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Sending Country Policies

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Part of the IMISCOE Research Series book series (IMIS)


This chapter explores the twin central questions of how and why countries of origin reach out to expatriate populations. It first outlines basic concepts and typologies related to sending country policies, focusing particularly on key countries of origin of migrants settled within the European Union. Second, the chapter reviews central explanations for the emergence of sending country policies. However, sending countries do not reach out to their emigrants in equal measure. Differences are therefore examined in the outreach policies of sending countries and in sending countries’ transnational relations with diasporas. The last part of the chapter discusses the nexus between sending country policies and migrant integration in the country of residence. On the basis of existing research, the chapter argues that sending country policies may intersect with migrants' integration in a number of ways. For example, migrant sending countries may seek to strengthen the upward mobility of their expatriate citizens in their place of residence abroad, and they may call for greater protection of migrant workers in precarious labour situations. Little is currently known about how migrants and diasporas respond to these policies and how they are perceived by political actors of countries of residence. This is an area for further study. More analysis is also needed to determine the extent that sending country outreach policies aimed at bonding with and supporting citizens abroad challenge territorial policy sovereignty and the strength of receiving countries in agenda-setting in international cooperation on migration and migrant settlement.


  • European Union
  • Foreign Direct Investment
  • Policy Diffusion
  • Dual Citizenship
  • Migrant Transnationality

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Migrant origin countries have come to play an increasingly important role in research on processes of migration, migrant belonging, and migrant settlement. Especially since the late 1990s, sending countries have moved from a somewhat marginal position to a more central place in migration studies. During this period, the field of migration studies has seen a growth in single case research and comparative analyses of sending country perceptions and policies towards their emigrants and diasporas. This trend accompanies an empirical development wherein more and more countries of origin seek to strengthen relations with their emigrant populations by facilitating emigrant return, providing overseas consular assistance, and inviting emigrant economic and political engagement from afar. Furthermore, the emergent transnational optic in migration studies has encouraged researchers to consider the interests and politics of the country of origin in analyses of migration flows, migrant settlement, and transnational practices.

Studies of sending countries highlight the growing power of sending states in the context of globalization and transnational migration. When reaching out to their emigrant populations, sending countries have tried to shape processes of migration and migrant transnational practices (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003; Chin and Smith 2014; Guarnizo 1998). Indeed, sending country outreach policies aimed at bonding with and facilitating long-distance engagement of diasporas have been depicted as a process of redefining the state and its borders (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003; Mügge 2012a; Chin and Smith 2014). Two issues are worth highlighting in this regard. First, this phenomenon is not entirely new, as noted by much of the literature. States have long catered to and invited the support of their expatriate populations through consular services and strategically placed chambers of commerce. What is arguably different today is the scale and intensity of these outreach policies and initiatives (R. C. Smith 2003b). Second, sending country policies towards emigrants may intersect with migration and migrant incorporation policies in countries of residence. This renders the interests and policymaking of receiving states an important factor for understanding the potential and limits of sending country policies towards their emigrant populations.

Sending countries do not reach out to their emigrants in equal measure. The variance in outreach policies is interesting because any analysis of these issues needs to confront the transnational political agency of migrants and states within broader national and international political developments and structures. This chapter explores the twin central questions of how and why countries of origin reach out to their expatriate populations, focusing mainly on studies related to Europe. It first outlines some basic concepts and typologies of sending country policies with a particular emphasis on some of the key countries of origin of migrants settled within the European Union (EU). It subsequently reviews some of the core explanations for the emergence of sending country policies. Finally, it discusses the impact of sending country policies on migrant settlement from the perspective of political authorities in countries of residence.

In so doing, this analysis addresses a research field that spans all social science disciplines, and consequently a wide range of methodologies. Research on sending countries is still dominated by single case studies and comparisons focused within a particular region. European-based research has centred on the countries of origin of the larger migrant collectives from outside of the EU, such as Turkey (Østergaard-Nielsen 2009, 2003c; Mügge 2012b) and Morocco (De Haas 2007; Brand 2002), or on the Eastern European countries that recently became EU members (Waterbury 2006). Of course, there are also studies on Latin American sending country policies, such as those of Ecuador (Boccagni 2014; Maisonave 2011), Bolivia and Mexico (Lafleur 2012), and Argentina and Uruguay (Margheritis 2014), as well as Asia (China) (Pieke et al. 2004). Recently, several studies have attempted a broad cross-regional comparison in order to evaluate some of the core assumptions often made regarding why sending states reach out to their populations (Ragazzi 2014; Gamlen et al. 2013; Gamlen 2008).

It should be noted that two of the central terms within this literature are not straightforward to use. First, the term ‘sending state’ or ‘sending country’ implies that these countries or states actively send or export their emigrants, which is often not the case. Alternative concepts include ‘emigration countries’, ‘emigration states’ (Gamlen 2008), and ‘emigration nations’ (Collyer 2014), but they appear less in the literature. Second, the frequently used term ‘diaspora engagement policies’ includes the word diaspora, the definition and significance of which is the object of a long-standing debate. Despite these reservations, this chapter follows the general trend of using the terms ‘sending country’ or ‘sending state’. It refers to expatriate populations as both diasporas and emigrants. In any case, it is worth emphasizing that most countries are not either countries of origin or reception, but experience both types of flows.

Mapping the Outreach Policies of Countries of Origin

The history of state-sponsored attention to emigrants and expatriates is as long as the history of consular services. The introductory note to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations traces consular activities back to ancient Greece and the Italian city-state of Genoa, where specially appointed notables residing abroad looked out for merchants and citizens in their locality.Footnote 1 The growth in consular institutions followed globalization and intensification of foreign trade and migration. Especially during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, consulates added the tasks of protecting and servicing citizens residing temporarily or permanently abroad to their work on promoting trade-relations. Today when we talk about sending country policies, the scope of institutions and policies involved is much more diverse. The following sections illustrate some of the broader categories of sending country policies as well as their complexity.

One set of outreach policies of sending countries falls within the economic domain and aims primarily at attracting the economic resources of the emigrants. This type of policies has received attention not only from emigrant states but also from all major international organizations involved in migration policies. In particular, the topic of remittances has been central in the renewed policy debate on migration and development. Certainly, the sums involved are substantial and on the increase. In 2013, global remittance flows were estimated at US $542 billion.Footnote 2 Remittances are a welcome source of foreign income for the local, regional, and national economy of the country of origin, but there is concern that those countries where remittances constitute a substantial part of gross domestic product (GDP) are vulnerable to fluctuations in remittance inflows. Consequently, there is no shortage of sending country policies aimed at encouraging and facilitating remittances. For instance, sending countries may facilitate special banking arrangements that make remittance transfers easy and more affordable. Some countries, such as India, have tried to attract foreign investment from diasporas by issuing special government bonds (Lall 2003). There are also examples of sending countries granting tax exemptions and fiscal advantages to non-resident citizen investors or to business ventures of return migrants, as is the case in Ecuador and Senegal. Another example is to allow return migrants to buy property otherwise off-limits to foreigners and to ease taxation of second residences in the country of origin, as in the case of India and the Philippines (Aguinas and Newland 2012). Other initiatives to encourage emigrant spending in the country of origin include the promotion of emigrant tourism. Through special offers, Morocco encourages generous holiday spending among its up to one million citizens who return for holidays each summer (De Haas 2007). In the Philippines, advertisements in the mass media encourage migrant parents to purchase gifts for their family at home (Alcid 2003).

Some policies aim more directly at creating or reinforcing synergies between migration and development. An often-cited example is the policy of attracting collective remittances dedicated to development projects in migrants’ hometowns. Mexico is famous for its “three for one” programmes, in which the three levels of government (municipal, state, and federal) match the amount of money donated by hometown associations to development projects (Williams 2012). Sending countries may also seek to tap into diaspora business and scientific networks. These policies aim to reverse brain drain by encouraging emigrant scientists to return to their country of origin, as in the case of Italy, or to lead joint academic networks from afar, as in the case of Morocco (Aguinas and Newland 2012).

A second set of sending countries policies falls within the political domain. These can be categorized as an extension of political rights to non-resident nationals or attempts to influence and control expat political activities abroad. In terms of the extension of political rights, sending country governments may facilitate emigrants’ retention and passing on of their citizenship by reforming rules of citizenship acquisition and loss, including dual citizenship (Jones-Correa 2001). Another trend is for emigrant states to create an “emigrant citizenship” that gives more rights to non-resident citizens than to other foreigners. The overseas citizenship of India, the Pakistan Overseas Card, and the Turkish Pink Card (later replaced by the Blue Card) are examples of identity cards granting a particular set of rights. These arrangements do not usually include voting rights (Aguinas and Newland 2012; Mügge 2012b). However, voting rights for non-resident citizens are on the increase. By 2007, no less than 115 states granted long-distance voting rights in homeland elections to non-resident citizens (Ellis et al. 2007). These rights come in a variety of forms. The most inclusive allow all citizens to vote in all elections (legislative, local, and presidential), via personal, postal, or Internet voting procedures and with no prior registration required before each election (Lafleur 2012; Collyer 2014; Bauböck 2007). A major distinction is between those electoral systems where emigrants can elect their own representatives and are accordingly divided into external districts and those electoral systems where the emigrant vote is counted in an electoral district in the homeland. Only 13 countries currently allow their non-resident citizens to elect their own candidates. Of these, five are EU member states (Croatia, Romania, Portugal, Italy, and France) and eight are not (Algeria, Cape Verde, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Macedonia, Mozambique, and Tunisia) (Collyer 2014).

Political rights can also take the form of councils established for dialogue with emigrants. A number of emigration countries with significant populations of citizens residing within the EU have such councils. For instance, Turkey set up an advisory board from 1997 to 2000 that included 45 Turkish citizens residing abroad as well as representatives of political parties and the state minister responsible for Turks abroad (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c). Morocco established its Council for the Moroccan Community Abroad in 2007, with Moroccan emigrants being appointed by the Palace (De Haas 2007; Østergaard-Nielsen 2012). Yet, these councils cannot be considered a univocal success in terms of allowing emigrants a voice in diaspora engagement policies. The representativeness of the councils was criticized by migrant associations in both cases (Østergaard-Nielsen 2012, 2003b).

In terms of sending country policies aimed at influencing and controlling emigrant political activities abroad, studies have revealed that sending countries may seek to convey a particular political agenda and to build an emigrant lobby in their favour. This may be done through consulates or by funding cultural institutions or emigrant associations, or simply by communications via various types of media. This strategy is especially pertinent when a sizeable and visible emigrant group resides in a country that is important to the country of origin, as is the case of Mexicans in the USA and Turkish citizens in Germany. For instance, the Turkish state actively sought to mobilize Turkish citizens in protest against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and in favour of Turkey’s EU membership (Østergaard-Nielsen 2009). This strategy of “courting the diaspora” is a departure from the more defensive tactic of policing the diaspora and trying to curb dissidence abroad through withdrawal of citizenship or the consular control of migrant associations (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; De Haas 2007).

A third set of policies falls within the domain of welfare and social rights. Sending country governments may respond to emigrant calls for assistance by extending welfare provisions to non-resident citizens. For instance, Spain extends pensions to Spanish citizens abroad, and some regional governments allow emigrants access to health services when home on holidays (Østergaard-Nielsen and Ciornei 2013). Some of the sending countries with the largest numbers of nationals residing within the EU have negotiated bilateral social security agreements covering their citizens abroad. As such, Turkey and Morocco have secured full portability of benefits for, respectively, 68 % and 89 % of their workers abroad (Avato et al. 2010). Social security cooperation between countries of residence has also taken place within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP). Indeed, recent research has counted 594 bilateral or multilateral social security agreements between EU member states and countries outside of the EU (ibid.).

A related area is the cultural and religious domain, in which sending countries sponsor and facilitate a range of services to emigrants and their descendants. Some states offer educational programmes for emigrant descendants. This might be in the form of partial or complete funding for schools abroad. Both Italy and France have extensive networks of public schools in cities with larger concentrations of emigrants. In other cases, sending country governments may sponsor after-school classes. The Turkish government and ministry of education, for example, organize classes in Turkish language, history, and culture for emigrant descendants (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c).

Sending countries may also facilitate religious services for their citizens abroad. This is especially relevant for emigrants residing in countries where their religion is a minority. In these situations, sending countries have sponsored the presence of religious leaders and places of worship. For instance, in the wake of labour emigration, the Turkish Ministry for Religious Affairs supported establishment of religious associations in places with large concentrations of Turkish emigrants. These organizations have Turkish government-funded imams, a physical space for religious practices, and infrastructure for potentially complicated issues, such as funerals in the country of origin (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c). Morocco, too, facilitates religious services for its citizens abroad. For instance, 176 imams were dispatched to Europe during Ramadan in 2008 (Østergaard-Nielsen 2012).

Since sending country outreach policies may span different policy aims and ministries, some sending countries have undertaken significant ministerial or consular reforms (Table 9.1). This entails creation of special ministries or departments for emigrants to strengthen the overall coordination of emigrant policies. A recent report identified 22 ministries and 17 subministry-level offices for diasporas in a sample of 77 sending countries (Aguinas and Newland 2012). In the case of Ecuador, the establishment of the National Secretary for the Migrant (SENAMI), originally with an emigrant returning from the USA at the helm, is a case in point. SENAMI was set up to identify needs for Ecuadorian intervention, to promote emigrant livelihoods within the “Fifth Region”, thus sending a strong message of government support to nationals overseas (Boccagni 2011). Indeed, the creation of such national-level institutions has been interpreted as sending a message to emigrants that their plight is being taken seriously (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003).

Table 9.1 Examples of sending country policies

Other initiatives aim more directly at strengthening real and symbolic ties with emigrants and diasporas. “Diaspora conferences”, have been organized by Armenia, Cyprus, and Turkey to create and strengthen networks and loyalty among emigrant notables (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a). Some countries hold festivals, such as the Gathering in Ireland (Collyer 2013), have an institutionalized “day of the diaspora”, or honour emigrants with awards (Gamlen 2008; Ragazzi 2014).

It is worth highlighting that these policies refer only to state-sponsored initiatives, leaving aside the outreach and mobilization of other actors from the country of origin, such as political parties, religious organizations, and charity or development foundations. Moreover, the focus on government policies bypasses the important aspect of government rhetoric towards emigrants. Several studies note that policy measures are often preceded or accompanied by a shift towards a more celebratory discourse regarding emigrants (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003; Collyer 2013; Smith 2008). The long and complex list of sending country policies includes not only policies that encourage emigrants to support their country of origin but also some policies aimed at improving migrants’ livelihoods in their countries of residence, such as by extending social rights. Moreover, sending country government leaders may call for stronger protection of their workers abroad in terms of labour market conditions and anti-discrimination policies. For instance, during the Ecuadorian electoral campaign in 2006, presidential candidate Rafael Correa lamented that emigrants were ‘the biggest victims of the long neoliberal night, but also the biggest heroes’ and promised that ‘never again will the protagonists of the big national disaster called emigration be abandoned’. Consequently his electoral programme included a range of social assistance measures and protection of workers abroad.Footnote 3 However, many of these topics fell outside the bilateral agreements between Ecuador and the countries of residence of Ecuadorian emigrants. Rather, this level of protection of workers abroad falls within the receiving country’s political jurisdiction. In such cases, the sending country’s scope of action is limited and subject to approval of and agreement with the receiving state.

Explaining Sending Country Policies: Transnational Interests, National Politics, and the International Diffusion of Ideas

The twin questions of what motivates emigrant countries to formulate and implement outreach policies and why sending country policies tend to differ or converge have been approached in a number of ways. Again, it is worth noting that most of this literature is based on single case or country studies. These studies provide a good contextualized understanding of the perceptions and processes leading to outreach policies, but they fail to test hypotheses systematically across a larger number of cases. Moreover, the first wave of studies of migrant transnationalism exhibited a tendency to sample on the dependent variable (Portes 2001). This extends to the analysis of sending country policies as well, since few studies have included emigration countries with little or no political or administrative attention to emigrants (Mügge 2012a). Finally, studies do not necessarily operate with the same dependent variable. Comparative analyses of sending country policies have tended to focus on only one set of outreach policies, such as political rights, without positioning them within the wider context of policies towards emigrants (Ragazzi 2014). Yet, different sets of policies may derive from different motivations, rendering the findings from one policy field less applicable to another.

A first step towards understanding sending country policies is to elaborate a typology of sending countries based on the scope and intensity of a broad range of outreach policies. A basic categorization is between states that do reach out to emigrants, such as Italy, and those that do not, such as Denmark. In addition to this distinction between engaged and disengaged states, there is a category of “strategically selective states”, which encourage emigrants to stay in touch but extend to them only a subset of rights and services (Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004). Some studies have based their classification on the motives underlying policies. For instance, Gamlen (2008) builds a classification on the distinction between diaspora creating and diaspora integrating policy mechanisms, concluding that those states that employ one set of policies but not the other are emigration states “on paper” or in an incoherent way (ibid.). In a somewhat similar vein, studies of sending countries have employed notions of governance, or the Foucauldian notion of “governmentality”, as the dependent variable, identifying types and forms of extraterritorial sending country policies aimed at creating, mobilizing, or controlling emigrant populations from afar (Délano and Gamlen 2014; Gamlen 2008; Maisonave 2011).

Recent analyses base their classification of sending country policies on the different configurations of policies. This results in a classification that distinguishes not only between the disinterested and engaged states, but also between the expatriate state (which directs cultural and educational policies at high-income expats who reside temporarily abroad) and the managed labour state (which maintains policies to attract remittances and extend welfare provisions to lower income emigrant workers) (Ragazzi 2014). The distinction between policies directed at migrants perceived as temporarily abroad and those considered permanent expatriates is important and echoes the classification of R. C. Smith (2003b) between emigrant policies and global nation policies. There is a key difference between those countries that primarily want to facilitate labour export and those that aim mainly to keep in touch with overseas nationals and their descendants. Both sets of countries may be interested in keeping remittances flowing, but the existence of a broader set of “bonding” policies is more likely among the latter.

When it comes to explaining why states reach out to their emigrant populations, the literature points to a broad range of historical and (geo) political variables that account for differences in emigrant state policies. Recent studies group the explanations according to research area, such as migration and development, transnationalism, and citizenship or governance (Collyer 2013; Délano and Gamlen 2014). Others focus on overall conceptual approach, distinguishing between interest maximization, national ideologies, traditions of governance, and policy diffusion (Ragazzi 2014; Gamlen et al. 2013; Délano 2013). The sections below build on these distinctions, though the main variables and hypotheses are grouped in a slightly different way according to the weight and significance placed on transnational and domestic actors, interests, and types of processes. The first section discusses the understanding of sending country policies as an outcome of the different configurations of interests and power in transnational state–emigrant relations. The second section focuses on an analysis of sending country policies as a result of political processes within the countries of origin, such as broader democratization, national identity, and partisan policy interests. Finally, the last sections discuss the conceptualizations of sending country policies as being shaped by processes of policy diffusion at the global, regional, or even bilateral level. These approaches emphasize different sending country policies. Yet, all of them seek to link a specific set of actors, interests, or processes with the broader scope and level of sending country outreach policies.

Transnational Relations as an Outcome of the Balance of Interests and Power between Sending Countries and Diasporas

A dominant trend in research has been to view sending state policies as an outcome of the balance of interests and power between sending countries and diasporas. From this perspective, sending states reach out to their diasporas in recognition of the economic and political contributions that emigrants might make via remittances, foreign direct investment, or political support (Sheffer 1986; Bauböck 2003; Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Guarnizo 1998). Consequently, sending country outreach policies constitute a particularly attractive strategy for states that occupy a marginal position in the global economic and political system (Guarnizo 1998). For these countries, diaspora engagement policies are, so to speak, a foot in the door to the economic benefits of globalization. Other analyses emphasize the political significance of diasporas, in particular, when a sizeable proportion of the sending country’s population resides in a receiving country or region important for its foreign policy or when a dissident voice is unwanted by the homeland.

Thus, one overall hypothesis of why countries reach out to their diasporas is based on a rational cost-benefit analysis by the political elite of the sending country; that is, the more important the diaspora is for the economy and domestic and foreign policy of the country of origin, the more likely that country is to seek to “tap into” diaspora resources through outreach policies. This might be with policies aimed directly at maximizing remittance flows or via broader policy reforms to encourage the continued loyalty of the diaspora. Indeed, the role of remittances is given significant weight in this strand of analysis as outreach policies are seen as ‘part of a broader effort to attract or channel migrant remittances’ (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003, 595). Similarly, Waterbury (2006) argues that some emigrant states reach out to their diasporas residing in countries with assimilatory migrant incorporation regimes in order to retain loyalty and keep remittances flowing.

The notion of diaspora engagement policies as the outcome of a cost-benefit analysis related to the economic and political strength of sending countries’ overseas nationals is straightforward but ultimately fails to offer a comprehensive analytical framework. First, it does not explain why some of the countries most dependent on migrant remittances have not implemented the most comprehensive sending country policies. Arguably, the answer could be that those countries that already receive a large and steady flow of remittances need not do anything further to attract such funds, except keep facilitating labour export. Second, it does not explain why a variety of countries that are not dependent on emigrant economic and political support have reached out to their emigrants, as have Spain, Italy, and France.

Moreover, emigrants and diasporas are not passive entities merely waiting for their country of origin to approach them. Another notion is that of sending country outreach policies being a response to demand from an organized and powerful diaspora (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a). Such demands from a diaspora may be backed by the expatriates’ economic and political strength. The role of the Armenian diaspora in the first set of Armenian outreach policies after independence is a case in point (Panossian 2003). However, this perspective does not view outreach policies as stemming from a dictate from the diaspora. Instead it highlights the domestic politics of the country of origin, as diaspora demands and potential support enter power struggles among main political actors in the country of origin.

The Politics of the State and Nation

Most analysis has drawn on the domestic political situation in the country of origin to explain why sending countries reach out to their emigrants. One argument is that the degree of democratization and political competition in the homeland determine the extent to which this competition spills over into the transnational realm. To illustrate, during processes of democratization and increased political competition, political parties may vie for the diaspora’s support. For instance, political parties believing themselves to have support among emigrants might push for the extension of dual citizenship and political rights, as happened in Mexico and the Dominican Republic (M. P. Smith 2003a; Itzigsohn 2014; Rhodes and Harutyunyan 2010). This argument is complicated by the fact that some emigrant states, albeit democratic, tend to largely ignore their emigrants; and emigrant states that are not democracies, or at least not experiencing a linear process of democratization or political liberalization, have been known to reach out to their emigrant populations. In the case of the latter, the desire for extra-territorial control of citizens and civil society has been identified as a core incentive (R. C. Smith 2003b; Østergaard-Nielsen 2012). Outreach policies under Mussolini’s fascist regime were considered part of an overall strategy to keep dissident mobilization in check (R. C. Smith 2003b; Lafleur 2012). With these policies, Italy extended a range of political rights (including state-sponsored return tickets to vote in homeland elections) and social and cultural rights (e.g., Italian schools abroad and the organization of emigrant associations).

A second line of argument suggests that sending state outreach policies are shaped by forms of nationhood and processes of nation-building in the country of origin (Boccagni 2014). This view is especially related to the extension of citizenship to overseas nationals. One hypothesis in this regard is that an understanding of the nation based on ethnic rather than territorial criteria would render emigration states more likely to reach out to and include their nationals abroad in what has been termed a process of re-ethnicization of citizenship (Joppke 2003). Such a path-dependent approach to understanding policy outcomes as dependent on types of civic or ethnic national models of citizenship has, however, been criticized as unable to explain why states shift their policies towards emigrants (and immigrants). As argued by Bauböck (2013, xv), we should see understandings of nationhood not as independent variables but as ‘discourses through which states legitimate their policies that may be driven by quite different motives’. Indeed, a more constructivist approach to the complex relationship between homeland narratives of the nation and those of emigrants has been highlighted in recent work on sending country policies (Collyer 2013; Boccagni 2014). It could be added that this type of research requires an analysis that distinguishes which set of political actors in the sending countries frames their support or opposition to outreach policies towards emigrants. For instance, Joppke (2003) in an analysis of three EU member states—Spain, France, and Italy—demonstrates that centre right to extreme right wing parties have pushed for a more inclusive approach to emigrant citizenship while maintaining a restrictive line towards immigrant naturalization criteria.

A further perspective pertaining to the political characteristics of the country of origin emphasizes the type of political and economic governance (Ragazzi 2014; Gamlen 2008; Gamlen et al. 2013). According to Ragazzi (2014), there is a relationship between the political-economic model of a state and the development of state policies. The more closed an economy is (in foreign trade and control of the financial system) the more closed its attitude towards emigrants will be. More open (neoliberal) states, will be more inclusive. In an analysis of 35 countries, Ragazzi (ibid.) concludes that this best explains the development of diaspora policies.

A look at the politics underlying policies in countries of origin emphasizes that these policies are also the product of domestic political power configurations, including not only political parties but also interest organizations and emigrants in their powerbase. Comparative studies examining the roles of these actors could further clarify how emigrant policies relate back not just to the broader characteristics of the political system but also to negotiation and contestation between the main political actors in the country of origin.

Global Norms and the International Diffusion of Ideas

Another set of explanations of why sending countries reach out to their citizens abroad positions emigrant and diaspora policies within processes of idea and norm diffusion through international organizations (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003; Rhodes and Harutyunyan 2010), regional networks of states (Délano 2013), and even bilateral exchanges of information (Iskander 2010). Norms are here understood as collective understandings of appropriate behaviour (Guiraudon 2012). The basic idea is that there is an evolution of norms of how sending country policies can optimize the externalities of international migration. Formulation and implementation of sending country policies take cues from this process of norm evolution. For instance, the emergence of new international norms of nationhood and citizen protection has been argued to influence emigrant state policies within the domain of citizenship and political rights. States liberalize their citizenship policies in step with globalization and adhere to more post-national or cosmopolitan notions of nationhood. Such a deterritorialization of citizenship, coupled with a stronger commitment to human rights norms, may arguably translate into more inclusive policies towards both immigrants and emigrants (Joppke 2008; Rhodes and Harutyunyan 2010; Soysal 1994; Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003).

A broader set of outreach policies can be understood in the context of evolving norms of global migration governance. Here, the role of emigrant countries in recovering lost resources, especially in the policy fields of migration and development, is lauded as a “best practice”, because it allows not just the migrant receiving states but also emigrant states to partake in bilateral or multilateral cooperation on migration issues (Gamlen et al. 2013). This view is reflected in the agenda and recommendations of the Global Forum on Migration and Development and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) sponsored Handbook on Diaspora Engagement, which provides ‘a user-friendly accessible and practical guide on the state of the art in governmental diaspora initiatives…designed to help policy makers and practitioners fit the many elements of diaspora policy into a coherent strategy’ (Aguinas and Newland 2012, 14). Indeed, there are strong indications that sending states which move in the same international circles are picking up on this advice. From 2000 to 2008, 20 % of all poverty reduction strategies published by developing states included a call for engaging expatriate communities (Gamlen et al. 2013).

In terms of the regional and national politics of policy diffusion, Délano (2013) identifies a convergence of practices and policies of emigrant states in Latin America as a result of dialogue and information sharing among Latin American governments. Three factors are identified as crucial to this process: the influence of the Mexican example, the ideological convergence of Latin American governments, and finally the fact that these countries largely share the same emigrant destination country, the USA (ibid.). Iskander (2010) traces policy diffusion across regions, demonstrating that Morocco and Mexico learned from each other (and the emigrants) through a creative process of policy innovation. The overall suggestion is that domestic resistance to outreach policies among segments or all of the homeland political elite can be overcome with a consolidating example from another sending country that has successfully implemented such policies (Délano 2013).

The perspective on norms and policy diffusion adds an interesting dimension to our understanding of the complex interplay between processes within and beyond the nation state. It highlights the fact that ideas travel and that international, regional, and bilateral relationships matter (Délano 2013). Moreover, it calls for further analyses of what domestic factors matter for the incorporation of international or regionally evolving norms of state-emigrant policies (Guiraudon 2012).

All in all, these different approaches place different emphases on different actors and processes. Few would argue that emigration policies can be understood only with reference to either the strength and potential of the emigrants, the political situation in the country of origin, or the diffusion of policy norms. Instead qualitative studies have tended to look at the particular configuration of several or all of these factors across a limited number of cases, and broader systematic statistical studies have increasingly tested these different predictors in a particular policy area or a broader set of policies. The study of relations between the sending country and its emigrants has been criticized as being largely a-theoretical (Délano and Gamlen 2014). Yet, overall the field appears to have increasingly taken up the challenge of developing theory on the roles of actors, norms, and processes at the national, transnational, and international level.

Perceptions of Sending Country Policies in Countries of Residence

An important aspect of sending country policies aimed at reaching out to nationals abroad is their impact on both the emigrants and the political authorities of the country of residence. Indeed, the role of sending countries in the integration of their citizens abroad is central to the European Commission’s “three way approach to integration of third country nationals” (EC 2011, see Garcés-Mascareñas and Penninx in this volume). The actual impact of sending country policies on the scope and direction of migrant transnationality is still an evolving research field. There is a growing body of literature on the nexus between migrant transnationality and integration (see Mügge in this volume). Yet, there is still work to do regarding the impact of sending country policies on both migrant transnationality and migrant processes of settlement. Regarding migrant transnationality, it can be difficult to determine to what extent emigrant state efforts to bond with their non-resident citizens are directly responsible for migrant transnational practices related to their country of origin. These practices are embedded in broader political and economic processes as well. For instance, a recent report on remittances to Latin American emigrant countries explains changes in remittance flows by labour market conditions in the country of residence and by changing macroeconomic conditions in the sending country, but without mentioning sending country policies aimed at increasing these flows (Guiraudon 2012). Moreover, several cases suggest that emigrants respond only reluctantly to outreach policies of the homeland. Turnout in homeland elections is a notorious case in point, as it is usually nowhere near domestic electoral participatory rates, because the cost of voting in terms of both access to information and the logistics of voter registration is rather high (Lafleur 2012). Emigrants may in general be sceptical towards the outreach of a homeland regime, since lack of trust in that very regime may have been an incentive for emigration in the first place (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; Boccagni 2014). Indeed, a recent handbook on bonding with the diaspora repeatedly emphasizes the importance of fostering trust in the country of origin among emigrants and diasporas—an indication that diasporas are not necessarily confident in the political institutions of their homeland (Aguinas and Newland 2012).

Sending country policies may, more or less explicitly, try to link with processes of migrant settlement. Overall, the strengthening of upward social mobility of emigrants in their country of residence is usually interpreted as a win-win scenario for sending countries and emigrants, as wanting the best for your citizens abroad is not incompatible with having a financially and politically significant expatriate lobby abroad (Bauböck 2003; Østergaard-Nielsen 2003a; R. C. Smith 2003b; Kirişci 2008). Still, emigrant state policies that aim to attract the attention and resources of emigrants have been viewed with ambiguity by governments of countries of residence, particularly those with a more assimilatory migrant integration regime (Østergaard-Nielsen 2009). Again there is little systematic research on how emigrant state policies are perceived in the receiving countries.

Within Europe, the idea of the sending country having a role to play in the integration of third country nationals, present in policy documents at the European level, is somewhat ambiguous at the national level. Research indicates that there are, very generally speaking, two quite opposite perceptions of the challenges posed and opportunities offered by emigrant state outreach policies (Østergaard-Nielsen 2009). There is the perception that outreach policies pose a challenge to migrant integration within the so-called “zero-sum” understanding of migrant loyalty; that is, the more focused migrants are on their country of origin, the less they will identify with and support their country of residence. This perspective considers sending country policies aimed explicitly at bonding with and tapping into the resources of a migrant collective as counterproductive to policies of migrant incorporation in the country of residence. More in tune with the policy vision of the European Commission is recognition of the potential of emigrant state policies aiming to tap the development potential of collaboration with emigrants and their associations. The understanding here is that migrants, either through return or from afar, can be important actors in local and national development dynamics in their countries of origin.

In terms of the perceptions of how sending country outreach policies intersect with migrant integration, some examples of sending country rhetoric related to “don’t forget me” attitudes have been unpalatable to countries of residence. For instance, during the 1980s, Turkish officials criticized German lack of dual citizenship often in very strong terms, and consular staff berated Turkish emigrants for trading their Turkish passport for a German one (Østergaard-Nielsen 2003c; Özdemir 1997). In a later development, Turkey provides an illustrative case of a country of origin seeking to balance the desire to retain emigrant interest and loyalty in their country of origin while encouraging them to integrate in their country of residence. During the 2014 presidential electoral campaign, in which Turkish emigrants could vote for the first time, Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan encouraged them to learn the language of their country of residence and ‘not live like foreigners’ but also to preserve their mother tongue and cultural links to the homeland.Footnote 4 This message of “integration, but not assimilation” was, however, received with some caution among German and Austrian political leaders wary of the impact of country of origin leaders’ patriotic calls for loyalty.Footnote 5

In terms of the policy field of migration and development, emigrant state policies of bonding with their citizens abroad is considered “best practice” (Aguinas and Newland 2012), and a growing number of policy initiatives have sought to strengthen partnerships with sending countries in order to tap into migrant transnationality. An example is the German aid agency, GIZ, which, among other things, has worked with Serbian migrant associations in Germany to build stronger trust in the Serbian financial sector, in order to strengthen flows of remittances and foreign direct investment (ibid.). The question is to what extent such instances of international cooperation among sending and receiving countries, which focus on how public policy can assist migrants in supporting their homeland, are matched by cooperation aimed at strengthening the integration of migrants in their receiving countries.

One important dimension in this respect is the protection of emigrant labourers in precarious work situations. As mentioned, sending countries have called for protection of their workers abroad. Ecuador’s government strongly criticized the Spanish and Italian governments for this reason (Boccagni 2014). The Philippines, too, has called for the protection of and proper salaries for especially domestic workers in the Gulf and Asia, and has secured a minimum wage for Philippine domestic workers in Malaysia (Ezquerra and Garcés-Mascareñas 2008). However, in most cases sending country governments lack the power to follow up these calls with any substantive policy measures. In this regard, sending country policies appear to be limited by the sovereign right of receiving states to define labour market conditions within their own borders (subject to international conventions) reinforced by the often very asymmetric power relations between sending and receiving countries.

Concluding Remarks

Sending countries have taken an important leap from eking out a largely marginal existence to being recognized as a significant player in European-based (transnational) migration research. The overall field of sending country policies includes a complex and fairly comprehensive range of initiatives aimed at assisting and attracting support from emigrants and diasporas. These policies are recognized as interesting in and of themselves because they challenge the basic idea of congruence between political communities and state borders. An increasingly methodologically sophisticated analysis of especially single case studies and focused comparisons and recently also comparative statistical analyses have highlighted a series of core explanatory frameworks for understanding the motivations of sending countries for reaching out to their emigrants.

Understanding the scope and rationale of sending country policies towards emigrants is an important and ongoing research field. There is still a challenging research agenda ahead in terms of the transnational, national, and international politics of sending country policies. The policy field of migration and development stimulates partnership and collaboration among countries of residence and origin (and the migrants themselves). Yet, more studies are needed to understand the overall dynamics of how sending country outreach policies designed to keep or rekindle a relationship with nationals abroad impact processes of settlement and how they square with receiving country interests. In that respect, it is worth bearing in mind that emigrants and diasporas may not immediately respond to sending countries’ outreach, because they are wary of the motives and credibility of these efforts and the extent to which they are sensitive to emigrant needs. Moreover, we still need to explore the extent to which European governments are moving away from the zero-sum debate and the securitization optic on migrant transnationality to a more integrated three-way approach as envisioned by the European Commission. Such a shift may enable us to better understand the extent that sending country outreach policies aimed at both bonding with and supporting citizens abroad challenge territorial policy sovereignty and the strength of receiving countries in agenda-setting in international cooperation on migration and migrant settlement.Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Østergaard-Nielsen, E. (2016). Sending Country Policies. In: Garcés-Mascareñas, B., Penninx, R. (eds) Integration Processes and Policies in Europe. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer, Cham.

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