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On migration and the policy process

posted on 2023-06-07, 17:18 authored by Ronald Skeldon
A complicating factor in any analysis of migration and policy is that virtually any policy can have some impact on the movement of people. Policies designed for some other specific purpose might have a profound influence on migration. Some of these impacts appear obvious even if the outcomes were not entirely foreseen. It would seem quite clear that policies to improve access to a particular region by extending the road network will have an effect on human mobility. For example, such an extension might ultimately lead to the depopulation of an area under certain circumstances or to a repopulation and resultant ethnic conflict between native and immigrant groups under other circumstances. Equally, the construction of a dam for water control will have fairly clear implications for migration: it might displace large numbers of long-established villagers while at the same time bringing into the area large numbers of construction workers on a temporary basis. However, the impact on migration of other policies such as trade policy or international agreements on trade might not be so obvious. The termination of the Multi Fibre Agreement at the end of 2004, for example, is likely to expose some textile-producing countries such as Bangladesh or South Africa to greater competition from more efficient producers such as China. Closure of factories is likely to have some impact on migration as some displaced workers return to their villages or seek to move overseas legally or illegally to continue some form of employment. The full impact of policies such as these on population movement is not well understood and it seems appropriate to suggest that a 'migration impact statement', similar to environmental impact statements, should be incorporated into most large-scale developments. The suggestion is not made simply to create yet another layer in the bureaucratic process but to make policy makers more sensitive to the fact that most development policies do have an impact on migration and that governments need to be forewarned what these might be so that they are able to take action appropriately. Accepting that virtually any policy can have some impact on the movement of people, one can also recognize that a series of policies exist that have been developed specifically to deal with migration and migrants. This paper will be concerned primarily with these direct migration policies rather than with the overall impact that indirect policies may or may not have on migration. It might be hypothesized that indirect policies might have their greatest impact on internal migration but, given 5 close links between internal and international systems of mobility, such a conclusion might be too speculative. However, a difference between policies that are designed to deal with movement within the borders of a single country and those designed to 'manage', to use the current word of choice, migration into (or out of) a sovereign state can be sustained. Direct policies, too, can be identified for internal migration and these will be discussed after an assessment of those designed for international migration.


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  • Published


Sussex Centre for Migration Research



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  • Geography Publications


University of Sussex

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