7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Migration is development: Making migration a driver for development

EDD15 - Snapshot - Migration is development: Making migration a driver for development

Migration is development: Making migration a driver for development

EDD15 - Snapshot - Migration is development: Making migration a driver for development

Thursday, June 4, 2015 - 11:30 to 13:00

Key points

  • The world currently has some 250 million international migrants and 750 million domestic migrants: one person in every seven is a migrant.
  • There are now 33 million internally displaced people – the highest figure since the Second World War; 22 million people were displaced in 2013-14 alone. Today, some 70 million people around the world are refugees.
  • Migration is a major driver of growth and development both in the migrants’ countries of origin and in the receiving countries.
  • Remittances sent home by migrant workers are an important source of development funding.
  • The new European Agenda on Migration rests on four pillars: reducing the incentives for irregular migration; saving lives and securing the EU’s external borders; strengthening the common asylum policy; and developing a new policy on legal migration. 


Recognising migration as a development enabler is one of the central themes of the new European Agenda on Migration, noted Matthias Ruete, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs. By addressing political, economic and social instability, development cooperation helps to ensure that migration is ‘a choice rather than a necessity’.

Politicians, civil society representatives, academics and business leaders all have a responsibility to speak out against xenophobia and ‘dismantle some of the worst myths’ about migration. The media should ‘give migrants a human face’ and ‘help move society away from stereotypes’. As for the Commission and the EU: ‘I am convinced that over the past few months, we have turned a page and we are at least prepared to willingly engage in this battle in a much different way than before,’ he added.   

While migration was absent from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it does feature in the new proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Notably, migrants are mentioned in SDGs on protecting labour rights, facilitating orderly, safe migration, reducing the transaction costs on migrants’ remittances to less than 3 % by 2030, and capacity-building for data collection in developing countries. 

As well as being workers, migrants are also potential employers, entrepreneurs and investors, said Laura Thompson, Deputy Director-General of the International Organization for Migration. Facilitating legal channels and safe migration is important, she emphasised – also for enabling migrants to contribute to the societies of destination. Protecting migrants’ human and labour rights and their health is vital, she said. So far, the focus has been more on how migration affects development. We also need to look at how development affects migration.

Imelda Nicolas, Chair of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, pointed to the state-led initiative called Migrants in Countries in Crisis. The EU, together with seven other countries led by the Philippines and the US, is closely involved in this drive, and is funding six targeted regional consultations on the problem. It has been defining the issues on migration, looking at best practices, building an evidence base, and pointing the way towards to a better international capacity to manage migration triggered by crises such as civil unrest and natural disasters.

 When it comes to migration and development, there is too much focus on what the public is interested in and too little on the public interest, according to Gibril Faal, Interim Director of the Africa-Europe Development Platform. The bulk of funding for development projects tends to go to large organisations for administrative reasons. Intermediaries could help to redress the balance, by establishing a grant fund to be passed on to smaller actors.

‘Migration is development. Development is migration. They go hand in hand,’ said Dilith Ratha, Manager, Migration and Remittances Unit and Head, KNOMAD, Development Prospects Group, World Bank.

Migrants’ remittances are a major source of revenue and development for their home countries, he emphasised. So are the savings built up by the diaspora, and their massive support for philanthropic projects.


‘If we really want to make migration a resource for development, then why aren’t the poorest people allowed to go along on that journey? Migration has to be a right for all, not just the rich.’  Birwe Habmo, Future Leader. 

    Paul Hackett
    Journalist, Euronews
    Matthias Ruete
    Director General, Directorate-General for Immigration and Home Affairs, European Commission
    Laura Thompson
    Deputy Director General
    International Organization for Migration
    Birwe Habmo
    Future Leader
    Dilip Ratha
    Head of Global Knowledge, Partnership on Migration and Development, The World Bank Group
    World Bank Group
    Gibril Faal
    Africa-Europe Diaspora Development Platform