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Perceptions of Sending Country Policies in Countries of Residence

An important aspect of sending country policies aimed at reaching out to nationals abroad is their impact on both the emigrants and the political authorities of the country of residence. Indeed, the role of sending countries in the integration of their citizens abroad is central to the European Commission's “three way approach to integration of third country nationals” (EC 2011, see Garcés-Mascareñas and Penninx in this volume). The actual impact of sending country policies on the scope and direction of migrant transnationality is still an evolving research field. There is a growing body of literature on the nexus between migrant transnationality and integration (see Mügge in this volume). Yet, there is still work to do regarding the impact of sending country policies on both migrant transnationality and migrant processes of settlement. Regarding migrant transnationality, it can be difficult to determine to what extent emigrant state efforts to bond with their non-resident citizens are directly responsible for migrant transnational practices related to their country of origin. These practices are embedded in broader political and economic processes as well. For instance, a recent report on remittances to Latin American emigrant countries explains changes in remittance flows by labour market conditions in the country of residence and by changing macroeconomic conditions in the sending country, but without mentioning sending country policies aimed at increasing these flows (Guiraudon 2012). Moreover, several cases suggest that emigrants respond only reluctantly to outreach policies of the homeland. Turnout in homeland elections is a notorious case in point, as it is usually nowhere near domestic electoral participatory rates, because the cost of voting in terms of both access to information and the logistics of voter registration is rather high (Lafleur 2012). Emigrants may in general be sceptical towards the outreach of a homeland regime, since lack of trust in that very regime may have been an incentive for emigration in the first place (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Boccagni 2014). Indeed, a recent handbook on bonding with the diaspora repeatedly emphasizes the importance of fostering trust in the country of origin among emigrants and diasporas—an indication that diasporas are not necessarily confident in the political institutions of their homeland (Aguinas and Newland 2012).

Sending country policies may, more or less explicitly, try to link with processes of migrant settlement. Overall, the strengthening of upward social mobility of emigrants in their country of residence is usually interpreted as a win-win scenario for sending countries and emigrants, as wanting the best for your citizens abroad is not incompatible with having a financially and politically significant expatriate lobby abroad (Bauböck 2003; Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; R. C. Smith 2003b; Kirişci 2008). Still, emigrant state policies that aim to attract the attention and resources of emigrants have been viewed with ambiguity by governments of countries of residence, particularly those with a more assimilatory migrant integration regime (Østergaard-Nielsen 2009). Again there is little systematic research on how emigrant state policies are perceived in the receiving countries.

Within Europe, the idea of the sending country having a role to play in the integration of third country nationals, present in policy documents at the European level, is somewhat ambiguous at the national level. Research indicates that there are, very generally speaking, two quite opposite perceptions of the challenges posed and opportunities offered by emigrant state outreach policies (Østergaard-Nielsen 2009). There is the perception that outreach policies pose a challenge to migrant integration within the so-called “zero-sum” understanding of migrant loyalty; that is, the more focused migrants are on their country of origin, the less they will identify with and support their country of residence. This perspective considers sending country policies aimed explicitly at bonding with and tapping into the resources of a migrant collective as counterproductive to policies of migrant incorporation in the country of residence. More in tune with the policy vision of the European Commission is recognition of the potential of emigrant state policies aiming to tap the development potential of collaboration with emigrants and their associations. The understanding here is that migrants, either through return or from afar, can be important actors in local and national development dynamics in their countries of origin.

In terms of the perceptions of how sending country outreach policies intersect with migrant integration, some examples of sending country rhetoric related to “don't forget me” attitudes have been unpalatable to countries of residence. For instance, during the 1980s, Turkish officials criticized German lack of dual citizenship often in very strong terms, and consular staff berated Turkish emigrants for trading their Turkish passport for a German one (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c; Özdemir 1997). In a later development, Turkey provides an illustrative case of a country of origin seeking to balance the desire to retain emigrant interest and loyalty in their country of origin while encouraging them to integrate in their country of residence. During the 2014 presidential electoral campaign, in which Turkish emigrants could vote for the first time, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan encouraged them to learn the language of their country of residence and 'not live like foreigners' but also to preserve their mother tongue and cultural links to the homeland[1]. This message of “integration, but not assimilation” was, however, received with some caution among German and Austrian political leaders wary of the impact of country of origin leaders' patriotic calls for loyalty.

In terms of the policy field of migration and development, emigrant state policies of bonding with their citizens abroad is considered “best practice” (Aguinas and Newland 2012), and a growing number of policy initiatives have sought to strengthen partnerships with sending countries in order to tap into migrant transnationality. An example is the German aid agency, GIZ, which, among other things, has worked with Serbian migrant associations in Germany to build stronger trust in the Serbian financial sector, in order to strengthen flows of remittances and foreign direct investment (ibid.). The question is to what extent such instances of international cooperation among sending and receiving countries, which focus on how public policy can assist migrants in supporting their homeland, are matched by cooperation aimed at strengthening the integration of migrants in their receiving countries.

One important dimension in this respect is the protection of emigrant labourers in precarious work situations. As mentioned, sending countries have called for protection of their workers abroad. Ecuador's government strongly criticized the Spanish and Italian governments for this reason (Boccagni 2014). The Philippines, too, has called for the protection of and proper salaries for especially domestic workers in the Gulf and Asia, and has secured a minimum wage for Philippine domestic workers in Malaysia (Ezquerra and Garcés-Mascareñas 2008). However, in most cases sending country governments lack the power to follow up these calls with any substantive policy measures. In this regard, sending country policies appear to be limited by the sovereign right of receiving states to define labour market conditions within their own borders (subject to international conventions) reinforced by the often very asymmetric power relations between sending and receiving countries.

  • [1] Turkish PM Erdoğan slams German media, calls for 'integration' but 'no assimilation' in Cologne, in Hurriyet Daily news, May 24 2014, = 238&N ID = 66901&NewsCatID = 510 (accessed July 2014).
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