“Let Us Help Them at Home”: Policies and Misunderstandings on Migrant Flows Across the Mediterranean Border

Abstract

Globalization means that a few borders disappear all over the world, and this both encourages and increases physical mobility of goods and people around the globe. But, at the same time, the increased mobility puts a strain on a few other borders. Europe has recently faced an emergency situation related to the massive arrival of refugees across the Mediterranean. It has been suggested that the problem can be addressed by strengthening international cooperation for development with the countries of origin of refugees and, more generally, of irregular migrants. The underlying idea is that the development of countries of origin will reduce the migration flow. This proposal seems consistent with the slogan, launched by various populist parties, “Let’s help them at home.” However, it conceals some possible misunderstandings, which this article aims to analyze. Firstly, the most intense flows of irregular migrants currently come from countries that either are at war or oppressed by dictatorial regimes. Hence, it would not be realistic to start development processes in these countries, which first require complex actions that are studied to promote pacification. Secondly, it should be noted that, as a result of the so-called migration hump, the development of poor countries is generally associated with an increase and not a decrease in emigration. However, if helping the countries of emigration to develop and establishing partnerships with them does not reduce migration flows, it will improve the management of these very flows.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Source: Table 2.10.1, “Serie Storiche Istat”; http://seriestoriche.istat.it

  2. 2.

    470,884 Italian nationals moved abroad over the period 1991–2000. Source: Table 2.10.1, “Serie Storiche Istat”; http://seriestoriche.istat.it

  3. 3.

    The arrivals in Italy of irregular immigrants and refugees by sea were 181,490 in 2016. They dropped to 119,369 in 2017, and further diminished to 6295 in the first 3 months of 2018 (UNHCR 2018b)

  4. 4.

    Considering the repeated commitment made by the most industrialized countries to allocate official aid for development amounting to 0.7% of their GDP (UNDP 2005), Italian official aid to development in 2016, the last year regarding which there are consolidated data, was 0.27% of the GDP, versus 0.7% of the United Kingdom, 0.7% of Germany and 0.38% of France (http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/statisticsonresourceflowstodevelopingcountries.htm). Moreover, always referring to the year 2016, about one fourth of Italian official aid for development is actually intended to cover the costs incurred by hospitality services for refugees on Italian soil (openaid.esteri.it), with no contribution to the development of third party countries.

  5. 5.

    Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea are, together, the country of origin of 82% of migrants who traveled to Europe via the Mediterranean in 2015 and of 49% in 2016 (UNHCR 2016a, b).

  6. 6.

    Aid is a device for cooperation but it is not the only one (UNDP 2005). Effective cooperation favors development, which might not be achieved with aid alone (Moyo 2009; Qian 2015; Clemens et al. 2012; Fratzke and Salant 2018).

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Caselli, M. “Let Us Help Them at Home”: Policies and Misunderstandings on Migrant Flows Across the Mediterranean Border. Int. Migration & Integration 20, 983–993 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-018-00645-w

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Keywords

  • Refugees
  • Mediterranean
  • Cooperation for development
  • Migration hump