French authorities urged Malian authorities to cooperate in reducing corruption in the issuance of visas. In October 2001, a former sports minister was indicted and sent to jail for trafficking in visas.

Migrants as Resources for Development in Their Homelands

Migrants can contribute to economic development through their financial resources as well as their skills, entrepreneurial activities, and support for democratization and human rights. For example, associations of migrants often band together to raise and remit funds for infrastructure development and income generation activities in their home communities. Migrant groups as dissimilar as Malians in France and Mexicans in the United States have supported health clinics, built schools, repaired roads, and invested in small business enterprises in their home communities.

"Countries as diverse as Mali, Yugoslavia, and Mexico hope to build on the human capital of their émigrés."

Individual remittance transfers continue to be an important source of subsistence for many families in developing countries. Governments can cooperate to facilitate such transfers, provide technical assistance to ensure their effective use, match the funds to stimulate additional contributions, regulate transfer fees and exchange rates to reduce transaction costs, and take other steps to promote effective use of remittances for economic development.

Governments can also work together to increase the potential for migrants to bring needed skills to their home countries. For example, migrants with long-term residence permits may be more willing to return home if they do not fear losing such permits if they stay away for prolonged periods. Programs that identify migrants with specific skills needed by their home countries and facilitate return and reintegration also contribute to economic development, as does support for return migrants who plan to open small businesses upon reintegration. The skills may be needed for economic development, but they may also be required to help move the source country towards greater democratization and respect for human rights. For example, migrants who have legal training may be helpful in developing new judicial systems and establishing the rule of law.

Countries as diverse as Mali, Yugoslavia, and Mexico hope to build on the human capital of their émigrés. For example, the TOKTEN project (Transfer Of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals) aims to persuade Malians established abroad to return at least temporarily and contribute to their homeland's development. Among other ways, returning Malians can do this by teaching at Mali's 25,000-student university, which was established in 1996 and then expanded rapidly. The UN Development Program has paid for 133 Malians to return as consultants to help teach and do research.

The Malian situation is particularly interesting because of the involvement of the French government in encouraging such investment in human capital. A fund of 2.6 million euros will finance in 2002-2004 the mobilization of Malians abroad for the service of the Malian education system, economy, and small business development. The skills of Malians in France will be systematically registered and the information co-managed by a French-Malian committee. The fund will supplement financing of local projects by the Malian diaspora. In addition, a contract will be signed with a Malian bank to guarantee loans to small businesses that need additional funding to expand.

France also funds an assisted return program as part of its development strategy. About 500 unauthorized Malians in France have agreed to return voluntarily in exchange for CFA 2.5 million ($3,600). They have opened businesses, most related to agriculture, and also run hair salons, import used auto parts, sew traditional dresses, and dredge sand. They receive weekly visits for one year from the program's offices in Mali, and it was reported that 80 percent of the participants were still in business after two years. This French model helps to re-integrate migrants, but its potential for expansion may be limited. Many of the small businesses begun by returnees had difficulty obtaining bank loans for expansion, in part because they did not have Malian track records and guarantees.

The diaspora community can also help stimulate political reforms that improve conditions in home countries. Mexican migrants in the United States have been consistent forces for democratization and better governance in their home country, and Mexican political candidates have responded by campaigning extensively in U.S. communities. The leadership in Yugoslavia expressed the hope that Serbs abroad would provide not only financial resources for rebuilding the country, but also technical expertise as Serbia establishes its new democratic institutions. International migration has helped spur the democratic reforms. Malians living in Europe and North America have also brought back home some of the lessons learned in western democracies. At a village meeting in Marena, a number of return migrants observed that they expected to participate in community meetings and decision-making.

This is not to say that the experience of the diaspora is always positive in stimulating respect for democratic values. Some returning Malian migrants appear particularly reluctant to expose Malian women and girls to western values if it means undermining cultural traditions, observing vehemently that they would never allow their wives or daughters to migrate with them to Europe or North America. In some cases, returning migrants appear to have become more socially and religiously conservative as a result of their own migration experience.

Targeting Aid, Trade, and Investment at Emigration Communities

Providing the means by which people can stay home and enjoy greater economic opportunities is another aspect of cooperative actions to manage emigration. Migration should be voluntary on the part of the migrant and the receiving community, not forced by economic or political conditions in the home community. Similarly, migrants should be able to return voluntarily to home communities that are economically stable and safe. No one strategy is sufficient to overcome the economic and political problems that compel international movements. Rather, a combination of trade, investment, and aid is needed.

Ideally, economically motivated migration will decrease under a global system of free trade because of factor price equalization, that is, the tendency of wages to equalize as workers move from poorer to richer countries. In the terms of economic theory, this means that trade and migration are substitutes--countries that have relatively cheaper labor can export labor-intensive goods or workers. Over time, differences in the prices of goods and the wages of workers should be reduced with freer trade, reducing emigration pressures. The European Union model for the economic integration of new members, prior to permitting free movement for work purposes, attests to the potential benefits of this approach. By the time that the new members from southern Europe with much lower wages - Spain, Portugal, and Greece - were eligible for free movement of labor, few workers took advantage of the opportunity because of high growth rates and job opportunities in their own countries. Such Asian countries as South Korea have also gone through this transition, with levels of emigration declining substantially as trade-based economic opportunities opened up at home.

The North American Free Trade Agreement also has the mid to long-term objective of reducing emigration pressures in Mexico, which has far lower wages than its trading partners, although NAFTA does not envision eventual free labor movements. There is broad recognition, however, that in the short term, emigration pressures may well increase as economies integrate and workers from poorer countries see greater opportunities in richer ones. This migration hump appears to be occurring in the Mexican case, but with continued reduction in birth rates and renewed economic growth, wage rates should begin to rise in Mexico and jobs should become more plentiful.

An economy can grow faster if there is foreign direct investment (FDI) in factories, machinery, education, and infrastructure that makes workers more productive. Foreign firms are often attracted by the lower-cost labor in countries of emigration, presumably giving workers economic opportunities at home rather than abroad. However, at least in the Italian-Romanian case, immigration and FDI appear to be complementary. At present, Italian-owned factories visited by CEME in the western Romanian city of Timisoara provide employment for local workers, particularly women, as well as internal migrants coming from the much poorer eastern Romanian province of Moldavia. The number of Romanians in Italy increased as well, from 6,000 in 1998 to 21,000 in 1999. Italian firms have pressed the Italian government to make it easier to admit Romanians, particularly for training. Recognizing the legitimate business interest in opening up this form of migration, an Italian pilot program aims to use recruitment, remittances, and returns to accelerate development in Romania and to ensure that migration is temporary or circular, i.e., that the migrants who come to Italy for training return home. A similar model can be seen in the maquiladoras along the U.S.-Mexico border and in such cities as Guadalajara.

Official Development Assistance (ODA) is aid granted by one country to assist the development of another. In 1998, the OECD nations that are members of the Development Assistance Committee provided $52 billion in ODA, down from $59 billion in 1995, and $53 billion in 1990. Four of the 21 OECD countries providing aid reached the UN target of contributing 0.7 percent of GDP in 1994 - Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. OECD nations collectively provided aid equivalent to 0.3 percent of their GDP in 1993, down from 0.4 percent in 1983.

ODA alone is unlikely to stimulate sufficient economic development to deter emigration. Aside from problems caused by inadequate levels and inappropriate use of aid resources, there is the need to target aid more effectively at the causes of migration. Examples of targeted aid include micro-credit for would-be migrants who would prefer to invest in their home communities, income generation opportunities for women left behind by migrating spouses, infrastructure development to create new markets and economic opportunities in emigration centers, and education and health care services for families in such areas.

The French co-development approach seeks to target ODA at emigration areas in all of francophone Africa, with government support supplementing the contributions of migrants discussed above. This is a positive strategy of earmarking ODA to reduce emigration pressures, as distinct from the punitive proposal rejected by the European Union to withdraw ODA from countries that are insufficiently cooperating with destination countries, particularly regarding the return of unauthorized migrants.


The factors leading to population movements are many and complex: supply or push factors in countries of origin; demand or pull factors in countries of destination; and formal and informal networks that link supply with demand. The best practices identified to date by CEME deal with all three factors, focusing on the causes of emigration in source countries, the networks that move people over borders, and the relations between receiving and source countries in managing migration in a manner that is consistent with both countries' interests.

Fostering sustained cooperation of this type is crucial not only in migration management, but also in building support for market economies and democratic principles, and will become increasingly important as the world becomes more interconnected.

For more information, including full background papers and CEME site visit reports, see the special issue of International Migration, "Managing Emerging Migration Patterns," vol. 40, no. 3, 1/2002.