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Mapping the Outreach Policies of Countries of Origin

The history of state-sponsored attention to emigrants and expatriates is as long as the history of consular services. The introductory note to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations traces consular activities back to ancient Greece and the Italian city-state of Genoa, where specially appointed notables residing abroad looked out for merchants and citizens in their locality[1]. The growth in consular institutions followed globalization and intensification of foreign trade and migration. Especially during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, consulates added the tasks of protecting and servicing citizens residing temporarily or permanently abroad to their work on promoting trade-relations. Today when we talk about sending country policies, the scope of institutions and policies involved is much more diverse. The following sections illustrate some of the broader categories of sending country policies as well as their complexity.

One set of outreach policies of sending countries falls within the economic domain and aims primarily at attracting the economic resources of the emigrants. This type of policies has received attention not only from emigrant states but also from all major international organizations involved in migration policies. In particular, the topic of remittances has been central in the renewed policy debate on migration and development. Certainly, the sums involved are substantial and on the increase. In 2013, global remittance flows were estimated at US $542 billion[2]. Remittances are a welcome source of foreign income for the local, regional, and national economy of the country of origin, but there is concern that those countries where remittances constitute a substantial part of gross domestic product (GDP) are vulnerable to fluctuations in remittance inflows. Consequently, there is no shortage of sending country policies aimed at encouraging and facilitating remittances. For instance, sending countries may facilitate special banking arrangements that make remittance transfers easy and more affordable. Some countries, such as India, have tried to attract foreign investment from diasporas by issuing special government bonds (Lall 2003). There are also examples of sending countries granting tax exemptions and fiscal advantages to non-resident citizen investors or to business ventures of return migrants, as is the case in Ecuador and Senegal. Another example is to allow return migrants to buy property otherwise off-limits to foreigners and to ease taxation of second residences in the country of origin, as in the case of India and the Philippines (Aguinas and Newland 2012). Other initiatives to encourage emigrant spending in the country of origin include the promotion of emigrant tourism. Through special offers, Morocco encourages generous holiday spending among its up to one million citizens who return for holidays each summer (De Haas 2007). In the Philippines, advertisements in the mass media encourage migrant parents to purchase gifts for their family at home (Alcid 2003).

Some policies aim more directly at creating or reinforcing synergies between migration and development. An often-cited example is the policy of attracting collective remittances dedicated to development projects in migrants' hometowns. Mexico is famous for its “three for one” programmes, in which the three levels of government (municipal, state, and federal) match the amount of money donated by hometown associations to development projects (Williams 2012). Sending countries may also seek to tap into diaspora business and scientific networks. These policies aim to reverse brain drain by encouraging emigrant scientists to return to their country of origin, as in the case of Italy, or to lead joint academic networks from afar, as in the case of Morocco (Aguinas and Newland 2012).

A second set of sending countries policies falls within the political domain. These can be categorized as an extension of political rights to non-resident nationals or attempts to influence and control expat political activities abroad. In terms of the extension of political rights, sending country governments may facilitate emigrants' retention and passing on of their citizenship by reforming rules of citizenship acquisition and loss, including dual citizenship (Jones-Correa 2001). Another trend is for emigrant states to create an “emigrant citizenship” that gives more rights to nonresident citizens than to other foreigners. The overseas citizenship of India, the Pakistan Overseas Card, and the Turkish Pink Card (later replaced by the Blue Card) are examples of identity cards granting a particular set of rights. These arrangements do not usually include voting rights (Aguinas and Newland 2012; Mügge 2012b). However, voting rights for non-resident citizens are on the increase. By 2007, no less than 115 states granted long-distance voting rights in homeland elections to nonresident citizens (Ellis et al. 2007). These rights come in a variety of forms. The most inclusive allow all citizens to vote in all elections (legislative, local, and presidential), via personal, postal, or Internet voting procedures and with no prior registration required before each election (Lafleur 2012; Collyer 2014; Bauböck 2007). A major distinction is between those electoral systems where emigrants can elect their own representatives and are accordingly divided into external districts and those electoral systems where the emigrant vote is counted in an electoral district in the homeland. Only 13 countries currently allow their non-resident citizens to elect their own candidates. Of these, five are EU member states (Croatia, Romania, Portugal, Italy, and France) and eight are not (Algeria, Cape Verde, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Macedonia, Mozambique, and Tunisia) (Collyer 2014).

Political rights can also take the form of councils established for dialogue with emigrants. A number of emigration countries with significant populations of citizens residing within the EU have such councils. For instance, Turkey set up an advisory board from 1997 to 2000 that included 45 Turkish citizens residing abroad as well as representatives of political parties and the state minister responsible for Turks abroad (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c). Morocco established its Council for the Moroccan Community Abroad in 2007, with Moroccan emigrants being appointed by the Palace (De Haas 2007; Østergaard-Nielsen 2012). Yet, these councils cannot be considered a univocal success in terms of allowing emigrants a voice in diaspora engagement policies. The representativeness of the councils was criticized by migrant associations in both cases (Østergaard-Nielsen 2012, 2003b).

In terms of sending country policies aimed at influencing and controlling emigrant political activities abroad, studies have revealed that sending countries may seek to convey a particular political agenda and to build an emigrant lobby in their favour. This may be done through consulates or by funding cultural institutions or emigrant associations, or simply by communications via various types of media. This strategy is especially pertinent when a sizeable and visible emigrant group resides in a country that is important to the country of origin, as is the case of Mexicans in the USA and Turkish citizens in Germany. For instance, the Turkish state actively sought to mobilize Turkish citizens in protest against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and in favour of Turkey's EU membership (ØstergaardNielsen 2009). This strategy of “courting the diaspora” is a departure from the more defensive tactic of policing the diaspora and trying to curb dissidence abroad through withdrawal of citizenship or the consular control of migrant associations (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; De Haas 2007).

A third set of policies falls within the domain of welfare and social rights. Sending country governments may respond to emigrant calls for assistance by extending welfare provisions to non-resident citizens. For instance, Spain extends pensions to Spanish citizens abroad, and some regional governments allow emigrants access to health services when home on holidays (Østergaard-Nielsen and Ciornei 2013). Some of the sending countries with the largest numbers of nationals residing within the EU have negotiated bilateral social security agreements covering their citizens abroad. As such, Turkey and Morocco have secured full portability of benefits for, respectively, 68 % and 89 % of their workers abroad (Avato et al. 2010). Social security cooperation between countries of residence has also taken place within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP). Indeed, recent research has counted 594 bilateral or multilateral social security agreements between EU member states and countries outside of the EU (ibid.).

A related area is the cultural and religious domain, in which sending countries sponsor and facilitate a range of services to emigrants and their descendants. Some states offer educational programmes for emigrant descendants. This might be in the form of partial or complete funding for schools abroad. Both Italy and France have extensive networks of public schools in cities with larger concentrations of emigrants. In other cases, sending country governments may sponsor after-school classes. The Turkish government and ministry of education, for example, organize classes in Turkish language, history, and culture for emigrant descendants (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c).

Sending countries may also facilitate religious services for their citizens abroad. This is especially relevant for emigrants residing in countries where their religion is a minority. In these situations, sending countries have sponsored the presence of religious leaders and places of worship. For instance, in the wake of labour emigration, the Turkish Ministry for Religious Affairs supported establishment of religious associations in places with large concentrations of Turkish emigrants. These organizations have Turkish government-funded imams, a physical space for religious practices, and infrastructure for potentially complicated issues, such as funerals in the country of origin (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c). Morocco, too, facilitates religious services for its citizens abroad. For instance, 176 imams were dispatched to Europe during Ramadan in 2008 (Østergaard-Nielsen 2012).

Since sending country outreach policies may span different policy aims and ministries, some sending countries have undertaken significant ministerial or consular reforms (Table 9.1). This entails creation of special ministries or departments for emigrants to strengthen the overall coordination of emigrant policies. A recent report identified 22 ministries and 17 subministry-level offices for diasporas in a sample of 77 sending countries (Aguinas and Newland 2012). In the case of Ecuador, the establishment of the National Secretary for the Migrant (SENAMI), originally with an emigrant returning from the USA at the helm, is a case in point. SENAMI was set up to identify needs for Ecuadorian intervention, to promote emigrant livelihoods within the “Fifth Region”, thus sending a strong message of government support to nationals overseas (Boccagni 2011). Indeed, the creation of such national-

Table 9.1 Examples of sending country policies



Economic domain

Facilitating transfer of remittances through discounts on bank transfers

Investment policies, e.g., special government bonds for diaspora investors

Tax exemptions and fiscal advantages to attract expat investment National, regional, and local government programmes to match funding provided by emigrants for development-oriented projects in their hometowns

Property rights allowing emigrants and expatriates to buy land that is otherwise not available to non-residents. Easing

of taxation on property for non-resident citizens Encouraging business and scientific networks

Political domain: Extending political rights

Dual citizenship policies External voting rights

Setting up platforms for consultative dialogue, such as councils of emigrants

Political domain: Influencing political activities abroad

Encouraging lobbying for country of origin interests in country of residence

Social domain

Welfare provisions, extending social security (pension, access to healthcare during holidays) to emigrants

Bilateral agreements on social rights with countries of residence

Religious and cultural domain

Sponsoring religious institutions or personnel abroad Funding cultural centres abroad

Government-sponsored schools abroad Broadcasting of national media abroad

Other policies of recognition

Including diaspora in national calendar of celebrations Diaspora conferences

Honouring expats with awards

Source: Based on especially Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Ragazzi 2014; Levitt and De la Dehesa

2003; Gamlen 2008; Aguinas and Newland 2012

level institutions has been interpreted as sending a message to emigrants that their plight is being taken seriously (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003).

Other initiatives aim more directly at strengthening real and symbolic ties with emigrants and diasporas. “Diaspora conferences”, have been organized by Armenia, Cyprus, and Turkey to create and strengthen networks and loyalty among emigrant notables (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a). Some countries hold festivals, such as the Gathering in Ireland (Collyer 2013), have an institutionalized “day of the diaspora”, or honour emigrants with awards (Gamlen 2008; Ragazzi 2014).

It is worth highlighting that these policies refer only to state-sponsored initiatives, leaving aside the outreach and mobilization of other actors from the country of origin, such as political parties, religious organizations, and charity or development foundations. Moreover, the focus on government policies bypasses the important aspect of government rhetoric towards emigrants. Several studies note that policy measures are often preceded or accompanied by a shift towards a more celebratory discourse regarding emigrants (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003; Collyer 2013; Smith 2008). The long and complex list of sending country policies includes not only policies that encourage emigrants to support their country of origin but also some policies aimed at improving migrants' livelihoods in their countries of residence, such as by extending social rights. Moreover, sending country government leaders may call for stronger protection of their workers abroad in terms of labour market conditions and anti-discrimination policies. For instance, during the Ecuadorian electoral campaign in 2006, presidential candidate Rafael Correa lamented that emigrants were 'the biggest victims of the long neoliberal night, but also the biggest heroes' and promised that 'never again will the protagonists of the big national disaster called emigration be abandoned'. Consequently his electoral programme included a range of social assistance measures and protection of workers abroad. However, many of these topics fell outside the bilateral agreements between Ecuador and the countries of residence of Ecuadorian emigrants. Rather, this level of protection of workers abroad falls within the receiving country's political jurisdiction. In such cases, the sending country's scope of action is limited and subject to approval of and agreement with the receiving state.

  • [1] Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Vienna, 24 April 1963, Introductory note, legal., accessed 18/4 2014.
  • [2] World Bank, Migration and Remittances, April 2014, at,,contentmdk:20648762 ~ pagepk:64257043 ~ pipk:437376 ~ thesitepk:4607,00.html (accessed April 2014).
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