Visit our Bookstore
Home | Fiction | Nonfiction | Novels | |
Innisfree Poetry | Enskyment Journal | International | FACEBOOK | Poetry Scams | Stars & Squadrons | Newsletter


International Migration and Development Revisited

By Raïs Neza Boneza


Bio Other articles in this series...

Transcend Africa Network: Report on Refugees


War and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the Great - Lakes Region of Africa


Africa in the Face of the Development of Others


Ghettoization or Globalization Of African Literature


Great Lakes Region of Africa - Burundi


Sudanese Internal Displaced People


Rwanda: Conflict, Genocide and Post Genocide


Child Rights Associations/Youth Movements in Rwanda


Assistance, Bi-lateral Cooperation and Humanitarian Interventions


Please send Paypal Donations for Rais' Transcend Africa Network to
Click here to Write Rais Neza Boneza
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques


© Rais Neza Boneza  2006


Legal or illegal, international migrations have become a key element of economic development of the North as well as and at some extinct South countries. The economic and social imbalances between the two hemispheres explain the orientation of the flows. Economic crises in underprivileged countries became high providers of populations’ displacement. According to the usual theory of migration; it is underlined that: "Migrants are rational beings who fled toward favourable regions, where their needs for a secure or better life can be met." (Harris John et Todaro Michael, "Migration, unemployment and development: a two-sector analysis" in The American Economic Review, vol LX, n°1, 1970, p. 126-142).

In fact, on the other hand, international migrations are perceived by the North as a threat for the economies, while in the South they are considered "factors of decompression of regional demographical and economic systems (Lalou R., « Les migrations internationales en Afrique de l’Ouest face à la crise » in Coussy J. et Vallin J., Crise et population en Afrique. Crises économiques, politiques d’ajustement et dynamiques, démographiques. Paris, CEPED, 1996, p. 347.).

Previous years have seen a rivalry between Africa and Europe as an increase of the population flow. Hardly controllable, the pressure exercised by the international migrants to the doorsteps of the European Union has been highlighted by recent events in Morocco recalling our memory: "Six migrants have been shot dead in clashes with Moroccan troops after trying to cross a fence around the Spanish enclave of Melilla (BBC, 6 0ct 05)".

Nevertheless, experts and policy makers seem not to be able to define a concrete method of development, or not to take enough time to realize that it reduces the migratory pressure in a significant way. The majority presupposes theoretically that by mobilizing important means in favour of south-countries it can produce a positive result in the long term. However, the developed nations are not for the moment ready to implement such resources toward mobilization.

Beyond this political unwillingness of the developed nations, the scientific legitimacy related to development-international migration is presented as obvious and has never been verifiable empirically. In fact, the idea that links migration to development appears to be a narrow point of view. Development has never had as an immediate corollary the desire to stop immigration. Reasonable assistance for development of the countries in the south may not be a prerequisite to hindering migratory pressures, but it can be one of the remedies to stop it.

Daum C. said: The development of countries results from the deconstruction of prior equilibrium factors, which will produce later immigrations ("Hommes and Migrations" may 9, p 9). On the other hand, when the international migrant transfers a part of their revenue in their country of origin, whether to directly support their family, or by associating with other migrants to create NGOs, it is not certain that their objectives and their actions are perfectly integrated to a sustainable development of their society, like the well being their own family. For example the Somalis in Norway using the Hawala- or the hundi- system to transfer money, contribute only to maintain an auto-subsistence economy in crisis back home in Somalia. While the average working force is decreasing among the populations in Baidoa (regional centre of the Bay Region of Somalia), the monetary demand increases. Paradoxally, the migrants at distance participate in maintaining the economy that they have left.

Migratory policies in the European Union

The common thought has been that economic globalization will induce free international mobility, but a report from OCDE (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 2000 entitled "Globalization, migrations and development" underlines that economic globalization is not synonymous with free circulation of people and their goods. On the other hand, the rich countries tend to close their borders. Among the countries of the OCDE, the United States and Germany are the first immigration countries, with respectively 798.400 and 615 300 entries in 1997. Japan, Canada, The United Kingdom come next. These numbers do not consider illicit entries.

The attitude toward migration depends fundamentally on:

their own history ( The conditions of their historical peopling processes, nation or state making);

their development level (that must be sufficient to create an income differential attracting the migrants) and

their current financial situations (growth, stagnation, recession).

For example two political phenomena emerge from the attitude of the states as "a savoir":

The closing in the case of the European Union, while this entity remains attractive for Africans, Asian and East-European migrants;

The opening, in the case of North America, that remain an eldorado for Asians, Latino Americans and Africans.

The phenomena (opening and closing) presented here exemplify the migratory policy to the north, which exists equally for the countries of the south which experience a relative development and consequently become attractive for candidates to immigration (e.g. Libya, South Africa).

Nevertheless, the inherent constraints to economic integration and the persistence of the migratory flows drive the countries of the European Union to develop a cooperation aiming to control the circulation of individuals. In 1985, the Schengen agreement was signed by Germany, Belgium, France, the Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This progressively included most of the states members, plus countries such as Norway. These agreements introduced the circulation of persons inside the union, and foresaw that in compensation the states can enjoy a common political coordinated control policy.

Kaikoku or Sakoku: The Japanese Case

The Japanese policy Kaikoku or Sakoku (opening and closing), became a veritable issue following the 80’s development boom that allowed Japan to compete with the United States. Japan realised a formidable development without using immigrant workers, but by building a unique organizational model linking narrowly, almost in an organic way, the business corporation and people society.

The Japanese social and economic organization model relies on a continuous and effective training system, an educated working body, and a business union assuring a relational cooperation between employers and employees. This model is effective in making it difficult for foreign workers (called Kam-Ban) to integrate the Japanese job market and society.

However it is important to understand that to be a country of immigration (in Europe or Scandinavia) or country of immigrant[s] (in North America) does sometime imply the same social, political and economic attitudes toward the migrants.

The Japanese system is different from the United States, which was proclaimed: "A Nation of Immigrants" in the earlier 60’s (J.F. Kennedy). In 1835 Tocqueville de Alexis (Democracy in America, Gallimard 98) wrote that, according to his observation:" Immigration is the founding myth in the construction of the democracy and the American identity."

The consequences of international mobility in south-countries

It is said that the settlement of immigrants and their families comes to rejuvenate the population of the industrialized countries. But it provokes reverse phenomena such as the ageing of the population in migrant producing countries. In general, immigrant recipient countries call upon active young and masculine working groups.

In the case of Africa, although the growth rate of its population; indeed, especially in rural environments; there is a decrease of the active population, fleeing toward urban areas or to foreign countries. The portion of the population remaining mostly constitutes the youngest, women and the eldest people. The women try to compensate for the absence of the active men. As more men leave than women; an imbalance in relation to masculinity is created because of the "ageing" of the population remaining. Therefore, more or less, the long absence of men constrains the women to play the main role as responsible for the household.

The proportion of women mainly responsible for the household was systematised by Marino describing the case of Caribbean lands (Marino A., 1970., « Family, fertility, sex ratios in the British Caribbean » in Population Studies, 24 (2), August 1970, p. 159-172.)



Because of political decisions that aim to reduce or to control the flows, displaced migrants or refugees face hardships in realising their goals. Whether in the north or the south, the migratory spaces tend to shrink. Migrants have experienced complexities during their traverses in order to succeed in their initial objective. From the point of view of countries in the south, international migration as well as internal migrations (rural exodus), are historically the consequence of the breakdown of local structures. This destructuralization produces imbalances in local society. First of all considering the brutal changes in the demographic structure of the migrant’s society of origin such as:

an ageing of the population due to the displacement of the active age class

an imbalanced gender parity men- women) as the demands of work market prioritize masculinity (men workers).


These upheavals can sometimes produce unexpected social consequences in case of traditional or strongly patriarchal society such as:

Improvement in the status of non-migrant women because of the absence of men. The women are obliged to assume wider responsibilities at the family level and community.

Simultaneously, the wider responsibility is paralleled to a larger autonomy of women

Women become individual actors that strive to improve social norms which may be or have been imposed upon them due to a geographic and social stagnation or dependant mobility.


Generally economically, funds are repatriated by the migrants in their poor country of origin; quantitatively this is poorly destined for vital sectors that could have created long term development. Of course, these money transfers play a role of "remedy" allowing families to survive and remain attached to their country of origin. Often, in addition to the departure of the migrants abroad, the relatives deart for urban zones; perhaps to obtain better remunerations or other possibilities such education, but while remaining nearer the family.

In this essay, I have tried to describe mostly my experience and observation regarding development and displacement. Nevertheless, international migration can be considered as an exogenous factor of development, even though it is simplistic to consider it as a prerequisite for development. At this point, I cannot confirm that displacement or immigration secures long term development. Perhaps it exists as a real example of microscopic development due to population displacement in some societies. But considering the reason and often the uncertainty of the migrant to realize his dream; displacement and development have become complex themes. Especially we do not precisely state what kind of development theory or paradigm we need to be dealing with. In recipient countries, the migrants (legal or illegal) were most of the time involuntarily forced to flee their home (for political or social reasons). In fact, they may participate in the creation of wealth and the economic development of their new country, but often they still are considered or treated as citizens of a second category with limited rights.

In the case of refugees, political crises can be lively for the countries that are constrained to welcome them because of geographic or ethnic proximity with the conflict zone. And, when natural catastrophes have been the cause of their escape, their misfortune or plight is negotiated internationally or regionally. These are often sources of political tension.


References and Sources:

Oppong Christine, "Somes roles of women : what do we know ? conceptual and methodological issues in subsaharan Africa" in Seminar onwomen's status and population change in subsuharan Africa organized by the Committee on gender and IUSSP, Senegal, march 3-6, 1993, 32 p.

Tapinos Georges, « Clandestine migration : economic and political issues » in Trends in international migrations : rapport SOPEMI, OCDE, partie III, Paris, 1999, p. 229-251.

"Migratory pressure : an expression of concern or a analytical concept ?" in Tapinos Georges et Keeley Charles B., Migration and population : two views on international migration, BIT, Genève, 1993.

Asfar, R. (2000b) Rural Urban Migration in Bangladesh: Causes Consequences and Challenges. Dhaka:. University Press Limited.

International Migration and the Millennium Development Goals, report 2005





AU (African Union):