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Sending Country Policies

Eva Østergaard-Nielsen


Migrant origin countries have come to play an increasingly important role in research on processes of migration, migrant belonging, and migrant settlement. Especially since the late 1990s, sending countries have moved from a somewhat marginal position to a more central place in migration studies. During this period, the field of migration studies has seen a growth in single case research and comparative analyses of sending country perceptions and policies towards their emigrants and diasporas. This trend accompanies an empirical development wherein more and more countries of origin seek to strengthen relations with their emigrant populations by facilitating emigrant return, providing overseas consular assistance, and inviting emigrant economic and political engagement from afar. Furthermore, the emergent transnational optic in migration studies has encouraged researchers to consider the interests and politics of the country of origin in analyses of migration flows, migrant settlement, and transnational practices.

Studies of sending countries highlight the growing power of sending states in the context of globalization and transnational migration. When reaching out to their emigrant populations, sending countries have tried to shape processes of migration and migrant transnational practices (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003; Chin and Smith 2014; Guarnizo 1998). Indeed, sending country outreach policies aimed at bonding with and facilitating long-distance engagement of diasporas have been depicted as a process of redefining the state and its borders (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003; Mügge 2012a; Chin and Smith 2014). Two issues are worth highlighting in this regard. First, this phenomenon is not entirely new, as noted by much of the literature. States have long catered to and invited the support of their expatriate populations through consular services and strategically placed chambers of commerce. What is arguably different today is the scale and intensity of these outreach policies and initiatives (R. C. Smith 2003b). Second, sending country policies towards emigrants may intersect with migration and migrant incorporation policies in countries of residence. This renders the interests and policymaking of receiving states an important factor for understanding the potential and limits of sending country policies towards their emigrant populations.

Sending countries do not reach out to their emigrants in equal measure. The variance in outreach policies is interesting because any analysis of these issues needs to confront the transnational political agency of migrants and states within broader national and international political developments and structures. This chapter explores the twin central questions of how and why countries of origin reach out to their expatriate populations, focusing mainly on studies related to Europe. It first outlines some basic concepts and typologies of sending country policies with a particular emphasis on some of the key countries of origin of migrants settled within the European Union (EU). It subsequently reviews some of the core explanations for the emergence of sending country policies. Finally, it discusses the impact of sending country policies on migrant settlement from the perspective of political authorities in countries of residence.

In so doing, this analysis addresses a research field that spans all social science disciplines, and consequently a wide range of methodologies. Research on sending countries is still dominated by single case studies and comparisons focused within a particular region. European-based research has centred on the countries of origin of the larger migrant collectives from outside of the EU, such as Turkey (ØstergaardNielsen 2009, 2003c; Mügge 2012b) and Morocco (De Haas 2007; Brand 2002), or on the Eastern European countries that recently became EU members (Waterbury 2006). Of course, there are also studies on Latin American sending country policies, such as those of Ecuador (Boccagni 2014; Maisonave 2011), Bolivia and Mexico (Lafleur 2012), and Argentina and Uruguay (Margheritis 2014), as well as Asia (China) (Pieke et al. 2004). Recently, several studies have attempted a broad crossregional comparison in order to evaluate some of the core assumptions often made regarding why sending states reach out to their populations (Ragazzi 2014; Gamlen et al. 2013; Gamlen 2008).

It should be noted that two of the central terms within this literature are not straightforward to use. First, the term 'sending state' or 'sending country' implies that these countries or states actively send or export their emigrants, which is often not the case. Alternative concepts include 'emigration countries', 'emigration states' (Gamlen 2008), and 'emigration nations' (Collyer 2014), but they appear less in the literature. Second, the frequently used term 'diaspora engagement policies' includes the word diaspora, the definition and significance of which is the object of a long-standing debate. Despite these reservations, this chapter follows the general trend of using the terms 'sending country' or 'sending state'. It refers to expatriate populations as both diasporas and emigrants. In any case, it is worth emphasizing that most countries are not either countries of origin or reception, but experience both types of flows.

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