e-discussion on Circular Migration

English

We have asked you to share your views on circular migration, and especially on the following questions: 

  1. What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?
  2. How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?
  3. What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?

The two forms of circular migration which are considered to be relevant are:

  • Persons residing legally in a country other than that of their nationality or origin who wish to return to their country of origin or another country on a temporary or more permanent basis in order to engage in an activity (business, professional, or other of relevance for the development of that country)
  • Persons residing in their country of origin or regular residence who wish to go to another country temporarily for work, study, training or a combination of these, and who then return to their country of origin or another country, and who then repeat this pattern of mobility several times.

 

Please find below a consolidated reply based on all your contributions.

 

Summary of responses

The concept of circular migration has gained increasing international attention over the past few years as a potential win-win for both sending and destination countries whereby labour shortages in destination countries could be filled without the associated costs of permanent migration, while unemployment in sending countries could be alleviated and remittances, skills and other social capital brought back to the country upon the migrant’s return.  Similarly, in terms of Migration and Development, diaspora members residing permanently in destination countries could return temporarily to their countries of origin to share their skills and other resources in support of development.  However, the current financial crisis puts the sustainability of circular migration into question as contributors shared examples of circular migration initiatives which are now restricting participants due to the crisis. 

Other contributors to the discussion suggested that the term ‘migratory flow’ is preferable to ‘circular migration’, which evokes policies regulating migration, while the phrase migratory flow encompasses the myriad of potential migration patterns.  Sarah Rosengaertner from UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy in New York highlighted that it is useful to distinguish two forms of circular migration – circular migration “by choice” (which happens spontaneously where the absence of visa requirements or secure legal status in more than one country permit) and circular migration “by design” (where repeat temporary labour or return migration is facilitated by unilateral programmes or bilateral agreements).

Contributors to the e-discussion raised these and other points, which are summarized below, providing examples of the benefits, disadvantages and initiatives to facilitate circular migration.

1. What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?

In terms of policies to facilitate circular migration, a recent Eurasylum/IOM interview(link is external) addressed this issue with Patricia Aragon Sto Tomas who, as chair of the National Development Bank of the Philippines and former Secretary of Labor and Employment of the Philippines, argues that a combination of regulation, protection and reintegration is a best practice for facilitating circular migration. A regulatory framework identifies the actors and specifies their skills under what terms and conditions. Regulation furthermore enables protection, although Aragon Sto Tomas notes that international conventions pertaining to the movement of people are rarely binding on the countries concerned and it is therefore necessary to ensure protection via other ways. Organizing regular official visits, for example, could generate discussions. Moreover, regulation facilitates cooperation with receiving countries. The temporary component of circular migration should be reflected in a reintegration component. Examples are training in financial planning, family solidarity, the setting up of support systems and other life skills necessary when families have to be separated because of temporary migration. In the same interview Dilip Ratha, Lead Economist, Development Prospects Group and Manager, Migration and Remittances at the World Bank, argues that a key area of policy intervention would be gathering information about future skills gaps. Migrants’ objectives are mainly economic and therefore policies must take into account the realities of the labour market. Ratha agrees with Aragon Sto Tomas that training migrants and their employers about the costs and benefits of migration is helpful as well as small investments to stimulate migrants’ integration. Ratha also suggests that given that the majority of migrants are economic migrants, migration policies should be more consistently coordinated with aid trade and security policies.

Contributors to the e-discussion highlighted policies and institutional frameworks that promote regular movements of migrants as conditions for facilitating circular migration. One example is the ECOWAS Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment which promotes mobility within the West Africa sub region.  It was also suggested that circular migration could be facilitated by stimulating the linking of diaspora into mainstream programmes to create institutional links between diaspora organisations and government institutions, for example the UK’s Department of Health’s recruits diaspora members to participate in its health initiatives overseas. Creating bilateral temporary legal migration agreements and residence permits for temporary migrants are also mentioned in this framework. Mali, for example, has signed such agreements with countries as France and Spain. These conditions are linked to the political will of sending and receiving countries. Recognizing and respecting migrant worker’s rights is furthermore mentioned by many contributors as the key to facilitating circular migration, and in a broader sense acknowledgement of migrant contributions to host countries.

Some contributors argue that the duration of circular migration is important in facilitating successful circular migration.  While undertaking short-term employment in their countries of origin diaspora members can retain their full-time jobs while using their skills to support development. The example was shared of the United Kingdom where the website Find a job in Africa(link is external)helps UK members of the African diaspora find temporary work in Africa while retaining their positions in the UK, as does VSO’s Diaspora Volunteering Programme(link is external).

Another important aspect in facilitating circular migration is the availability of accurate and up-to-date information on relevant local conditions in countries of origin. Political and economic stability in both host and origin countries make circular migration easier to realize.  In addition, a close support structure, such as the EU Centre for Migration, the Centre d’Information et de Gestion de Migrations (CIGEM)(link is external) in Bamako, Mali, can provide information on relevant local conditions in host and origin countries and facilitate a sustainable return. Such a support structure could also help the migrant deal with practical issues like visa problems. The EC-UN Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) is funding a number of projects which are establishing ‘reception centres’ and/or websites to provide information on job opportunities for diaspora members and return migrants.  For example, a JMDI project between NGOs in Egypt and Greece is establishing a ‘reception centre’ in Cairo and a website to provide information on job opportunities in the aquaculture sector in Egypt, particularly targeted at seasonal Egyptian migrants who work annually in the fisheries sector in Greece.

Relating to the support structure and relevant information provided on local conditions in host and origin countries, in order to ensure the benefits of circular migration are shared by both origin and destination countries, the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy stresses the need to forecast and predict labour and skills needs and to translate those needs into education and training programmes.  For countries and communities of origin, it would require the ability to identify competitive advantages in particular sectors or branches of industry and to use circular migration strategically to develop those sectors/branches.  This remains a challenge as even where skills needs are known, it is difficult to translate skills needs into adequate education and training. Migrants themselves as they invest in their own and their children’s education may not have the best information on what kinds of skills will be needed.  Also, skills acquired abroad may not be as relevant or applicable in the local context in countries of origin. Many of these points obviously need more nuanced consideration, some of which was given during a discussion on labour migration and education that took place at the Global Migration Group(link is external)’s recent Practitioners Symposium held in Geneva in May 2010. The ‘triple-win’ of managed circular migration for countries of origin, destination and migrants is not a given, but is likely to require the engagement of a large network of partners, the development of awareness and capacities, investments in infrastructures, services  etc.  This raises the question of whether the alternative of allowing for more circular migration ‘by choice’ instead of ‘by design’ could result in similar development benefits, but at a lower cost.

Some contributors elaborated on mechanisms they use to facilitate temporary circulation of migrants’ skills. AMSED(link is external), a NGO based in France that supports and advises Algerian diaspora members in establishing projects in their country of origin, described their approach of migrant companionship in which activities providing training, advice and support are led by a companion. The companion is an experienced migrant who shares his knowledge and know-how with his partner in order to assist him to acquire the skills shared. IntEnt(link is external), a Netherlands-based company that facilitates the creation of new businesses by entrepreneurial and enterprising migrants, considers the greatest impact can be achieved by de-centralized and individual efforts outside of official structures and projects.  IntEnt’s approach is to make use of and build local talents and structures to the maximum.  In this way, IntEnt has supported diaspora members and others to establish over 300 companies in their countries of origin, employing on average 16 people each.  Multilateral cooperation programmes, such as the IOM’s Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA)(link is external) and UNV’s Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN)(link is external) are other examples of programes which facilitate temporary circulation of diaspora members’ skills.

Beyond the legal frameworks facilitating circular migration, some contributors emphasized the importance of understanding the role of individual migrants, their personal ambitions/goals and their particular transnational ties and networks, urban and rural-based, relatives and non-relatives, etc. in order to understand their propensity to consider participating in various forms of circular migration.  Similarly, IASCI believes that it is important to understand the financial behaviour of migrants in order to maximize the potential development impact.  IASCI shared their research on some key elements of the development impact of migration, which they believe are often misunderstood.  For example, IASCI has recently worked with IOM Vienna on a study of the savings behaviour and capacities of migrants from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Austria.  The study found that there exists a significant pool of migrant savings and suggests an approach for how to introduce policies, programmes and financial tools to stimulate the investment of migrants' savings in their countries of origin. IASCI concludes that irrespective of whether circular migration patterns are long?term or short?term, the human, social and financial capital of migration, when properly understood and captured, has significant potential developmental opportunities for countries of origin.

2. How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?

Most responses recognized the potential benefits of circular migration for all parties involved.  Sending countries see a decreasing demand for jobs caused by the increasing number of job seekers moving into the international labor market. In addition, returning migrants bring skills and knowledge back to the sending countries, as well as remittances which returning migrants can invest back home. Receiving countries and employers see the needs of the labour market fulfilled without the costs associated with permanent migration, such as the host country’s responsibility to the workers’ families or to the workers beyond the period of the contract. The migrant secures a job opportunity, remittances and obtains skills and knowledge, with the flexibility to return home at the end of their contract.  For example, a circular migration initiative shared between the governments of Spain and Morocco requires that participants are women with at least one child under the age of thirteen, ensuring that participants have ties to their countries of origin.  However, the temporary nature of the visa and work contract can create a very vulnerable workforce.  For the migrant’s households, remittance from circular migrants tend to be an important source of revenue and generally improves the standard of living of those households.  ILO Sri Lanka also pointed out the fact that women ‘left behind’ often empower themselves and become the decision-makers, although this can lead to tension in the household upon the spouse’s return, with negative impacts upon the children. 

However, according to some contributors, most of the benefits of circular migration are enjoyed by employers, rather than the migrants themselves.  Under circular migration, employers can hire temporary migrants only for as long as they need them while avoiding the disadvantages and costs of the migrant’s permanent migration such as integration in a new society, learning a language and culture.  Andrew Samuel from Community Development Services in Sri Lanka, which works to support the rights of migrant workers, stressed that the migrant him/herself must be seen as an important stakeholder in the process, arguing that for circular migration to be a truly ‘win-win’ process that is not at the expense of the individual migrant, both sending and receiving countries must ensure that processes and instruments such as the ILO code of practice are not violated.  Finally, Andrew and Tewacech Bishaw, Ethiopia both highlighted that receiving countries should recognize the contribution of circular migrants have made to their countries.

The human development benefits of circular migration are, according to the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy, likely to hinge on: a) who moves; b) how they fare abroad; c) how they fare upon return; d) whether there is an enabling environment at origin and destination that allows for the contributions of migrants to be translated into development gains. All these dimensions make circular migration schemes which aim to have positive impacts for both the country of origin and destination quite demanding to organize and leave the question of how to share responsibilities between governments, the private sector and civil society. The ‘triple-win’ of managed circular migration for countries of origin, destination and migrants themselves is therefore not a given, but is likely to require the engagement of a large network of partners, the development of awareness and capacities, investments in infrastructures, services and so on.

3. What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?

From a human development perspective, it is desirable that migrants have a choice to go back and forth between countries at will, rather than having to follow imposed limitations on the duration of their stay, as is the case under managed circular migration programmes.  

In addition to the advantages shared by members, several contributors also described the drawbacks of circular migration. Examples of practical issues that arise for circular migrants are restrictions and tight visa policies, payment of international transportation and the lack of close support structures to help the migrant at each stage of circular migration. However, these issues are also present in cases of more permanent migration.

Several contributors highlight the negative social impact of circular migration on the migrant and his or her family. Circular migration, temporary separation and the absence of the main figures of authority and care from the household can lead to disrupted families or in the worse cases family breakdown, and vulnerable members, such as children and the elderly.  Children are often left behind while parents engage in recurrent temporary migration.  JMDI-funded projects in Jamaica and Moldova are supporting ‘multi-generational’ families, where grandparents have been left as the principal caregivers for migrants’ children.  These projects are providing parenting skills training, ensuring the elderly have access to healthcare and other government services, looking at the impact of migration on their families and making policy recommendations to the respective governments to ease the impact of migration on these vulnerable groups.  Some contributors mentioned that in some cases circular migration has enabled families to move, which may have a positive impact on the individual family.  However, these negative social impacts are also often felt by permanent migrants, unless the migrant travels with his family. Depending on the duration of the migrants’ stay abroad, he or she might experience difficulties reintegrating and feel disoriented in relation to the socio-economic situation upon his/her return.  Reintegration and disorientation issues are less relevant for a permanent migrant, however integration in the host society could cause problems.

The UNDP Bureau for Development Policy mentions the questions of ‘how’ and ‘who’ in facilitating circular migration programmes as decisive for benefits and drawbacks of such programmes as these questions determine how the costs and rewards are being distributed. In this framework contributors stress the employer’s immediate interest versus circulation policies and the consequences for the position of the migrant. In this respect it is important to ensure that the rights of migrants are respected. Some respondents question the sustainability of circular migration, because the availability of diaspora skills cannot be ensured. Others note sending countries’ tendency towards increased dependence on migration – the example was shared of Jamaica – and a parallel reduction in the efforts that could be made locally to increase work opportunities or the effort made to find work.  The employer may also have a preference for seasonal migrants above local talents, particularly if the remuneration and productivity are different.  Similarly, diaspora who return to their countries of origin may experience some hostility as employers are perceived as giving a preference for the diaspora above local talents.

In the light of the current financial crisis contributors shared examples which demonstrate that perspectives on circular migration are already changing. Growing unemployment in destination countries is reducing opportunities for circular migration. This is illustrated by the ongoing initiative between Spain and Morocco whereby female Moroccan migrants migrate seasonally to Spain to pick strawberries.  As a result of the financial crisis, in 2010 the Spanish authorities allowed only 3,000 Moroccans into Spain to do this seasonal work, compared to 16,000 in 2009.  Due to the global character of the crisis, the reduction of opportunities for legal circular migration may lead to increasing abuse of legal temporary migration systems and therefore an increase in the number of irregular migrants. Similarly, uncertainty caused by the financial crises may make diaspora members less inclined to leave their jobs and return temporarily to their origin countries to work or initiate businesses or development projects.

 

Comparative experiences

Netherlands - study from the The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration Foundation(link is external) was initiated to assess how to maximize the benefits of circular migration for the Netherlands by reviewing the policy purpose and potential benefits of circular migration; considering the current relevance and future potential for circular migration programs in the Netherlands; and identifying good practice in designing and implementing policies to facilitate circular migration. The relevance of circular migration in the current Dutch context is that it can make a limited but targeted contribution to filling labour gaps at both the higher and lower end of the labour market while simultaneously making a positive contribution to development in origin countries; it can facilitate a quick response to changing economic conditions and labour market demands; and it can enhance the return of certain migrants. The study concluded that effective implementation of policies for circular migration in the Netherlands depends on: integrating new policies into the existing managed migration policy framework to ensure coherence; coordination across government, and between government and civil society and the private sector; cooperation with origin states; targeted capacity-building in both origin states and the Netherlands; and a clear understanding of the limitations of policy. Contact: Frans Bouwen(link is external), The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration Foundation, The Netherlands.

The study led to a pilot circular migration(link is external) that will help the Netherlands understand the risks, opportunities and limitations, and assess whether or not circular migration as a new approach to development cooperation will bring added value. Two pilots have started in September 2009 in South-Africa and Indonesia, each country involving a maximum of 80 migrants. The Netherlands government has arranged with employers for recipients to at least receive the minimum wage. The World Bank is monitoring and evaluating the pilot.

IntEnt(link is external), a Netherlands based company that facilitates the creation of new businesses by entrepreneurial and enterprising migrants, considers the greatest impact can be achieved by de-centralized and individual efforts outside of official structures and projects. Depending on the country and the skills of the entrepreneur, IntEnt offers services to start and develop new, innovative and growth oriented business. The company is active in Surinam, Ethiopia, Turkey, Ghana, Morocco, Afghanistan and Curacao. Contact: Bianca Jamanika(link sends e-mail), IntEnt, The Netherlands.

United Kingdom - CBC Africa Recruit is a product of the Commonwealth Business Council which exists over 12 years. It consists of the online job search engine FindaJobinAfrica.com(link is external), its network of recruitment associates inside and outside Africa and AfricaRecruit(link is external). Africa Recruit is an innovative service delivery vehicle with its focus on Africa's human capital resource requirements, critical skills redirection and transfers required to build robust and enduring productive capacity throughout the continent. Recommendations shared are to facilitate short term circular migration so that diaspora can retain their jobs while they transfer their skills in the country of origin. Furthermore, institutional links between diaspora organisations and governmental programmes as well as more support in the process should be stimulated. The experiences of the projects also show that circular migration could be perceived as giving a preference for the diaspora above local talents, especially when the wages are different. It is furthermore important to note that certain skills might not always be available.  Contact: Dr Titilola A Banjoko(link sends e-mail), Africarecruit/Findajobinafrica.com, United Kingdom.

France / Algeria - AMSED(link is external) and its network offer support to migrants from the Algerian diaspora in setting up their projects while using a migrant’s companionship approach, facilitating the transfer of skills and resources through their temporary mobility. A companion is an experienced migrant who shares his knowledge and know-how with his partner and leads activities while providing training, advice and support. The strengths of  this approach is the transfer of skills, job creation and new added values  at a local level as well as the keen interest that migrants have in developing initiatives in the country of origin. However, there are still difficulties that restrict temporary mobility such as problems obtaining visa’s, the lack of a support structure and the question of the costs of mobility for a short duration.  Contact: M. Djilali Kabeche(link sends e-mail), Association Migration Solidarité et Échanges pour le Développement, France.

Spain / Morocco - The example shared concerns contracts based on origin of Moroccans who migrate to the province of Huelva to pick strawberries. This seasonal migration has been ongoing for years, but with the introduction of temporary residence permits it has become more restricted. The financial crisis has made the seasonal migration even more difficult. At the peak of the financial crises in 2010, the Spanish authorities allowed only 3,000 Moroccan in to do this seasonal work, whereas in 2009 this number was 16,000. As their chanches for employment are slinking, the Moroccan strawberry pickers might hesitate to return to their origin countries and instead take the risk of over staying their visa while looking for other job opportunities in Spain. With an irregular status these migrants will find themselves in an extra vulnerable position.  Contact: Chadia Arab(link is external), Immigration, Development, Democracy, France.

Spain / Morocco - The EC-UN Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI) is supporting a number of projects related to circular migration.  For example, a JMDI project between Morocco and Spain, entitled “La migration circulaire féminine : Vecteur de développement » is building upon the Spanish-Moroccan seasonal work initiative whereby female migrants leave Morocco to work in Spain for 3 to 6 months each year, before returning to their home country.  This initiative, led in partnership by two NGOs Fondation Centre d'Initiatives et Recherches Européennes pour la Méditerranée (CIREM) in Spain and Fondation Orient Occident (FOO) in Morocco is providing training and capacity building to 500 seasonal workers from Morocco in order to promote migrant women's commitment to the local development of their region of origin.  Training is provided prior to departure and continues throughout the participant’s time in Spain and after their return to Morocco. It includes training in basic literacy, rights and exercise of rights, legal questions related to migration, use of the internet, Spanish language, health and hygiene, nutrition, first aid, and investment of remittances to promote local development.  The project is producing a study on the link between circular migration and local development, which will be shared with the Community of Practice in English, French and Spanish.

Egypt / Greece - A JMDI project between Greece and Egypt is surveying Egyptian seasonal migrants who work in the Greek fishing industry in order to understand their circular migration patterns.  The aim of the project is to identify and provide training to those migrants interested in working in the aquaculture, or fish farms, sector in Egypt in order to facilitate the staffing and development of this industry in Egypt.  As the number of visas granted to Egyptian fishermen to work in Greece decreases as a result of the decline in the Greek fishing industry and the ongoing financial crisis, the project aims to provide alternatives for return migrants from Greece.  The project, entitled “Migrant Skills Transfer in the Aquaculture Industry: The case of Greece and Egypt” is led in partnership between two NGOs, the Athens Network of Collaborating Experts (ANCE), in Greece and the Egyptian Agribusiness Association(EAGA), in Egypt and is actively facilitating knowledge exchange and transfer from Egyptian seasonal migrants working in the industry in Greece through the following activities: The main activities are to build  a database of over 500 Egyptian workers and Egyptian academics in the aquaculture field in Greece and in Egypt; ‘up-skilling' of the Egyptian migrant workforce in Greece; develop proposals to encourage the migration of skilled people; inform Egyptian skilled workers in the Greek industry on jobs in Egypt through ‘info days' in Athens and a website; support Egyptian return migrants to find jobs through a new ‘reception office' in Cairo; run a website on the sector in Egypt; strengthen linkages between the Greek and Egyptian aquaculture industries with workshops in each country.

 

Related resources

 

Links shared:

 

                                                                                       

                                                                                       

 

We are very pleased to launch this e-discussion on the topic of Circular Migration.  The concept of circular migration has gained growing international attention during the past few years, for instance at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and in regional cooperation involving various world regions.  Governments, as well as regional and international organisations are developing further ways to facilitate circular migration, partly through looking at legislation, and partly by designing specific projects or programmes. This includes studying how relevant policy areas may contribute to and affect the preconditions for increased temporary and circular mobility. 

The focus of this discussion on circular migration is not to prioritize it above permanent migration – we are interested in hearing your views on circular migration as one the migration options available today – both positive and negative.  In particular:

  1. What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?
  2. How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?
  3. What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?

The two forms of circular migration which are considered to be relevant are:

- Persons residing legally in a country other than that of their nationality or origin who wish to return to their country of origin or another country on a temporary or more permanent basis in order to engage in an activity (business, professional, or other of relevance for the development of that country);

- Persons residing in their country of origin or regular residence who wish to go to another country temporarily for work, study, training or a combination of these, and who then return to their country of origin or another country, and who then repeat this pattern of mobility several times.

Comments might include potential "barriers" and "facilitators" for the "spontaneous" circular migration, i.e. mobility taking place within the existing legal framework but outside the framework of specific projects or programmes. 

We are interested in learning from you about the importance of issues such as brain drain, information sharing about the labour market and of labour matching, measures to prepare the migrants prior to their move and to facilitate the transfer of skills and resources, multiple entry visas and facilitated entry procedures, allowing for temporary return to the country of origin without losing accumulated residence rights in the country of temporary residence, portability of social rights and possibility for dual citizenship for the promotion of voluntary mobility.

We are also interested in exploring the potential drawbacks, such as family separation, lack of integration, difficulties of transfer of status from temporary to permanent, limited capacity to contribute to development in the country of origin.  

What are your views? We welcome your responses to the three discussion questions above, as well as examples of good practice, from your work in this field and/or personal experiences, including concrete evaluations or empirical data if available.

 

Background reading:

- Circular Migration and Human Development – Kathleen Newland, UNDP Human Development Research Paper 2009/42

- Managing Migration for Development: Is circular migration the answer? – Ronald Skeldon, University of Sussex, UK, 2010

- Circular Migration as an Employment Strategy for Mediterranean Countries – Alessandra Venturini, CARIM, 2008

- Trends and Reasons for East-European Labour Migration to Ireland and the UK in the first years of enlargement – Klára Fóti, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2009

On the discussion on Circular Migration and how to achieve the “triple-win” i.e.: benefiting the host-country, the sender-country and the migrant himself, we are pleased to share with you our comments on what has already been said and to contribute some lessons we learned from our own JMDI project experience while working with Egyptian fishermen in Greece.

We believe that migration aspects of migrant-fishermen labor are interesting to study because of their very specific occupational nature:  Migrant fishermen are almost ‘invisible’ off-shore, with minimal presence in the everyday life of the host communities as they spend most of their work time onboard ship at sea and in most cases they also use the fishing boats as a focus for subsistence and accommodation. Furthermore, the preliminary results of our study indicate that this ‘invisibility’ is accentuated by the fact that a) they are working 14hrs per day, they benefit only from one afternoon-break per week (Saturday) and b) they spend the four days of “full-moon holidays” per lunar cycle, to repair nets and for other boat maintenance activities.

In our opinion, the above occupational characteristics make most of the conventional approaches towards migrant integration, participation, belonging and acknowledgement in the local communities rather difficult to apply. Ironically, one could count on the positive side of their ‘invisibility’ that these very conditions may attenuate other major problems usually related to the reaction of the local-hosting- communities (racism, xenophobia, etc). On closing our short note on the specificities of migrant fishermen communities, we are inviting comments, ideas and remarks from fellow members who may have similar  or different experiences and remarks from their encounter with communities of fishermen either in origin countries (Philippines, Sri Lanka, Senegal, Tunis, Morocco etc.) or destination countries (Italy, France, Spain, etc).

Before proceeding with our comments on the 3 basic questions on circular migration, allow me to add a quick remark on the use of the term “migratory flow” instead of “circular migration” as proposed by by Chabia (France), Bianca (Netherlands) and others. I remain skeptical on the adoption of such a change, because in my opinion the term “migratory flow” for most people is perceived to be what it reads: namely a ONE-WAY flow, though admittedly, for learned people, it may read as being a potentially multidirectional one. On this, I am of the opinion, that the term “circular migration” has an advantage as it clearly refers to a two-way flow and explicitly confirms the operational concept of the migrant returning and contributing to his/her home-country; something that I believe to be of major importance for the attainment of the “triple-win scenario” goal; and this, no matter the origins and even implicit intentions of its “patronizing”godfathers.  Perhaps, one could propose to alleviate such a minor defect by using instead the term “migratory flows”.

But again, the term “circular flow” seems to me the appropriate because it is more specific than the generic “migratory flow” (or “flows”). It is an instrumental term that mirrors a reality; that of the fact that migration is getting regulated; However, the negative connotation we input to it, exists exactly because of its present operational state within the present regulation environment.  But we should not forget that this regulation process is still under development and that its course seems to be open to dialogue and negotiations among interested recipient and origin countries. As many of the contributors agreed upon, the practices around this concept are incomplete and -I would add- open to a socio-political debate. Under different implementation and monitoring rules and conditions, the concept may finish by not carrying the stigma of negativity that –if I understood correctly- bothers Chadia (France). In other words, if the regulation policy imposed is done in a more “migrant-friendly” way then the term “circular flow” would seize to evoke a unilateral policy of “border control”, selective immigration, i.e.: an utilitarian policy driven by the inequalities between North and South and serving to secure the needs of economic northern countries at the expense of the South” (quoting Chabia Arab). After all, the fiscal authorities of interested origin countries do benefit from such immigration perhaps even more than what is the case with a “laissez-faire” irregular immigration and the real challenge is the benefit of the migrant subjects themselves (more on this later).

  1. What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?

As pointed out by many among the co-contributors, if we look at the phenomenon from a strictly economic point of view, circular migration is about supply and demand of labour between two countries. From a humanitarian point of view, it is also –as any form of migration- about rights: human rights and labour-rights. 

Following Chadia (France)’s point, I cannot but agree that the way circular migration is being “used” today as a tool against irregular migration, has left the issue of rights (together with the ambitions and dreams) of migrants out of the equation. However, as attractive as the concept of “open” borders may sound (and it does), the absence of any additional –indeed imposed from the above- legal or policy framework could lead, to my opinion, indeed to the free movement but at the same time at the total loss of migrant workers’ rights while working abroad, not to mention the increase of racism and xenophobia. In contrast, I – as many of the contributors – would propose the introduction of a policy framework with the needs – and rights – of the migrants and their families in mind (and thus, their protection, preparation and their on-going assistance) and not only the requirements imposed by the host (richer) countries. This would help establish a policy framework that keeps its restrictive character to a minimal, and furthermore provides the means (tools) to aid the migrant to find job of his/her likes abroad, feel useful at the country of destination, learn new skills and go back to his/her country of origin and implement what he/she has learnt for his/her benefit as well as for the benefit of his/her home-country (helping on the development of his/her country).  Experience has shown that when regulation policies are absent (open borders scenario), inadequate or not efficient enough (for example, the case of circular migration without the adequate monitoring), then the triple-win target seems like the treasure chest at the end of the rainbow i.e.: unreachable. Instead, at best it gives room for NGOs to fill the gap (i.e., the case of our work in ANCE with illegal migration in Greece) or at worst, leaves the migrants vulnerable to the hands of criminal minds that can easily take advantage for personal gain. Issues of exploitation (physical and/or financial), discrimination, xenophobia & racism are proven to stem out of such a not-so-legal environment.

I have to agree with the points of Patricia Aragon Sto Tomas and Dilip Ratha have made on the necessity of a Regulation, Protection and Re-integration combination (RPR from now on) and on the emphasis on labour-matching as the center-point of any policy intervention. This is why we paid special attention on the aspect of labor-matching on our on-going program (knowledge-transfer through the training of Egyptian fishermen while working in Greece). We believe that a good knowledge –and fair transfer of this knowledge between countries – of future skills’gaps that can be covered through circular migration is a necessary condition for the triple-win scenario to take place. Gathering information about future skills’ gaps and taking into account the realities of the labour market in both countries of origin and destination is a very important first step. In particular, (1) the destination country will benefit from filling critical labor shortages, (2) the country of origin will benefit from returning circular migrants that had more time to expertise on their skills instead of having spent years in down-scaling jobs, and are in a position to help develop further the corresponding sectors and/or branches of industry upon their return, reversing, thus, the brain-drain phenomenon to brain-gain, and (3) the migrants themselves will have the benefit of feeling the worth and usefulness of their work abroad (instead of being victimized as “thieves” of local people’s jobs or feeling discriminated that they can only work on the “3d” jobs that no local would do). Only then, the surplus of skills in one country (country of origin) will be used to cover the gaps of the other (country of destination).

 The UNDP Bureau for Development Policy went further on this by emphasizing the need, not only to forecast and predict actual labor and skills gaps in the countries of destination, but also to translate those needs into education and training programmes, a point that I cannot agree more on. It has to be understood from all parties involved in the process that this cannot be perceived as a short-term or an easy task. It is a challenging task that involves its own techniques and tools, their feedback and control mechanisms and requires an honest and open-minded collaboration between countries on the context of mutual benefit (with the benefit not only of the employers in mind but also the migrants’). It has to be emphasized that those labor-gaps are in a dynamic ever-changing state; hence we propose that this process should not be institutionalized but instead keep the focus on being attuned to the ever-changing market needs.

The other option (not really much of an option), is to leave things as they are today, where the lack of standardization and harmonization of educational qualifications leave the migrant no other choice than to get employed in usually unskilled labour positions without using his prior knowledge, training and/or experience or even go work in the “3d” jobs. It is obvious that both countries “lose” as the remittances and/or the contribution of the migrant through this -unmanaged- system are worse than optimal - agree on this with Michael (Ghana).

However, I am not certain about the necessity of training migrants and their employers about the costs and benefit of migration (as both Dilip Ratha and Paticia Aragon Sto Tomas have proposed). In my opinion, the benefit of such training can better be illustrated and understood through the appropriate dissemination of the positive results from migration schemes that work (based on the above principle of labour-gap-filling).  At present, as very well pointed-out by Tewabech (Ethiopia) and Baba (UK) amongst others, migrants’ role remains invisible in both countries of origin and destination, while all other parties benefit from their labor without acknowledging their important contribution. Instead, in the country of origin they are victimized that they abort their home-country, looking for the “easier-way” abroad (even though they are praised when the discussion comes to them sending remittances back home), while at the country of destination they are often viewed as intruders (although the country itself is benefiting from their contribution without the long-term costs of social security , unemployment benefit rights etc.).

Of course, measures for acknowledgement of migrant contributions to host (destination) countries are conditional to a careful and ‘tactful’ strategic management: If the migrants’ accomplishments are over-emphasized, they could trigger diverse reactions from locals and result to xenophobia acts, while under-emphasizing these accomplishments, could result in disregarding  the migrants‘ role as agents of development in the destination country; hence, there is the need of an internal feedback mechanism that will be able to appraise reactions of both (a) the local population, and (b) migrants’ population.

In our project for example, while the direct employers (ship-owners and captains) and a restricted percentage of the local population that occasionally interacts with them (mostly coffee-shop-owners) have a deep appreciation of the Egyptian fishermen working on their vessels and living in their area (when off-shore that is), more pressure on popularizing the benefits from their presence and work to the rest of the local community (which is mostly ignoring or under-estimating their presence) would have to be very “tactfully” applied. Potential points of conflict would mostly be due to religious differences and along moral cultural grounds (the Egyptians are usually more conservative and religious than Greeks).

So, as a general rule, in order to succeed and lead to further harmonization of relations between the migrant and the local population, we propose that when the conditions are mature enough to permit such a campaign of popularizing the benefits from the presence of migrants then this has to be (a) comprehensive, (b) based on real achievements important enough to attract respect and/or admiration without the need of over-emphasizing, and definitely (c) its results carefully monitored for later use.

Another important aspect to take under consideration when looking at the conditions that facilitate circular migration is its duration. As pointed-out by Ayman (Belgium) among others, if the situation is left to the employers, they tend to keep migrants for the longest possible time in order to decrease the costs of training of new-comers.

Drawing from our experience from the Egyptian migrant fishermen in Greece, it becomes clear that though circular migration in the fishing boats is regulated as a 9-month-stay-visa (with the necessary condition of its revalidation at the point of origin and at the end of that period), the majority of ship-owners do request, expect and ask for the same fishermen to come back for the longest possible time period (several years). On the other hand, historically, the average stay of the interviewed fishermen is that of seven years; so their expectation when they come for work in Greece is a minimum of 5yrs and a maximum of 10 yrs of work. It is clear that there is a contradiction between the common desire of the owners and the fishermen for a long-term collaboration and the regulated restrictions that demand a 9-month renewal. Such a situation seems to us to be unjustified, as it keeps both owners and fishermen hostages of unpredictable parameters like red-tape at the yearly issuance of visas and the exploitation of fishermen exercised by unscrupulous agents-middlemen involved, charging for their “services” both sides (greek ship-owner and Egyptian fishermen) at an estimated cost of up to 20% of their total yearly remuneration. There is an obvious need for measures to be taken in order to balance the discrepancy between mutually-desired duration of co-operation and the permissible duration under the present circular migration scheme. Furthermore, measures should be taken on a number of aspects related to this kind of “conditional roll-over agreements”. For example, any dispute between the -often illiterate- Greek ship-owner of a remote Greek island and the -mostly illiterate- Egyptian fishermen with the powerful agent middle-men,  may cost them the one-sided disruption of their co-operation.

Perhaps, a further measure bridging this gap between policy-requirements and real needs would be a broader flexibility if and when both parties (employer and migrant employee) are in mutual agreement.

2. How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants and to the employers?

As clearly described from the fellow contributors, the desired triple-win situation at present is far from being a reality. Countries of destination enjoy seeing the needs of their labour-market fulfilled probably at a less cost and certainly with less uncertainty as compared to the case of permanent migration; on top of that, there is much less political cost compared to permanent migration and a higher flexibility (when the need for migrant workers ceases, it is possible to stop renewing the permissions instantly and control the size of the migrant population easily). On the downside, they (countries of destination) don’t really bother much about the rights or the lives of (visiting) migrants, except the duty to cover work insurance costs (in most cases). On the other hand, countries of origin enjoy their unemployment rates going down (together with the corresponding social costs) and remittances are flowing back at an increased rate and amount as compared to permanent migration remittances (almost nothing is left or invested in the country of destination since they know they will leave soon – (more on this later) -while at the same time, all expenses and risks involved fall to the individual migrant’s back and his/her family.

Obviously, most of the measures and conditions mentioned above can bring along benefits for all stakeholders involved and bring the vision of the triple-win closer to reality. However, there is more that needs to be done in order to achieve the “triple-win” ideal goal.

I agree with Andrew (Sri Lanka), Tewabech (Ethiopia) and others among the contributors that the role of the migrant worker who has made all that effort in order to be able to get the –so needed – remittances back to the country of origin should not be overlooked; instead his/her role in the process  should be recognized and honored and his/her efforts should be rewarded not only to the country of destination but also to his country of origin instead of being further burdened with taxes and deprived of facilities upon return home.

It should be noted that the remittances are usually higher in the case of circular migration as compared to the long-term (or permanent) migration. The reason is clear, as the circular migrant, on knowing about the short-time stay, is not looking to invest in the country of destination but instead sends almost all of his earnings as remittances back home. At present, however, there is a gap on services that would channel the migrant remittances towards successful investments upon his/her return to the country of origin. In my opinion, it would be beneficial both for the country of origin (better/stronger investments) and the migrant, if there could be a consulting mechanism (perhaps a kind of guidance office) that would guide through the returning migrant on how to best invest before and upon return.

Needless to say that apart from the recognition of the migrant’s contribution to development, his/her human and work rights should be respected and protected whether at the country of destination or of origin; in other words, at ALL TIMES. On this I agree with Olav Kjordven and others saying that leaving migrants unprotected can undermine the human development benefits for all (no triple-win).

At this point, I would like to seize the opportunity to give a brief account of the situation of the Egyptian migrant fishermen  as this was described in their own words and acknowledged to us through questionnaires : Under the present conditions, Egyptian migration fishermen are at an extremely vulnerable position, where all costs associated with their migration are “weighing” on their shoulders (travel costs, variable costs for paperwork, cost of life in country of destination, absence of pension schemes, lack of security, work hazard risks – usually without proper compensation or safety measures etc.) while the benefits of their presence and work are shared between all other parties concerned except themselves as explained above. At the same time, they are at risk of losing their job anytime and be replaced –almost automatically – by new-comers.

One of the first things that need to be done in order for such a mobility to be more beneficial to the migrant (and the country of origin – indirectly) is to create a mechanism that will provide compensation funds for those migrants that lose their job before the completion of the agreed –contracted- time. For example, there had been cases of migrant Egyptian fishermen that lost their jobs because of European laws and regulations  that call for the Greek fishing fleet to be reduced. The Greek fishing vessel -owners get a compensation for the retirement of their vessel, upon evidence of retirement (destruction or change of use). Of course, a vessel-owner knows when he will take advantage of this; there had been a number of cases, though, where Egyptian fishermen working on such vessels, only found -out the day before the vessel’s destruction that their work is over. It is obvious, that the lack of compensation or any other care for the migrant crew in such cases, puts a crucial stress on the decision of the shocked migrant worker: it is only human and natural that he shall try to stay in the country of destination (or to flee to neighboring countries) by any means, until he completes his family mission i.e.: that of collecting the pre-determined amounts of remittances in order to build their house and help the family out of the poverty line; -legal or illegal!.

Finally, there is the need to increase the negotiation level and capabilities of the countries of origin when sitting on the round table to define the regime of the circular migration scheme. But above all, there is for sure a need for a kind of a “migrants’ ombudsman” that shall represent and defend the rights and needs of the migrant as a human person as against the “connivance” of both the collective state interests sitting on the table!. It is obvious that there is space for more care and provision for the migrants and more space for win-win deals for all parties involved.

To our opinion too often we unilaterally criticize the evident ‘vested’ interests of the receiving countries. But we care rarely in the fora, on what happens for example with the channeling of the migrant remittances through the local banks and other institutions often in over invested sectors like in huge real estate developments with an obviously dubious profitability destiny . There are cases –like Georgia or Moldova for example- where remittance amounts count for multiples of the much publicized foreign assistance and the reluctant foreign investments shown after.

3. What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?

Coming back to the concept of training of the migrant (please see also answer to Q1 for more on training), an issue that needs to be addressed is the training prior to departure on the diverse effects of the migration on family life (and on-going counseling service thereafter). A point well made from most of the contributors is the absence of any such assistance mechanisms in countries of origin. Truly, when migrants leave their families behind and go to another country to work (esp. if for long periods – consecutive posts), the risk of serious social problems related to the break-up of family ties (breaking of marriage, contracting STIs, neglected and/or traumatized children, extra marital relationships etc.)  is very real (agree here with the points of Elizabeth (Jamaica), Ayman (Belgium) and Shyama (Sri Lanka) among others). Of course, migrants under more permanent schemes might face a similar kind of family problems. However, in their case (permanent migration) there is often the probability, or at least the possibility to bring the whole family at the country of destination, especially if the post is already set as long-term. In contradiction, circular migrants don’t even have this choice, especially in the case of the Egyptian fishermen in Greece (where in most cases, they even stay on-board the fishing vessel, as mentioned beforehand). The fact by itself makes of the existence of family counseling services that address the negative implications to the migrant’s family a necessity and not a luxury (agree on this with Andrew (Sri Lanka)).

Another very important parameter preventing circular migrants to make the most of their time while on migration is the prohibition of their right to make their own businesses at the country of destination (in the crucially productive age of 20 to 40yrs old). This indirectly affects also the country of destination since all earnings of the migrant go back to his home-country as remittances, instead of being invested on the place of stay of the migrant. On the other hand, this creates even more pressure (and obligation) to the country of origin so as to provide the means of better channeling of remittances both during the migrant’s trip and upon his return. As mentioned before, perhaps the idea of “reception centres”  for the returning migrants at their country of origin could give some solution to this and make successful investments possible.

Another problem that the circular migrants have to cope with under the present circular migration regime is the total absence of any pension schemes that they could take advantage of. In other words, once a migrant returns home after yrs abroad working in successive posts, there is nothing else apart from his remittances as a provision for his old age. It is understandable that the country of destination is not willing to offer public pension schemes for circular migrants. However, if both countries (of origin and destination) could reach a deal over the conditions of private pension schemes that could cover the gap of the present situation, then this would benefit both the migrant and the country of origin (and the country of destination in a lesser degree) and cancel out this particular drawback.

Another drawback stemming from circular migration (well pointed-out by Chadia (France) amongst others) is the regulation (restrictions imposed) of free movement; the right to choose where to live and work freely should be considered a human right. Through the circular migration policy framework, however, this right is being restricted –in a higher degree than in the case of permanent migration-  to the period of time that the migrant is “used for”; and when the migrant is no longer needed he automatically loses the right to be in the country of destination. Ideally, if circular migration was aided properly with the right tools helping the candidate migrant to decide where he can benefit the most from his experience and skills, then this restriction wouldn’t really matter much. In other words, if the policy framework had emphasis on the assistance of the migrant to find the better-suited job in the better-suited country of destination, (instead of the emphasis being on the restrictions imposed on the movement of the migrant), in my opinion, the migrant would not even have to worry about the restrictions. After all, no-one wants to go where he/she is unwanted. He/she would go to the country whose skills-gap he can fill (i.e. where his skills can be used and appreciated the most), not because he is restricted from going to another, but because he chooses so.

As an epilogue, I would like to quote Ban Ki-moon on a brief sentence that holds, in my humble opinion, the basic principle behind any policy framework related to migration that has a chance to succeed for all stakeholders involved (AND minimize the drawbacks derived from circular migration):

"Only by safeguarding the RIGHTS of migrants, and ensuring that migrants are treated with the dignity and respect due to any human being, can we create the conditions in which migration can contribute to development."

I am pleased to share some thoughts to the 3 points that Cecile has flagged for deliberation. They are based on our experience working with circular migrants in Sri Lanka.

1. From a labour migration perspective, circular migration is about supply and demand of labour between sending and receiving countries. Migration could occur in many forms such as poor remuneration and facilities at home, poor employer driven human resource facilities at home, lack of job satisfaction, inability to save part of earnings at home, non availability of technological advancements at home, not much scope for women employees at home, no dignity of labour not recognised etc. There are other reasons too such as political unrest/victimisation at home, economic unrest/uncertainty, unemployment/under employment and even poverty at home, need to get away owing to family disputes to name a few.  

Unfortunately evidence shows that circular migration has not benefited migrants as employers and receiving country governments are fully aware of the above factors and are continuing to take advantage of them by imposing their own laws and policies that don’t often facilitate a decent process.

Processes and instruments such as the ILO code of practice, the ILO HIV/AIDS world of work, CEDAW, the International Convention on the Protection of the rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families and other instruments are openly violated. Governments at both ends can and must do a lot more if circular migration is to really benefit one another.

2. Impunity and archaic laws imposed mostly by receiving countries have to be revisited and perhaps rewritten if labour migration is to succeed. (The Kafala laws, HIV travel restrictions, mandatory HIV testing, MoUs, bilateral agreements, labour contracts, restricted mobility in the host country, inability to defend oneself, withholding of passport, inability to apply for another job within the contract period, restricted health facilities etc) Most such laws and policies have failed to understand and recognise the migrant as an important stakeholder in the process)

It is true that origin countries need remittances for development. But let us not forget that it is the migrant worker who has toiled to get these remittances to the country and she/he has to be recognised in the process rather than being further burdened with taxes and deprived of facilities at home.

At the same time host countries benefit from circular migration enormously as they pay so little compared to what they would otherwise have to pay their own nationals for jobs. This means they benefit economically by squeezing out labour from circular migrants at a fraction of the cost in almost all sectors and yet most migrants have to work under severe duress. I wonder if host country government recognise circular migrants for changing their physical landscape for the better, or for taking care of their families and children like their own.

3. Among several consequences of circular migration the most important is the temporary separation from family that is very psychological. Due to this isolation men and women are vulnerable to contracting STIs and even HIV from altered sexual behaviour. Women are most vulnerable as they are subject to a range of abuses including sexual abuse and rape.

There are occupational health problems arising from extended working hours and working conditions. These may not be immediate visible signs. They could reflect later on in life.

Leaving your family behind is a huge risk that could lead to breaking of marriages, extra marital relationships, contracting STIs or even HIV on return, post migration mental trauma, neglected children, their education, health and nutrition, incest, distancing from the migrated parent etc. This shows that there are very little facilities at home that even pre departure training programs have not addressed. I wonder how many origin countries have effective family counselling services that address issues arising from circular migration.

Our experience has shown that most circular migrants sending money home for savings or other investments have not been met either due to extravagant spending by the spouse or due to the lack of knowledge of financial management skills.

In close the key thought I'd like to leave behind is the importance of recognising and respecting migrant worker's rights. It is only then that there will be mutual benefits for all. 

Best,

Andrew Samuel

Community Development Services

Sri Lanka

I agree with the points raised by Tewabech [above] about the fact that the role of the migrants is invisible to both receiving and sending countries. The point is how to reverse this process and allow the migrant group to remain relevant to their home countries and be acknowledged by the host countries.

Relevance in home countries

This should be through all socioeconomic and political contributions. The economic angle is what is easily emphasised to the exclusion of any political role. This can be influenced by leveraging through international bodies such as the World Bank, IMF and WHO.  As they interact with individual governments, they could use a database of migrant skills and expertise for implementation of projects and programmes. Migrant workers could be appointed to management teams to ensure effective delivery of projects. Bilateral cooperation through grant application with delivery partners in home countries with increase relevance of migrant workers.

Acknowledgement of Migrant contribution to host countries is harder to achieve due to the sentiments that are pervading the political campaigns and the rise of far right political parties. The role of migrant workers needs to be known in terms of economic and social integration. A recent UK survey revealed that communities with high numbers of migrant populations were less likely to vote for the far right BNP [British National Party].  The indigenous group in these communities have had the opportunity to experience firsthand the economic and social contribution by migrant populations. This includes highly skilled workers and professionals.

Baba Inusa

London Focus Sickle Cell Anemia (LFSCA)-Mansag

Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain

www.mansag.org

I am a fan. A fan of ‘migratory flow’. Chadia introduced the term and it immediately struck me. It encompasses the chain connection of effects I witness every day when talking to and working with our clients – entrepreneurs that started a business in their mother country and the ones still in the process. Unlike Chadia however I feel that it is exactly that crisscross in which we find the elements that are of benefit to the countries of origin (CoO).

Let’s say we have an entrepreneur that prefers working with a local business partner instead of remigration. The emergence of this business sets of a widespread flow of influence that has a direct impact on development, or at least the potential for development. I’ll give two examples.

A new business mentality. The commercial customer oriented approach is a commodity to us but an important selling point in other countries. And he who keeps company with the wolf will learn to howl. The partnership will colour the business partner, rendering him a competitive advantage and strengthening his entrepreneurial skills.

Innovation of techniques and skills. Often our entrepreneurs introduce an innovation to the market, like the one that introduced a new welding technique. Although very common here, there it was quite revolutionary. Not only this created a new market for revised parts, it introduced a new specialism, requiring a new kind of skilled workers that of course needed to be trained.
 
Looking at the effects mentioned, I must say I do agree with Chadia’s observation that short term circular migration is often not that beneficial as presumed. The process of building mentality, skills and a work pool of skilled workers requires time. It is not something you can set off by flying in an expert for one or two years. It requires long term commitment to truly make an impact on development. But if it is there, the impact is irreversible.

Regards,

Bianca Jamanika
Communications manager IntEnt foundation

Circular migration, a relevant tool to support development of the country of origin!

Migrant organizations, a helpful support structure:
Civil society, and especially people involved in community life or migrant organizations, represents a useful framework for circular or temporary migration in the direction of the development of the country of origin, through the sharing of information and social networks, as well as the transfer of skills and know-how from migrants.

The example of our organization clearly demonstrates this statement. After the creation of our organization AMSED in Strasbourg (France), mainly by migrants from Algeria, one of the members went to his country of origin for a diagnostic mission of the territory of Kabylie, his region of origin, to identify its strengths and weaknesses. He met with several people from civil society (informal groups, craftsmen, livestock breeders and several economic agents of local development) and institutional representatives to share and discuss the contribution of temporary migration to the country of origin.  Analysis of questionnaires and meeting reports revealed the real needs of the local labor market, its subtleties and the niches with high potential for job creation and income generation that could benefit from the contribution of migrants, through a temporary mobility approach.

Micro projects and new added valued grow in the region of origin:
The top of the iceberg concerning temporary migration is at two levels. As a result of this mission to Algeria, we established activities using the skills and networks of migrants living in France. For example, we implemented a programme supporting the development of the country of origin through the sharing of information, shared diagnostics and help with project conception. Concretely, two innovative projects to establish a dairy school were created. For the first time in the region, farm and organic cheese is now made and sold in local markets. Family-based jobs have been created through the diversification of farm products and increased training activities on cheese technologies, held in partnership with the association ADPAL, reinforcing the impact and influence of the project on the whole region.

The second level is the training of local development actors living in the origin country, by involving them in immersion training and training courses in France. In this way, the two beneficiaries of the cheese dairies participated in training courses for 3 weeks each on a farm near Strasbourg, in order to master the process of making farm cheese. Other beekeepers have been hosted by a French beekeeper from Strasbourg to learn the technique of raising queen bees. When they returned to their work in Algeria, they applied the new techniques learned in France, which became new added values for the region where they live.

A mechanism to facilitate temporary circulation of migrants’ skills has been developed:
Through this experience of mutual mobility, our association and its partners in the country of origin established micro projects using the approach of “migrants’ companionship”, facilitating the transfer of skills and resources through their temporary mobility.  The companionship approach used in the project includes activities providing training, advice and support, formalized and led by a “companion”. The companion is an experienced migrant who shares his knowledge and know-how progressively with his partner in order to assist him to acquire the skills shared. 

Indeed, migrants have several different types of capital that can be transferred to the country of origin to support development, e.g.:

- Skills and know-how capital – using practical and theoretical knowledge in a work situation allowing to practice properly and on permanent basis a function or an activity; these assets can be valued by the migrant for the benefit of Algeria.
- Relationships capital – all contacts and networks that can be mobilized by migrants in a given field of work, facilitating some actions for people working in this field.
- Financial capital – the migrants’ holdings or economical capital (means of production).

The contribution made by AMSED and its partners:
AMSED and its network of partners, mainly the ADPAL and APAM organizations, offer support to migrants from the Algerian diaspora in the establishment of their project; AMSED’s role is to support and advise. 

AMSED offers temporary migrants the following support measures:

1)      Support to structure a sustainable project that can last for a long time;

2)      Help in the structuring of projects using feasibility studies, in order to defend and justify it in front of potential fundraisers;

3)      Awareness of the basic concepts related to economic investment initiatives in order to understand the different aspects of business creation and project management;

4)      Advice about  fundraising systems - private and public - both in Algeria and at an international level: bank, ANSEJ, ANGEM, local collectivities, foundations, sponsors…

5)      Support to the projects through our partner organizations working in Algeria, with a good knowledge of the field;

6)      Networking of the projects leaders benefiting from the multidisciplinary expertise of resourceful people from the Algerian diaspora identified in the association’s skills database.

Strengths and weaknesses of the approach:
Obviously, the strengths of this experience on circular migration on an ad hoc basis are the visible and tangible results of the micro projects in terms of acquisition and transfer of skills, job creation and new added values, at a local level, based on a detailed analyze of the needs.  Another strength is the keen interest that migrants have in developing initiatives in the country of origin and to debate, without stonewalling, strategic choices that are most relevant for the development of the country of origin. It represents a place, in the host society, promoting cooperation and free expression of minority groups in the diversity of their opinions.

However, even if the fact that migrants of Algerian origin, in France, have the possibility to have double citizenship, which helps the circulation and transfer of their resources, there still are some difficulties that restrict their temporary mobility: the question of the costs of the mobility for a short duration, moreover the payment of international transportations; problems of visas and the lack of close support structure to help the migrant in both countries of origin and destination that could facilitate the temporary circulation of migrants. At the same time, decentralized cooperation defined as an exhaustive approach open to all people in their diversity and the involvement of countries from North and South could have been a helpful lever factor for the circular mobility of the migrants.

M. Djilali KABECHE
Director, Association Migration Solidarité et Échanges pour le Développement (AMSED) – Espace Nord/Sud
17, rue de Boston 67000 Strasbourg – France
Tél. / Fax : 00.33.(0)3.88.61.71.67.
Mobile : 00.33.(0)6.61.34.26.03.
Courriel : amsed@wanadoo.fr
Skype : AMSED Djilali

This is an interesting but wide-ranging question to pose. The central factor for success, we believe, is the issue of spontaneity. Contrary to for example the appeal of ‘migration management’ as mentioned by Mr DE ZWAGER [attached and below], we feel the greatest impact can be achieved by de-centralized and individual efforts outside of official structures and projects. This is one of the core values that IntEnt foundation upholds in her approach. 

Our entrepreneurs are all individuals that turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality, while generating economic development in the country of destination (over 300 companies with an average investment of 62.000 euro, employing on average 16 people each). We facilitate our entrepreneurs there, locally, during preparation and start up. Most of them are returning migrants that lived in Europe for the most part of their lives.

The individual approach has several benefits for parties and countries involved.

I) It forces us to work fully demand driven, activating our support network of free lance trainers and business consultants where required.

II) We make use of and build local talents and structures to a maximum. We involve professional consultants with knowledge of the local situation and we train them to use the ‘IntEnt method’. We also train bank employees in sme-financing. This way we prevent situations as described by dr. BANJOKO where expatriates disturb the local market.

III) There is no concentration of our services to certain regions in a country. The businesses arise virtually everywhere. Generating jobs and investments throughout our programme countries, even in remote places.

IV) This makes the support structure flexible and autonomous. We are a network organization without political inhibitions, without well staffed local offices where people instinctively strive to secure and justify their own jobs, but with a structure that maximizes the sustainability and the impact of individual initiatives.

In that sense I CAN agree with Mr. DE ZWAGER as I read the mission of IASCI’s Nexus initiative in the way that they strive “…to gain maximum benefits from migration - and thereby bring scale, effectiveness  and innovation to development.” For the past thirteen years we have been serving a similar mission through the support of thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs. The (sustainable) results speak for itself and validate our views up until today. 

Best regards,

Bianca Jamanika

Communications Manager IntEnt foundation

Dear Cecile,

I’m pretty sure that there are lots of experiences, studies and research on the circular migration topics that you mentioned below. Just a quick response.

If I look at it in the framework of JMDI projects, I can say that part of the answers can be found and concretely experienced when we (consortium of DAMAYAN-COS Utrecht-ERCOF) are implementing the Maria4MDGs project between the Netherlands and in the Philippines.

This might be a very small experience but it might also be helpful especially for those diasporas who are very much engaged in development projects yet still working as volunteers. I am sure in the Netherlands that those projects in partnership with diasporas are all working as volunteers and unpaid. Through the JMDI projects, they were able to fully function and give their expertise back to their countries of origin for the duration of 12 to 18 months. This is in answer to question number (2) below “How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?”.

This is my two cents…

Doris B. Alfafara
Consulent/Consultant,COS Utrecht
Postbus 176,3500 AD Utrecht
Nederland/The Netherlands
+31 (0)30 2311 094
www.cosutrecht.nl

Dear members,

Please find below my responses to the three discussion questions posed:

What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?

A major factor that reduces the occurrence of circular migration is the restrictions on entry in the prospective host country. For example, it is almost impossible for Caribbean nationals to go for brief periods to Europe.
Those persons who circulate:
a) go to countries where they already have permanent residence and then they decide to move back and forth to their country of origin rather than continue to stay for a long period at the destination country. In other words, the migration officially started as though it was, or was intended to be, permanent migration and then evolved into a circulatory pattern.
b) go to countries where contractual labour (guest worker schemes) where visas are issued for the specific activity and for a designated period of stay. These are often repeated over several years.

How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?

The benefits of circular migration are related to the fact that it extends the work environment for individuals and, in the case of guest worker arrangements, expands the reservoir of labour for the employers without the host country's responsibilities to the workers' families or to the workers beyond the period of the contract.
Remittances from circular migrants tend to be an important source of revenue for the migrant's households and generally improves the standard of living of those households.

What are some of the drawbacks of circular migration?

While the advantages of circular migration tend to be economic, the disadvantages tend to be social, through disruption to families due to the absence of the main figures of authority from the household. For example, children are in many cases left behind while a parent engages in recurrent temporary migration.
Circular migration has also been associated with the tendency towards increased dependency on migration and a reduction in the efforts that could be made locally to increase work opportunities or the effort made to find work.

Elizabeth Thomas-Hope

 

Elizabeth Thomas-Hope

James Seivright Moss-Solomon Professor of Environmental Management

Head of Department, Department of Geography and Geology

University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica

Circular Migration is a triple-win type of human mobility; it has a positive impact on sending countries, migrants, as well as receiving countries. For the sending countries, it implies decreasing demand on jobs caused by the increasing number of job seekers in the internal labor market. In addition, the sending countries get benefit of the financial and in-kind remittances by migrants, and the skills and knowledge that are assumed to be transferred by return migrants to their home countries. With respect to migrants themselves, migration secures job opportunities, and remittances. Moreover, receiving countries fulfill the needs of their local labor markets without the cost associated with permanent migration.

However, the above mentioned description is optimal. Practice may indicate some pitfalls associated with this type of human mobility. Some of these pitfalls may be indicated below:

1. Duration of circular migration: The definition of circular migration is not yet polished; do we mean by circular migration to circulate the same person by giving him/her the chance
2. The impact of restrictions and tight visa policies: Circular migration implies liberation of movement between origin and destination which is not available under the current visa regimes. For an effective circulation borders should be open to allow circular migrants to circulate between origin and destination. Mobility partnership between origin and destination is a pre requisite for a successful circulation.
3. Employers’ immediate interests versus circulation policies: Employers seek to minimize the cost of labor. So that they may tend to keep migrant for long time to decrease the cost of training of new comers. This tendency may hinder the idea behind circulation.
4. The impact of circulation on family: Circulation leads to family break down and causes split of the family between origin and destination which may raise concerns about the left behind family in origin.

These are just thoughts for discussion, and dialogue between the community of practice is most welcome.

re your point 4 - I agree indeed. Yes quite often the migrant herself/himself has to adjust even if the absence has been for a relatively short period. Adjustment in terms of getting used to 'not working' during that time or 'not drawing as much a salary' as during the period of migration, apart from the fact of having to come to terms with the family (spouse and children in particular) not considering the migrant a part of the regular equation of family life.

Women left behind often empower themselves and become the decision-makers. On return of the spouse it could lead to, (through choice or lack of it) an abdication of the position. The resentment could come from either party, impact on the children (due to the tension in the home) adversly.

Support services to cope with such situations are lacking in many countries (family counselling - where there is a sensitivity to the situation of the migrant and his/her rights to migrate).

Thus it is important to weigh the social cost of circular migration particular to family life; find the gaps and respond to them, through policies that support circular migration.

These are thoughts to support efforts to deal with circular migration, especially in respect of families left behind - a phenomena that can contribute to child labour as well.

Shyama Salgado, ILO Sri Lanka

Circular migration has several benefits for individuals, communities and development. It can address shortage of skills in the receiving country as well as strengthen the ability of the sending country's professionals to treat the immigrant communities. However there are barriers. Some diaspora professionals are keen to return to their country of heritage to share skills. However, in country policy requirements for example with regard to registration and payment of professional fees makes it difficult to facilitate.

Dear friends,
We prefer the term ‘migratory flow’ to ‘circular migration’ as it is has less political connotations and is more scientifically sound. The MIGRINTER Laboratory group at the University of Poitiers first theorized about the concept of migration movement, based on the work of Emmanuel Ma Mung, Alain TARRIUS, Stéphane de Tapia (etc..), and recently with thesis work such as our own.

Politicians have now endorsed the concept and redefined it using the term ‘circular migration’, which for us evokes a policy regulating migration, a policy of border control, selective immigration, a utilitarian policy, marked by inequalities between North and South, serving to secure the needs of economic northern countries (EU, USA, Canada, etc ...) at the expense of the South, all with a clear conscience. A clear conscience because circular migration of course serves to develop the countries of the South (Latin America, Africa, South Asia) from which the majority of these temporary migrants originate.

The concept of migratory flow is an all-encompassing concept, which may apply to different types of organization of migrants. This concept brings together all the links between the group or individual migrant and the country of origin and takes the dynamic form of a “back-and-forth”. It is important to note that for us the term migratory flow does not mean simply a back and forth between two places, place of origin and place of destination. Neither is it a substitute for migration. It takes into account more comprehensively the migratory path of the individual. It gives meaning to new migratory patterns, more complex and globalized. And it gives shape to spatial practices and mobility that rely on migration networks and knowledge.

In the current context of economic, social and cultural globalization – and paradoxically the restriction of movement of the poorest people – migratory flow appears to offer a means to support migration.  At the same time, the term circular migration has largely been adopted by the political leaders of rich countries. This concept takes its turn as a tool of political management, a tool to regulate migration flows, a tool against irregular immigration.

1. What measures and conditions are they likely to facilitate circular migration?
So-called circular migration has in fact existed for centuries. It has just been given a name and been made official by political regulations in connection with the management of labor, and visa policies.

Two examples illustrate this:
- Circular migration has existed for centuries in the past.  Emmanuelle Hellio (2009, p.197) discusses the Belgian workers who came to work in France at the end of the nineteenth century, whose their right to stay was limited to the duration of their employment contract, and who were expelled in case of dismissal.
- Also, Moroccans practiced circular migration in a way, as before the introduction of visas, Moroccans went to work in agriculture in southern Spain (Andalusia) for a few months a year and returned to Morocco for the rest of the time. Thus, Moroccans, from May 1991, have found that the passport was not enough to go to Spain which now requires a visa. That is to say that before visas, circular migration was practiced naturally, without any problems by Moroccans. Today circular migration is imposed from above, creating frustration for those who undertake it, not choice. For today it remains one of the few options to move legally north of the Mediterranean.

Circular migration could be facilitated by the introduction of residence permits for temporary migrants. This is clearly seen in the Moroccan example, until the introduction of visas, circular migration was a common practice, it has been turned upside down by a political process of circular migration, which requires choosing the migrant that is wanted and that will imbalance the equation that aims to produce a win-win situation for both countries. In fact, this is beneficial firstly for the country of destination which is not burdened by the permanent settlement of a migrant. The migrant's needs are not taken into account, for example his/her need to migrate temporarily for work, to study, to discover a country, to escape oppression ...

2. How can such mobility benefit the countries of origin and destination, migrants themselves and their employers?
It would take a deep analysis to understand how this mobility can have a genuine positive impact in areas of destination and origin. The question being, it is extremely positive for northern countries that are not subject to the permanent settlement of migrants, illegal or irregular migration. As for countries of origin, the development impact is not so obvious.

Often these migrants move to improve their standard of living, but from there to have an impact on development? We do not think so. Because often these migrants do not return with projects they could make a success.  And if – and only if – the migrant wishes, of course.

And sometimes, circular migration costs more than is reported. For example, we interviewed women who practice circular migration through contracts based on origin for the strawberry harvest in Huelva in Spain. The whole procedure and undertaking costs them money.  Once they have arrived in Huelva, for the lucky ones (as all are not successful), they often do not work every day and have more days off than working days. Housing is free but not travel and food. So, some have returned to Morocco, including last year, having spent more money than they have earned!

Circular migration is very beneficial to employers because they have migrants until they need them and they leave when the job is finished. They have the migrant’s labour for the work needed, but avoids all the disadvantages of the migrant’s permanent settlement, i.e. his/her integration into a new society, learning the language, culture, (etc. ..), which are far from the employer’s concerns. Often it is a vulnerable workforce, plentiful and inexpensive. This is what some call "utilitarian migration" (Alain Morice, 2004).

3. What can be the disadvantages of circular migration, compared to a more permanent migration?
Freedom of movement, freedom to choose where we want, when we want is more than necessary today for men and women’s freedom. Migration allows this, but not circular migration which imposes on the temporary migrant the time when we need him, and the time when we return him because we no longer need his services.

The disadvantages will first affect those who undertake circular migration. Let's take the example of the contracts based on origin of Moroccans who migrate to the province of Huelva to pick strawberries. They wait patiently to be chosen and called, but not without doubt and without fear. This year, 2010, the year of the financial crisis, the Spanish authorities have opted to bring only 3,000 Moroccans (while in 2009 around 16,000 participated in the strawberry season). Those we have been able to meet and who have not yet been called told us clearly, although this would be the third year they participate in the Spanish strawberry harvest, if they were asked to leave, they would stay.

As a well oiled system which until now has prevented the creation of illegal migrants in Spanish territory, we may see unexpected results today. The system of contracts based on country of origin, which is a form of circular migration, migration chosen by the migrant for temporary work, migration that prevents women from staying in Spain because they have chosen such a way that they can return. Indeed, several conditions must be met by these women. They must be women (according to Spain’s sexually explicit policy), of rural origin and/or have experience in agriculture in Morocco, have the husband's permission or a death or divorce certificate, as applicable, and finally - the most important – have at least one child under the age of 13.

These conditions ensure the women have family ties to their countries of origin, which enabled the system to work well (in 2008, only 4.5% remained in Spain). Hence, this circular migration is considered a success and a model to follow for the EU which funded the project under the AENEAS programme.

However, beginning this year, several questions have started to arise and especially for women. Indeed, the previously well-oiled system did not foresee the financial crisis. Now, the departure of women from Morocco to Spain has been revised down significantly, causing anger, fears and uncertainties for some of these women who live in very vulnerable situations, and for whom this migration for only a few months a year nevertheless allows them to support their family. The main objective which was to make these women to return to the country is now being called into question by the financial crisis and by one year off for the women involved. Thus, a number have clearly indicated that they could "not be puppets in the hands of the Spanish economic policy". The long-term solution for these women would be to obtain papers and to regularize them so that they can also take into account their own needs in terms of work.

There is a difference between permanent migration, and regularizing ones situation in order to obtain a residence permit in the country where one works and to choose when one wants to migrate. The current choice of these women is this, to obtain papers but to continue their circular migration.

The government’s current approach has the slogan reducing migration flows, the decline in the number of irregular migrants and the development of countries of origin. This results in a selection of the workforce sometimes directly in the country of departure and an economic utilitarianism to meet the needs of the North. This well-oiled system allows you to export strawberries by importing a workforce which has no say, who cannot seek to remain, or have rights, or a goal. As noted by Alain Morice, rich countries also want to have "work without the worker."

The reduction of barriers and obstacles to mobility and improved policies for migrants can generate enormous benefits in terms of human development for both countries of North and countries of the South.

Chadia Arab

Immigration, Development, Democracy (IDD)
130, rue des poissonniers
75018 - Paris
www.idd-reseau.org

The IOM World Migration Report (2008) defines circular migration as “the fluid movement of people between countries, including temporary or long-term movement which may be beneficial to all involved, if occurring voluntarily and linked to the labour needs of countries of origin and destination.” Bieckmann and Muskens, 2007 also identify circular migration as a triple win discourse promising gains for host countries, origin countries and migrants themselves with accelerated economic growth, remittances, relative high wages and brain gain.”

Circular migration as a form of temporary migration is not a new form of migration; however it is increasingly becoming important in the migration discourse in recent times. Between 1945 and 1970 almost all industrialized countries used temporary labour migration programmes as a way to recruit migrant workers from developing countries.

Q1. What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?

Measures and conditions that might facilitate circular migration include:

  • Policies and institutional frameworks that promote frequent movements of migrants. For instance the ECOWAS Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment promotes mobility within the West Africa sub region;
  • Multilateral cooperation programmes. The IOM Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA) and the UNVs Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN) programmes, are examples of such circular migration programmes that demonstrate how international organizations can work in partnership with key stakeholders including governments as well as the diaspora to facilitate circular migration. In Ghana, IOM is working in collaboration with government to facilitate circular migration through temporary assignments for Ghanaians in the diaspora to work in some key sectors like the health and education sectors which had suffered the impact of brain drain.
  • Political and economic stability in both host and origin countries.
  • Accurate and up-to-date information on relevant local conditions in countries of origin which can promote sustainable return as well as information on opportunities in host and origin countries;

 

Q2. How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?

It is important to note that if circular migration is well facilitated, it can promote human mobility to benefit migrants, origin and host countries.

  • In countries of origin circular migration reduces the burden of brain drain and promotes brain gain when migrants in the diaspora return to their country of origin with optimal use of their new skills and experience for development;
  • Moreover circular migration promotes investment in countries of origin as most circular migrants are willing to invest some of their savings, their skills and expertise back home. They send remittances to their countries of origin, which, if well managed, can help the improvement of the livelihoods of families back home;
  • In host countries, employers benefit from the services of migrants who are engaged in  the “3D (dirty, dangerous and demeaning) jobs” in agricultural, construction, and domestic services sectors as most indigenes fail to do the 3D jobs migrants do;
  • The social cost of migration to families left behind in either the host countries or origin countries is reduced because of the possible return of the migrants within a relatively shorter period of time as compared to permanent migration.

Q What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?

Some of the drawbacks of circular migration include:

  • Inadequate information on choices available for intending circular migrants. This situation does not promote sustainable return and re-integration of migrants into their countries of origin;
  • Low level of policy attention to circular migration issues due to the lack of governments political will;
  • Difficulties with accessing employment, housing, credit markets, starting up businesses or investing savings in countries of origin by circular migrants;
  • Lack of economic and political stability in some  countries of origin; 
  • Lack of standardization and harmonization of educational qualifications which results in some cases where skilled migrant workers might even have no other choice but to take employment in a category that is lower than the one associated with their education.

Conclusion: Circular migration offers triple benefits to migrants, origin and host countries. To realize the full potential of circular migration it is important that interventions are initiated and facilitated by host and origin countries to harness better the potential of migrants to be effective agents for development in both origin and host countries.

*** Contribution by: Akua Dua-Agyeman and Michael Boampong, JMDI Focal Points, UNDP Ghana

Dear Community Members,

I would like to focus on the first two of the three interesting questions posed:

  1. What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?
  2. How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?
  3. What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?

Allow me to refer to IASCI’s research, experience and views by drawing your attention to our article online here. Our perspective comes from closely examining and testing key elements of the development impact of migration, and some often misunderstood basic elements of that dynamic.

In addition to the points raised in the attached, I can only strongly support the view of Dr Smith below. There is most certainly a great deal more to this discussion than narrow legal and definitional issues surrounding the actual physical movement of bodies.

IASCI is always prepared to collaborate with qualified partners, and to share its quantitative data with interested parties upon request.

Looking forward further discussion in this interesting area, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Nicolaas de Zwager

Director

IASCI

www.iasci.info

The best is I can do is to show you a special study on Circular Migration our Foundation/Association ‘The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration’ (THP) carried out at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. It is slightly outdated but still good, I believe. The study was carried out by our colleague and friend Dr. Khalid Koser. You can find it online here: http://www.migration4development.org/content/maximizing-benefits-circula...

With warmest greetings,

Frans Bouwen
Director, The Hague Process
http://www.thehagueprocess.org/

An interesting debate which I look forward to following as it develops the coming period. I would like to make a qualifying comment on the guiding principles formulated for this discussion, which might then be perceived as an indirect contribution:

In studies of migration there remains a certain overfocus on migrants. While logical, given that they are the ones actually moving, this fails to recognize two crucial factors:

(1) the transnational flows they create, making the notion of circularity as related to migration something that needs to be looked at with a wider view than the pure embodiment by migrants (actual physical movement),

(2) the role of actors (urban and rural based, kin and non-kin, etc.) in countries of origin through transnational ties and networks. In as much as it is important to understand the position and agency of migrants as actors to understand their propensity to participate or consider various forms of circular migration, it is also necessary to understand the functioning and role of actors in their countries of origin for the influence they exert on migrants. This remains insufficiently understood, something which probably derives from the continued focus in policy development on legal issues associated with migration, which is intimately tied to moving bodies of (potential) migrants.

Kind regards,
Lothar Smith

--

Dr. Lothar Smith (MSc)
Assistant Professor
Human Geography, Nijmegen School of Management
Radboud University Nijmegen
http://www.ru.nl/socialegeografie
http://socgeo.ruhosting.nl/staff/47

Maybe a bit dated too, but it might give an idea about the Capeverdian diaspora in the Netherlands on circular migration matters: http://www.migration4development.org/content/going-circles-intergenerati...

best regards,

Ben Nienhuis

www.bonsnegocios.nl

I do agree with the points raised by Andrew and the final conclusion thereof.

However the key question still remains how to ensure the rights of the migrants are respected both by the sending and receiving countries.

In fact migrants themselves remain invisible while everyone benefits from their skills, knowledge and labour.

On the one hand, sending countries often blame them for leaving the home country looking for greener pastures.....while at the same time talk about remittances and other input and its contribution to the national economy and development.

On the other hand, receiving countries, while enjoying the benefits from talents, knowledge, skills and labour from migrants to the development of their economies, still consider migrants as unwelcome intruders.

On both sides they remain "unsung heros"

There must be more and more "honest brokers" so that the contribution of the migrants are well documented, transparently welcomed and officially acknowledged....and their rights protected.

I am working on brain-gain where most of the receiving countries continue benefiting from the talents of these educated migrants with no recognition of the contribution of the migrants to the economies and development of these countries.

Recognition by both sending and receiving countries of the contributions that migrants make and respecting their rights remain the fundamental issues.

Tewabech Bishaw

Alliance for Brain-Gain and Innovative Development (ABIDE) - Linking Ethiopians Globally for Increased Opportunities for Brain Gain.
http://www.hlmethiopia.org - Please visit us!

Over the last 12 years, through AfricaRecruit and FindaJobinAfrica.com, we have actively supported and/or facilitated circular migration, either directly or indirectly. I will respond directly to the three questions posed by Cecile in this e-discussion:

What measures and conditions might facilitate circular migration?
Short term in weeks so the diaspora can retain their jobs and/or business while they use their skills in their countries of origin, e.g. see: http://www.vso.org.uk/volunteer/diaspora-volunteering/diaspora-volunteer.... Generally speaking, the diaspora use annual, study or sabbatical leave to work abroad.
Diaspora linking into mainstream programmes, e.g. Institutional links between a diaspora organisation in the West and a named institution, e.g. see: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Healthcare/International/DH_474 and/or Governmental developmental-aid programmes.
The organisation in which the diaspora is working facilitating and/or supporting the process; enabling the diaspora to retain their job/appointment.
Diaspora taking up consulting and/or fixed term posts.

How might such mobility be beneficial to the countries of origin and destination, to the migrants themselves and to the employers?
In conditions where there is a need for the skills, in particular at top/executive and/or senior level this is very beneficial to the country. Leadership and transformational skills are areas of greatest demand, i.e. ministerial positions. In some cases the circular temporary route has resulted in the diaspora going back home on a permanent basis. The employer benefits from the knowledge, networks and experience of the diaspora, and more importantly it gives them more confidence in their ability to attract the diaspora.

What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?
In some cases, circular migration could be perceived as giving a preference for the diaspora above local talents. In particular, if the remuneration is different.
Another potential drawback is sustainability, both in terms of ensuring the skills are always available, i.e. not dependant on diaspora availability or lack of capable diaspora skills being available and costs to backfill.

- Dr Titilola A Banjoko, Africarecruit/Findajobinafrica.com, UK

Here is my contribution to the discussion.

1. What measures and conditions can facilitate circular migration?

Measures may be political, social and economic.  Circular migration takes place between countries of origin and destination – migrants and employers are the potential indicators.  To encourage circular migration certain conditions have to be ensured, namely: political will between the countries and this is key, signing bilateral or multilateral agreements, creating the conditions of pre-departure and departure of migrants through information and raising people’s awareness. 

Circular migration is in a way the promotion of legal migration between countries of the north and the south.  But on the other hand circular migration has existed since the dawn of time between countries in Africa.  Regarding, for example, the countries of West Africa where until today no visas exist between governments, the ECOWAS countries have introduced the free movement of people and goods.  That’s why Malians, Burkinas, Guineans and Senegalese went to Cote d’Ivoire to work in the coffee and cocoa plantations for a given period and returned to their villages of origin after one year or six months of work.

Today with the various crises in the sub-regional, migrants have turned to the north, but with the restrictions on obtaining a visa they take other routes which have become very dangerous for them.  That’s why I said in my opening remarks that only agreements between countries can ensure the safety of our migrants through legal migration.  Mali has signed several agreements with northern countries as part of legal migration, such as France and Spain, for example, Malian students are admitted into French universities, but after their studies most of them prefer to return to their country.  In the case of Spain, 2900 Malian seasonal workers worked in the fields in 2009, the last workers returned in April 2010.

2. Legal migration benefits both the countries of origin and destination, migrants and their employers. 
Countries of origin receive migrants’ remittances, the experiences they acquire are also major assets to the economy.  The country of destination also benefits from the increased value migrants bring to employers, in addition to increasing their production, they will also share other experiences with migrants.

3. The disadvantages of circular migration compared to permanent migration.
Migrants returning to their countries of origin will be completely disorientated in relation to the socio-economic situation, reintegration will be difficult, depending on the migrant’s length of stay in the country of destination.  In the country of destination adaptation will be a problem for some, the standard of living, buying power and health will be obstacles to the migrant’s human development.  On the other hand, permanent migration does not impose too many constraints once the migrant is legal and has a decent job he can build networks with his country of origin through investment and rehabilitation projects.

Thank you for your attention!

Madame Sy Cotiary Ba

Head, Department of Economic Promotion and Reintegration of Returning Malians

General Delegation of Malians Abroad, Ministry of Malians Abroad
Bamako, Mali

Thank you for the interesting discussion on circular migration, which still is a somewhat blurry concept.  It seems that it makes sense to distinguish two forms of circular migration – circular migration “by choice” (which happens spontaneously where the absence of visa requirements or secure legal status in more than one country permit) and circular migration “by design” (where repeat temporary labour or return migration is facilitated by unilateral programmes or bilateral agreements). 

From a human development perspective, it is desirable that migrants have a choice to go back and forth between countries at will, rather than having to follow imposed limitations on the duration of their stay, as is the case under managed circular migration programmes.   However, opportunities for spontaneous circulation are becoming scarcer, as governments are under real or perceived pressure to prove that they are in control of migration flows.  Does circulation migration create new migration opportunities, or does it merely introduce an element of management into flows that were previously happening on a spontaneous basis?

So the focus is very much on the managed version of circular migration, which is difficult to distinguish from other forms of (sometimes repeat) temporary migration, such as seasonal labour migration.  As the term ‘circular migration’ is being used in the current international policy dialogue on ‘migration and development’, it suggests that, as a form of managed migration, it is associated with additional development benefits for countries of origin, as well as for countries of destination and migrants.

The question is how those development benefits come about?  What can countries do to facilitate them (how much state intervention is necessary?), and what do other stakeholders need to do?   

As with other forms of migration, the human development benefits of circular migration are likely to hinge on: a) who moves; b) how they fare abroad; c) how they fare upon return; d) whether there is an enabling environment at origin and destination that allows for the contributions of migrants to be translated into development gains.

Attending to all those dimensions actually makes designing circular migration schemes quite demanding. Countries would need to ponder a whole range of questions such as:

  • Do the poor have access to circular migration?
  • Do circular migrants have access to rights and protection?
  • Do circular migrants have the opportunity to use their skills and knowledge while abroad?
  • Do they have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills while abroad?
  • Do they have the opportunity to use new knowledge and skills upon return?
  • Is there flexibility in terms of the duration of stay?
  • Is there employer portability?
  • Is there portability of social security benefits?
  • Is there access to low-cost, formal channels for remittances transfers and receipts, as well as access to financial products for saving, investment, insurance?

We could create an ideal type of a circular migration programme for which the answer to all those questions would be “yes”.  That would still leave the questions of ‘who’ and ‘how’; of how to share responsibilities between governments, the private sector and civil society.   Who determines labour needs? Who selects migrants? Who is responsible for providing migrants with what kind of training?  Who helps migrants re-integrate into the labour market of their country of origin? 

The benefits and drawbacks of circular migration programmes will depend on the answers to those kinds of questions, as they determine how the costs and rewards of such schemes are being distributed.

Probing the potential of circular migration programmes to contribute to filling skills gaps at origin and destination may be a good lens through which to assess some of their benefits and drawbacks.

Indeed, more macro-level development gains are likely to hinge on whether circular migration can help fill critical gaps in the labour market of receiving countries, and whether it can contribute to generate/retain the kinds of skills that developing countries need to staff and/or develop certain sectors or industries.

This, however, requires the ability to forecast and predict labour and skills needs and to translate those needs into education and training programmes. For countries and communities of origin, it would require the ability to identify competitive advantages in particular sectors or branches of industry and to use circular migration strategically to develop those sectors/branches.  However, it would seem that capacities to predict and respond to skills needs are limited.

Even where skills needs are known, e.g. through regular surveys of employers, the challenge remains to translate those needs into adequate education and training.  Migrants themselves as they invest in their own and their children’s education may not have the best information on what kinds of skills will be needed.  Also, skills acquired abroad may not be as relevant or applicable in the local context in countries of origin. Circular migration may thus need to be embedded in initiatives (including the targeted allocation of ODA?) to invest in universities and (vocational) schools and the building of partnerships between such institutions in countries of origin and destination.

Many of these points obviously need more nuanced consideration, which some were given during a discussion on labour migration & education that took place at the Practitioners Symposium of the Global Migration Group (see: www.globalmigrationgroup.org) organized in Geneva last week.  The summary of the Symposium is forthcoming and will be posted on the event website.

The overall point to make here is that the ‘triple-win’ of managed circular migration for countries of origin, destination and migrants is not a given, but is likely to require the engagement of a large network of partners, the development of awareness and capacities, investments in infrastructures, services  etc. 

This raises the question of whether the alternative of allowing for more circular migration ‘by choice’ could result in similar development benefits, but at a lower cost…

Best regards,

Sarah Rosengaertner

UNDP Bureau for Development Policy, New York

Adding to the reply by Michael Boampong which in my opinion gives more clearer view to circular migration in Q3 "What might be the drawbacks of circular migration, as opposed to more permanent migration?"

• Language deficiency and lack of will to learn the language of the country of choice of migration to the migrant due to the temporary nature of his migration can pose a drastic drawback to circular migration.