Migration policies should be relaxed to aid the poor

University of Sussex researchers talking to families in Burkina Faso about climate change and migration

Barriers to migration should be reduced to enable migrants to play a positive role in both industrialised and developing countries, says a leading University of Sussex research group.

The findings, produced by the Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty (Migration DRC), are published in a research brief launched today (Monday 5th October) to coincide with the United Nations’ 2009 Human Development Report, which this year is addresses human mobility and development.


The report is a summary of six years of investigation into migration policy and practice. Established through funding from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) in 2003, the Sussex-based Centre developed a programme of research, capacity-building, training and promotion of dialogue to underpin new policy approaches to migration and development.


The economic value of migration to poor countries is already well-established, with migrant workers sending over $300bn to developing countries, around four times global aid flows. However, the Centre’s findings indicate that for migration to have its full developmental impact, the most beneficial policy change would be to reduce barriers to migration, at all levels and particularly for the poorest.


Yet according to the findings report, policy on migration in developing countries remains fragmentary, and there is still a lack of consensus on what pro-poor migration policies should look like in poor countries.


Professor Richard Black, the Centre’s Director, said: “Our research shows that migration can be seen as part of the solution to problems of underdevelopment. Instead, most governments still assume that more development is the solution to problems of migration. In many cases, migration of poor people helps reduce poverty, improve educational attainment and increase gender equality. But government policies matter a great deal in facilitating such positive change by migrants.”

Key findings in the 30-page document, which includes links to core research and policy briefings produced by Migration DRC, include:


  • Poor people are more likely to travel and work within or between poor countries, yet they are often ignored in international debates about migration;
  • Migration, particularly among the young, often stimulates investment in education, either in the country of origin or destination.
  • Where poor people have a greater choice in terms of migration destinations, the net effect on inequality is more likely to be positive.
  • Skilled migration is largely a symptom, not a cause of underdevelopment.
  • Policies that support migrant communities can contribute to the development of their countries of origin; migrants do not need to return to be effective and sustainable.


The Centre’s work has included the compilation of data on migration flows, with an emphasis on those previously least well-represented; analysis of the links between migration, globalisation and poverty and reviews of emerging migration issues and policies. Field research was conducted in a number of countries in West Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and South-East Europe.


This work has resulted in the compilation of a number of robust databases and user-friendly web resources; the production of more than 40 working papers and 50 refereed journal articles or book chapters; and new conceptual approaches in areas that include, but are not limited to, the migration of children and youth; mobility of highly-skilled professionals; and social protection by and for migrant workers.



Notes for Editors


Richard Black is director of the Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty and a member of the academic advisory panel for the UN’s Human Development Report. He is available for interviews, which can be arranged through the Press office. Contact Maggie Clune on +44 (0)1273 678 209 or email press@sussex.ac.uk


A copy of the Centre’s key findings report will be made available on request and is subject to embargo restrictions. Please contact the Press office for a copy.


To find out more about the work of the centre, visit its web page.

Last updated: Sunday, 4 October 2009