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Towards a Coherent Policy of Co-Development -- Patrick Weil

Towards a Coherent Policy of Co-Development

Cooperative Efforts to Manage Emigration (CEME)

Patrick Weil

May 3, 2001

Summary 2

Introduction 3

1. The Problems: Crossing Complaints and Failures 5

A) The concerns of receiving countries 5

a) the failure of restrictionism 5

b) labor force and demographic concerns 7

c) illegal immigration 7

B) The concerns of sending countries 8

a) Fortress Europe and North America 8

b) brain drain 8

C) The concerns of immigrants 9

a) difficulties of circulation for those who do not wish to migrate 9

b) difficulties of re-circulation for those who do migrate 9

c) lack of confidence in the financial and banking system 10

2. The solution: co-development that adapts to the needs of migrants 11

A) Benefits of co-development for the country of origin 11

a) increased access to visas 11

b) increased impact of remittances 12

c) re-circulation of unskilled workers, skilled workers and retirees 13

B) Benefits for the Receiving Country 15

a) contributions to the labor force 16

b) control of Illegal Immigration 18

Conclusion 18


This paper is a first draft. It seeks to demonstrate the major benefits that a dedicated policy of co-development can bring to three major actors affected by immigration: receiving states, countries of origin, and the immigrants themselves. True co-development involves sustained cooperation between receiving nations and source nations in the management of both legal and illegal migratory flows. At the same time, it fosters the economic and demographic development of both the sending and the receiving country. This cooperation is based in large measure on understanding that, more than ever before, the best migration policy for developed nations is one that seeks not to block but to smoothly regulate the circulation and re-circulation of the majority of foreigners and immigrants. As a result, Northern countries will be able to concentrate the State's limited control and repression resources on selected targets such as criminals, delinquents and migrants arrested multiple times for unauthorized entry or residence. Developed nations must recognize that the vast majority of immigrants wish to retain close links to their country of origin, and with drastically improved transportation and communication links, most migrants are increasingly able to do so. Northern states should adapt policies that, for the most part, accommodate immigrants' wishes to maintain active ties to their homeland; such measures are generally in the best interests of the receiving countries, source countries, and of course the immigrants themselves.

After a brief introduction, this paper considers first the various problems faced by these three main actors regarding migration as they seek to pursue activities in their best interest. I will then discuss the advantages that a policy of co-development has for these actors along the following lines:

- For receiving nations in terms of 1) meeting labor force needs, 2) reducing demographic problems and 3) controlling illegal immigration.

- For source countries in terms of 1) increased access to visas, 2) increased amounts and efficacy of remittances, and 3) the return and re-circulation of skilled and seasonal workers, and of retirees.

The interests of the immigrants themselves will be considered at various points throughout the discussion, in the context of the effects that various policies of both the receiving and countries will have on them.


When one has to conclude a lecture or a speech on immigration, often he or she says somewhat pompously: "the ‘solution' resides in development". While it might sound appealing, this phrase generally means little. It camouflages the fact that the major efforts to foster the economic development of Southern nations are carried out by organizations such as the World Bank, IMF and OMC which take no interest in the issue of migration. When nation-states engage in so-called "co-development" efforts, which in theory links immigration policy and development, this frequently camouflages what are essentially attempts by receiving countries to forcibly return illegal immigrants after providing them some modest financial assistance or perhaps a rapid and largely ineffective professional formation (as has been the case with France). What I seek to demonstrate in this paper is that there is a ground for mutually beneficial cooperation between sending and receiving countries in the co-management of immigration flows if they put on the table the various problems they face in their emigration and immigration policies and work together to resolve those issues.

The European Union's summit in Tampere, which was held the 15th and 16th of October 1999, addressed a wide range of migration issues and called for further harmonization of policies as well as improved management of migration flows. The European leaders also reiterated the need for their countries to work more effectively with source countries of immigration to reduce emigration pressures while, at the same time, attending to the integration of legal immigrants into European society: "The European Union needs a comprehensive approach to migration addressing political, human rights and development issues in countries and regions of origin and transit. This requires combating poverty, improving living conditions and job opportunities, preventing conflicts and consolidating democratic states and ensuring respect for human rights, in particular rights of minorities, women and children. To that end, the Union as well as Member States are invited to contribute, within their respective competence under the Treaties, to a greater coherence of internal and external policies of the Union. Partnership with third countries concerned will also be a key element for the success of such a policy, with a view to promoting co-development. In this context, the European Council welcomes the report of the High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration set up by the Council, and agrees on the continuation of its mandate and on the drawing up of further Action Plans. […] The European Council stresses the need for more efficient management of migration flows at all their stages. It calls for the development, in close co-operation with countries of origin and transit, of information campaigns on the actual possibilities for legal immigration, and for the prevention of all forms of trafficking in human beings."

The EU Commission reemphasized and built upon these conclusions from the Tampere summit in a recent working paper published in November 2000. The report explains:

"The Member States at the Tampere Council acknowledged the principle that an EU asylum and immigration policy must necessarily involve co-operation with the countries of origin and transit of migrants. [….]With today's increasingly mixed flows of migrants caused by economic and other reasons and with populations straddling two cultures as part of survival strategies it is possible to develop policies which use migration to the mutual benefit of the country of origin and the receiving country.. "[1]

These reports, along with North America's Puebla Agreement and recent efforts to create a free trade zone throughout the Americas, demonstrate that the timing is quite propitious for developing a coherent policy of cooperation between receiving and source states in the management of migrant flows—also known as co-development—in order to effect positive outcomes for host nations, countries of origin, and for immigrants themselves. The need for significant changes in migration policy becomes strikingly clear when we consider the failures and dissatisfactions the current approach has brought to all of these main actors in the migration process. Thus, I begin by briefly discussing the basic complaints coming from these different actors.

The Problems: Crossing Complaints and Failures

Concerns of Receiving Countries

The Failure of Restrictionism
Over the past 20 years, policymakers in a number of developed countries have attempted to implement policies of « zero immigration ». Instituted in 1973-1974, the European "ban" on immigration actually only affected the arrival of non-skilled and non-European labor immigrants. Since then, in all EU countries, residents of the European Union, spouses of citizens, families of resident legal aliens, recognized political refugees, and often even skilled workers of all origins have continued to receive residence permits. Some states have attempted to further restrict immigration by limiting access to family reunification and refugee migration, but these efforts have generally resulted in debacles for the host state and immigrants alike. Such policies create various obstacles to individuals who have legitimate reasons for entering the receiving country since the host state is operating under the assumption that many individuals applying to migrate through legal avenues are frauds. To consider a concrete recent example of the various downsides associated with such a highly restrictive immigration policy, one can look to France's brief experience with this approach in the mid-1990s. In an effort to combat "frauds", additional barriers were imposed for all visa delivery and legitimate French-foreigner marriages as well as family reunification were viewed with suspicion, often resulting in deterrence and delays for legitimate immigrants. By carrying out this policy, France often violated the fundamental rights of those involved. Moreover, the restrictionist strategy did not even succeed in its principal goals because the repression of immigration between badly disorganized. The police, who without a significant increase in resources were not responsible for controlling "marriages of convenience," illegal family reunification, students extending their stays, "fake" demanders of asylum, and other "illegal immigrants," found themselves overloaded with work. Forced to choose, they often opted for the easiest and least dangerous targets: students, businessmen, families, or future spouses, even those these were often the individuals with the most legitimate claim to immigrate and who could bring some of the greatest benefits to France.

Overall, when countries have implemented restrictive laws that curtail access to legal entrance migrants have simply arrived without authorization and used various methods to remain in the receiving state. Since the migration of many of these migrants (for instance those who are attempting to re-unify with their families) is perceived as legitimate by a large part of the population, they benefit from widespread sympathy and mobilization. After some delay, governments legalize their status. Thus, highly restrictive immigration policies are extremely inefficient. Not only do they call into question the host country's commitment to basic human rights, they are ineffective as it is simply not possible for receiving states to limit legitimate immigration flows efficiently by themselves. Finally, highly restrictive immigration laws are poor public policy because they render it more difficult for host countries to reap the important benefits of immigration in terms of contributing to the labor force and to improving the problematic demographic situations many of them face. Rather than attempting to exclude immigration as much as possible, it is clearly in the best interest of immigrants and of host countries themselves to develop policies that allow a reasonable number of individuals to immigrate through the three main traditional avenues: 1) family reunification, 2) refugee status, and a more recent one which must be reopened in the light of new market needs: 3) meeting labor force demands. As I discuss below, however, such balanced approaches to migration will still not obviate the problem of unauthorized entrants, and this is where cooperation with the source countries can play a key role.

Demographic and Labor Needs
Although unemployment is still high in much of Europe, many firms are facing labor shortages and recently a number of businesses and economic experts have stepped up demands for a re-initiation of labor migrations. Advocates of a more liberal immigration policy have seen their cause bolstered by a recent UN report on "Replacement Migration[2]" which demonstrates the need of for Europe to increase immigration in order to maintain its active or even its total population. It is important to note that the demographic situations of different industrialized nations vary greatly, and that countries with longer histories of substantial immigration, such as France, Britain and the United States will not face the same level of population aging as many other developed countries. Still, virtually all developed states will need some continued immigration to maintain active populations large enough to pay for the pensions of retirees. To preserve the current size of its active population, even France will need to welcome roughly 100,000 immigrants per year between 2000 and 2050. During this same period, Italy will need 400,000 immigrants annually and Germany 500,000.

Illegal Immigration
Unless host states implement a policy of totally open borders for anyone who wishes to immigrate, whatever the means one uses to define who is authorize to enter and who is not (quotas or individual categorizations), some persons will not qualify for legal admission. Billions of human beings are residing in under-developed areas and it is normal that some of them, even if a small minority, will try to immigrate illegally. Yet legal norms and lack of administrative resources mean that forced repatriation of these individuals is extremely difficult. For instance, in 1997, the Parisian police daily questioned an average of 100 undocumented immigrants only to release 80 of those 100 persons within an hour. Common causes for their releases were a shortage of places in detention centers or a consideration of difficult relations between France and the undocumented immigrant's country of origin.

In short, as long as huge inequalities exist between developed and undeveloped nations, significant levels of attempted illegal immigration will persist, and lack of cooperation between source and host states intensifies the phenomenon of undocumented immigration since the country of origin can be a major obstacle to host states' efforts to deport illegal entrants. In particular, source nations sometimes refuse to give emigrants necessary documentation for their repatriation. This causes major difficulties for host states that must follow various procedures designed to respect human rights in their deportation of unauthorized migrants. The bottom line here is that, despite numerous efforts in recent decades, experience has shown that it is simply not possible for receiving states to limit immigration flows effectively by themselves.

Concerns of Source Countries

Fortress Europe and North America
Source countries naturally have objections to the additional immigration restrictions imposed by virtually all European and North American states in recent decades. Visas applicants are facing significant hardships in Western consulates. Yet emigration has always been an important safety valve in various places throughout the world to assist individuals from developing states who lack adequate work and resources in their home country. The money that emigrants send back to their relatives can also have major benefits in terms of the economic development of specific communities or of the source state as a whole.

Brain Drain
Source countries do not entirely benefit from their citizens' emigration, however. In fact, a commonly discussed phenomenon is the problem of the most talented individuals leaving their home countries for higher education abroad and then never returning. From the point of view of sending countries, this type of emigration obviously deprives them of a major resource. Often, African countries accuse European states of brain draining their elite for their own selfish needs. I will turn to appropriate solutions for this problem below, but here I would like to point out that underdeveloped countries cannot reduce this problem by simply asking developed ones to deny work permits to these individuals after they finish their studies. If foreign students with degrees from, for instance, European universities do not want to return to their country of origin, they will not do so. Whether they are originally African, Asian or South American, they are now—with a degree from a European or North American university—part of a global labor market. And if France and Europe refuse work permits to these individuals, they will simply receive a job offer in the United States, Japan, Canada or Australia. Thus, these students will still be "lost" to their country of origin, and in addition, they will be lost to the country where they obtained their higher education as well.

Concerns of Immigrants

Difficulties of Circulation for Those who do not Want to Migrate
One of most unfortunate aspects of restrictive immigration policies is that they tend to view all foreigners from developing nations as potential illegal immigrants. More specifically, host countries with restrictive immigration laws generally limit access to travel visas for these foreigners. Circulation has often been drastically limited as a result. Besides the hardship this creates for tourists, such a restrictionist policy towards visa distribution has more serious consequences in terms of limiting travel access for individuals with business, intellectual, or family contacts in the host country.

Difficulties of Re-Circulation for those who do Migrate
As mentioned above, migrants tend to have an interest in maintaining relations with their home country. Depending on their legal status, age, and their desire to return home at some point, this involves either permanently moving back or making frequent trips between their host and home nation. A permanent worker might want to retire in his country of origin without having to worry about still receiving his pension and/or about obtaining a visa to return to the host country to visit friends and family or to complete a medical check up; a seasonal worker could be ready to return home at the end of the season but desires a guarantee to benefit from a new contract the following year; students need to gain resources and professional experience before they begin work either in their home country or on a project that is designed to bring major benefits to their home country. All too often, countries have continued to behave like what I have previously called l'Etat inerte of the 19th and early 20th centuries[3], meaning they wanted populations to be stable. These states can deal with migrants so long as they migrate a very limited number of times and then remain where they are. Such nations' continued failure to adapt to the situations discussed above means that many immigrants are forced to choose strategies that inhibit them from returning home because they fear losing their right to return to the host state and thus being able to continue benefiting from the social, economic, and/or intellectual advantages they have accumulated there.

Lack of Confidence in the Financial and Banking System
A major obstacle for immigrants who wish to use the resources and skills they have gained living abroad to bring benefits to their home countries is the lack of a reliable financial and banking systems in many source nations. This issue involves problems ranging from the extraordinarily high commissions that many immigrants must pay to send remittances to their relatives, to, on a more dramatic scale, immigrants being unable to find loans and other sources of investments for major business projects in their countries of origin.


A strategy of committed co-development between host countries and countries of origin can address the problems of these three major immigration actors through a series of tradeoffs that facilitate the improved management of legal migration flows and, at the same time, better cooperation in the management of illegal flows. As mentioned above, this cooperation should be based, in large measure, on recognizing that the best migration policy for all those involved is one that seeks not to block but to smoothly regulate the circulation and re-circulation of the majority of foreigners and immigrants, thus also allowing the control and repression resources of the States to concentrate on selected targets. The rest of this paper discusses the specific benefits that such a policy of co-development could have, first from the perspective of the country of origin, and then from that of the receiving country, with the interests of the immigrants themselves discussed in these general contexts.

Creating Co-Development Policies that Adapt to the Needs of Migrants

Benefits of Co-Development for the Country of Origin

Co-development can have a positive impact on countries of origin and their citizens in three major domains: 1) increased circulation of non-immigrants through better access to visas 2) greater impact of remittances 3) return and re-circulation of skilled persons, retirees, and seasonal workers

Increased Access to Visas
As I discussed above when I considered the complaints of citizens of developing countries, the difficulty they have in obtaining visas to visit developed countries can pose major obstacles whether they are permanent immigrants making round-trip journeys or simply wish to visit a country for tourism or business. Not only does this situation create obvious problems for these individuals from developing countries, it can have negative ramifications for the developing countries more broadly by limiting the capacity of their citizens to increase trade and intellectual exchange. A prime goal of a sustained, dedicated policy of co-development would to encourage rather than discourage this sort of travel by nationals of developing countries through increased access to visas. To fulfill this strategy, refusal of visas should be submitted to some formal, independent review of visa decisions[4] and when a citizen, resident legal immigrant, or domestic business is seriously affected by a negative decision, host countries could to be forced to justify their denial of a visa. Visa policy also clearly has an important impact on immigrant workers and retirees, but I consider this below when I discuss co-development policies that can encourage the increased circulation of such individuals.

Greater Impact of Remittances and Economic Investments
On one level, the additional legal immigration allowed by co-development would evidently increase the level of remittances sent back to countries of origin as more permanent and/or seasonal workers would be able to migrate and find jobs in the developed world. Yet co-development aims not simply to increase the sheer amount of remittances, but also to augment the impact that these remittances have on individuals and the economy of the source nations. A dedicated policy of co-development would include guarantees by the countries of origin to tackle the corruption that often skims off large portions of the remittances designed to help needy individuals. Likewise, co-development would involve the establishment of mechanisms to allow immigrants to send remittances to their families more efficiently and cheaply than by using money services which often take a substantial portion of this money. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, an effective strategy of co-development would involve measures designed to encourage persons who receive remittances to put the money towards projects that would foster economic development in the home country. A classic example would be to encourage a community receiving a substantial amount of remittances to build a factory rather than a house of worship. To cite one example, France and Mali have recently signed a convention designed to address many of these issues that would increase the impact of remittances from Malians working in France (the United States and Mexico have worked out similar measures).

Return and Re-Circulation of Workers and Retirees
Co-development would bring benefits to the source country through measures that will permit immigrants—depending on their status—to re-circulate far more easily than they can as of now.

The first issue to be considered is that of retirees, some of whom are relatively young, who have worked in a host country for many years and fear returning to their country of origin because they worry that a) they will not receive their pensions and b) they will not be able to return to the host country,] to visit friends or get medical care. This has created sometimes tragic situations in which retired men remain in the host nation despite a strong desire to return to their families in their country of origin. Measures could be taken to grant these individuals a permanent visa to circulate and re-circulate and guarantee their continued access to medical assistance in the host country. Moreover, the host state should establish mechanisms to ensure that retirees who return home will continue to receive their pensions. This security would give retirees a far greater incentive to return to their country of origin, where they could rejoin their families and contribute to their home nation's economic development by spending their pension at home rather than in the host country. In addition, they could impart to their local communities any relevant education and skills they had gained while abroad. It should be noted that this situation would also benefit the host country, as the departure of such retired individuals would reduce burdens on various social services institutions.

These policies involving retirees are not merely conceivable on paper. In the US, Green cards permit this circulation and re-circulation. Similarly, in 1998, France promulgated a law which ensured that after 15 years of professional activity in France, foreigners attain the right to a carte de « retraité ». The new policy allows these individuals to circulate freely between their country of origin and France without having to worry about being refused a visa. Moreover, the law ensures that such retirees will continue to receive their pensions if they return home, and that they will have access to the French medical system should they need it.

As in the case of retirees, a proper approach to seasonal workers as part of an overall strategy of co-development involves clear benefits for home countries and the seasonal migrants themselves. In France, until the mid-1980s, tens of thousands of seasonal laborers were recruited every year from Spain, Portugal and Morocco. There are now fewer than 10,000 each year. The fear in host countries which have a great deal of experience with this type of migration (like the US) is often that these temporary workers will stay permanently. In Europe, states are acting also in the context of high unemployment in the domestic unskilled labor market. Seasonal worker programs should be implemented only under the conditions that (1) there is an adequate level of control over unauthorized entry and (2) incentives are in place for employers to hire domestic workers or take other actions, such as mechanization, to reduce dependence on foreign workers. Nevertheless, labor shortages in various sectors will likely persist even with these measures—in part because there are various jobs that domestic workers refuse to fill. For instance, despite very high unemployment rates in certain regions, Italy's need for seasonal labor has caused it to sign agreements with Morocco, Tunisia and Albania in recent years allowing the seasonal migration tens of thousands of laborers. Co-development could involve new approaches to seasonal migration that will be beneficial to all those involved. Seasonal migrants could have renewable visas that would allow them to work for a certain period of time several consecutive years in the host country on the condition that they return home after each working season. Furthermore, they would not have to risk their personal safety—as thousands of migrants do every year—trying to gain entry illegally to host countries that have attempted to close their borders almost completely to unskilled workers. It is important to remember that the wages a seasonal laborer can earn working a few months in a developed country can often support him and his family for an entire year in the country of origin. Naturally, this influx of money also helps foster the overall economic development of the home country.

Emphasizing the importance of re-circulation applies to skilled laborers just as it does for retirees and unskilled workers. Foreign students who receive university degrees in American and European countries should be encouraged to circulate between their host country and their home state, rather than face government-imposed obstacles to such movement. Mechanisms to accomplish this goal include at least two principal components: (1) modifying foreign aid disbursement so that more of it is available to these skilled individuals who wish to initiate development projects in their home country, perhaps in the form of loans with very low interest rates, rather than simply giving such aid to (often corrupt) central governments, and (2) granting permanent visas (or some rough equivalent of them) so that skilled persons know they can return home without worrying about never having the chance to travel back to their host country. The policies I have outlined here would encourage skilled individuals to make contributions to both their host and home countries; by fostering intellectual exchanges and economic growth in both states, they would become crucial private agents of co-development.

Benefits of Co-development for the Receiving Country

Until this poin