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The policy challenges of international migration

The current governance of international migration leads to a sub-optimal equilibrium, not only affecting migrants themselves as well as their countries of origin, but also countries of destination.

As underlined above, the growing trend of restricting movements of population contributes to making international migrants more vulnerable.

  • • Migration routes have become more dangerous, encouraging migrant smuggling and human trafficking;
  • • Stricter border controls increase the number of undocumented immigrants, making the protection of migrant rights more difficult;
  • • Even migrants with official documentation may find it more difficult to integrate in a context of rejection and intolerance.

Non-cooperative migration policies also impact on migrant-sending countries, since labour mobility can no longer act as a safety valve for the labour market. Moreover, remittance flows to developing countries are affected by labour restrictions, thus reducing welfare in origin countries, particularly at the household level.

But migrant-receiving countries also pay the cost of stringent border controls. Not only because restrictions imply financial and administrative costs, but also because they do not succeed in deterring immigrants from developing countries from bypassing controls and penetrating irregularly into the territory. This strategy gives rise to a vicious circle, where more protection against immigration translates into increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants. As a result, countries of destination face more migration-related problems and the rejection of immigrants by locals is higher.

Unilateral migration policies also have as a consequence that origin countries are reluctant to co-operate on migration issues, namely the control of outflows, thus amplifying the efficiency costs of such policies. This is why migration strategies need to be revised, taking into account three policy challenges that plague the current governance of migration: the regulation of flows, the integration of immigrants and the links with development.

The next three chapters develop a specific aspect of each of these challenges:

• Chapter 2 focuses on the global governance of migration. It argues that, unlike trade and capital flows, migration is characterised by the lack of a regulating body and by protectionist policies. This can be explained by the asymmetry in the benefits derived by high and low- wage countries. But the lack of international co-operation has a cost, not only for migrant-sending countries but also for those implementing restrictions.

  • Chapter 3 concentrates on immigrant integration in the South. It shows that integration issues need to be analysed from a different angle than is the case in South-North contexts. Although most migrants from the South are found in the South, immigrant integration is not a current priority for many policy makers in developing countries. However, neglecting integration may be more costly than in the North when tensions spiral out of control.
  • Chapter 4 looks at the link between migration and development, with specific interest paid to the labour market. It argues that the tradeoff in the household between labour resources lost to emigration and increasing income from remittances implies changes in labour supply for the household members staying behind. In the aggregate, the positive impact of emigration on wages in the home country is an important dimension of development and economic convergence between poorer and richer countries.

Chapter 5 then provides an overview of policies deriving directly from the analysis of these chapters. It advocates a redefinition of the objectives of migrations policies, which should be oriented towards: i) a more flexible regulation of international migration flows; ii) a better integration of immigrants in the South; and iii) a greater impact of labour mobility on development.

Finally, Chapter 6 argues that the governance of international migration should rely on effective partnerships and include four dimensions: i) international co-operation; ii) decentralisation; iii) inclusiveness; and iv) policy coherence.

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