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

  • Marco CaselliEmail author


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.


Refugees Mediterranean Cooperation for development Migration hump 



  1. Ambrosini, M. (2010). Richiesti e respinti. L’immigrazione in Italia. Come e perché. Milano: il Saggiatore.Google Scholar
  2. Ambrosini, M. (2018). Irregular Immigration in Southern Europe. Actors, Dynamics and Governance. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, U. (2000). What is globalization? Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, U., & Grande, E. (2004). Das kosmopolitische Europa. Gesellschaft un Politik in der Zweiten Moderne. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.Google Scholar
  5. Bonciani, B. (2017). Rimesse dei migrant e processi di sviluppo. Quadro attuale, rischi e opportunità. Milano: FrancoAngeli.Google Scholar
  6. Carling, J., & Talleraas, C. (2016). Root causes and drivers of migration. Implications for humanitarian efforts and development cooperation. Oslo: Peace research institute Oslo (PRIO).Google Scholar
  7. Caselli, M. (2012). Transnationalism and co-development. Peruvian associations in Lombardy. Migration and Development, 1(2), 295–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caselli, M. (2016). Migrazioni, sviluppo dei paesi terzi e politiche internazionali di cooperazione. Alcune riflessioni sul caso europeo e italiano. In Fondazione Ismu, Ventiduesimo Rapporto sulle migrazioni 2016 (pp. 201–211). Milano: FrancoAngeli.Google Scholar
  9. Caselli, M., & Gilardoni, G. (2018). Introduction: globalization between theories and daily life experiences. In M. Caselli & G. Gilardoni (Eds.), Globalization, supranational dynamics and local experiences (pp. 1–40). Cham: Plagrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cesareo, V. (2014). Twenty years of immigration in Italy. In V. Cesareo (Ed.), Twenty years of migrations in Italy: 1994–2014 (pp. 1–18). Milano: McGraw-Hill Education.Google Scholar
  11. Clemens, M. A., & Postel, H. M. (2017). Temporary work visas as US-Haiti development cooperation: a preliminary impact evaluation. Iza Journal of Labor & Development, 6(4), 1–18.Google Scholar
  12. Clemens, M. A., & Postel, H. M. (2018). Deterring emigration with foreign aid: an overview of evidence from low-income countries. CGD Policy Papers, 119, 1-28.Google Scholar
  13. Clemens, M. A., Radelet, S., Bhavnani, R. R., & Bazzi, S. (2012). Counting chickens when they hatch: timing and the effects of aid on growth. Economic Journal, 122(561), 590–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Codini, E. (2014). The legal aspects. In V. Cesareo (Ed.), Twenty years of migrations in Italy: 1994–2014 (pp. 35–46). Milano: McGraw-Hill Education.Google Scholar
  15. Czaika, M., & de Haas, H. (2012). The role of internal and international relative deprivation in global migration. Oxford Development Studies, 40(4), 423–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dao, T. H., Docquier, F., Parsons, C. R., & Peri, G. (2016). Migration and development: dissecting the anatomy of the mobility transition. IZA Discussion Paper, 10272, 1–32.Google Scholar
  17. David, A., & Senne, J. N. (2016). A descriptive analysis of immigration to and emigration from the EU: where does the EU stand within OECD? OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, (184), 1–64.Google Scholar
  18. De Haas, H. (2007). Turning the tide? Why development will not stop migration. Development and Change, 38(5), 819–841.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. De Haas, H. (2010). Migration and development: a theoretical perspective. International Migration Review, 44(1), 227–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. De Haas, H. (2012). The migration and development pendulum: a critical view on research and policy. International Migration, 50(2), 8–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. European Commission. (2015). A European agenda on migration. Brussels, COM(2015) 240 Final.Google Scholar
  22. European Commission (2016). Communication from the commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council and the European Investment Bank on establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration. Brussels: COM(2016) 385 final.Google Scholar
  23. Faist, T., & Fauser, M. (2011). The migration-development Nexus: toward a transnational perspective. In T. Faist, M. Fauser, & P. Kivisto (Eds.), The migration-development Nexus. A transnational perspective (pp. 1–26). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fondazione Ismu. (2018). Ventitreesimo Rapporto sulle migrazioni 2017. Milano: FrancoAngeli.Google Scholar
  25. Frank, R., & Hummer, R. A. (2002). The other side of the paradox: the risk of low birth weight among infants of migrant and nonmigrant households within Mexico. International Migration Review, 36(3), 746–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fratzke, S., & Salant, B. (2018). Moving beyond “root causes”. The Complicated Relationship between Development and Migration. Towards a Global Compact for Migration: A Development Perspective. A Series to Inform the Debate, (2), 1–18.Google Scholar
  27. Galbraith, J. K. (1979). The Nature of Mass Poverty. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Geddes, A. (2005). Chronicle of a crisis foretold: the politics of irregular migration, human trafficking and people smuggling. The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 7(3), 324–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gibson, J., & McKenzie, D. (2014). The development impact of a best practice seasonal worker policy. Review of Economics and Statistics, 96(2), 229–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Glick Schiller, N., & Faist, T. (2009). Introduction: migration, development and social transformation. Social Analysis, 53(3), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Greiner, F. (2017). Introduction: writing the contemporary history of European solidarity. European Review of History: Revue Européenne d’Histoire, 24(6), 837–853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hugo, G. (2012). Migration and development in low-income countries: a role for destination countries policies? Migration and Development, 1(1), 24–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. ISTAT (2016). Permessi di soggiorno per asilo politico e protezione umanitaria. Statistiche Report, 23 dicembre, 1–14.Google Scholar
  34. Keijzer, N., Héraud, J., & Frankenhaeuser, M. (2016). Theory and practice? A comparative analysis of migration and development policies in eleven European countries and the European Commission. International Migration, 54(2), 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lipton, M. (1980). Migration from rural areas of poor countries: the impact on rural productivity and income distribution. World Development, 8(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marini, F. (2015). Co-sviluppo e integrazione. Le associazioni ghanesi in Italia e nel Regno Unito. Milano: FrancoAngeli.Google Scholar
  37. Martell, L. (2007). The third wave in in globalization theory. International Studies Review, 9(2), 173–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martin, P. L., & Taylor, J. E. (1996). The anatomy of a migration hump. In J. E. Taylor (Ed.), Development strategy, employment and migration: insights from models (pp. 43–62). Paris: OECD Development Centre.Google Scholar
  39. Massey, D. S., & Riosmena, F. (2010). Undocumented migration from Latin America in an era of rising U.S. enforcement. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 630(1), 294–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moyo, D. (2009). Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
  41. Newman, D. (2006). Borders and Bordering. Towards an Interdisciplinary Dialogue. European Journal of Social Theory, 9(2), 171–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nyberg-Sørensen, N., Van Hear, N., & Engberg-Pedersen, P. (2002). The migration-development Nexus evidence and policy option state-of-the-art overview. International Migration, 40(5), 3–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oommen, T. K. (1989). India: ‘brain drain’ or the migration of talent? International Migration, 27(3), 411–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Orozco, M. (2013). Migrant remittances and development in the global economy. London: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  45. Østergaard-Nielsen, E. (2009). Mobilising the Moroccans: policies and perceptions of transnational co-development engagement among Moroccan migrants in Catalonia. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 35(10), 1623–1641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Portes, A., & Böröcz, J. (1989). Contemporary immigration: theoretical perspectives on its determinants and modes of incorporation. International Migration Review, 23(3), 606–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Qian, N. (2015). Making progress on foreign aid. Annual Review of Economics, 7(1), 277–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rotte, R., & Vogler, M. (1998). Determinants of international migration: empirical evidence for migration from developing countries to Germany. IZA Discussion Paper, 12, 1–29.Google Scholar
  49. Schain, M. A. (2009). The state strikes back: immigration policy in the European Union. The European Journal of International Law, 20(1), 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Skeldon, R. (2008). Migration and development. In Bangkok: United Nations expert meeting on international migration and development in Asia and the Pacific.Google Scholar
  51. Spilimbergo, A. (2009). Democracy and foreign education. American Economic Review, 99(1), 528–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stjernø, S. (2011). The idea of solidarity in Europe. European Journal of Social Law, 3, 156–176.Google Scholar
  53. Tabar, P. (2009). Immigration and human development: evidence from Lebanon. Human Development Research Paper, 35, 1–41.Google Scholar
  54. Telli, H. (2014). Less poverty, more emigration: understanding migrant flows from developing countries. Migration and Development, 3(1), 54–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. UNDP (2005). Human Development Report 2005. International cooperation at a crossroads. Aid, trade and security in an unequal world. New York: United Nations Development Programme.Google Scholar
  56. UNDP. (2009). Human Development Report 2009. Overcoming barriers. Human mobility and development. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  57. UNHCR (2016a). Refugees/migrants emergency response – Mediterranean, 1 August 2016.
  58. UNHCR (2016b), Refugees/migrants emergency response – Mediterranean, 31 December 2016,
  59. UNHCR (2018a). Mediterranean situation, 9 July 2018.
  60. UNHCR (2018b). Desperate journeys. January 2017 – March 2018 . UNHCR.Google Scholar
  61. Vallet, E. (Ed.). (2014). Borders, fences and walls: state of insecurity? Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  62. Yang, D. (2009). International migration and human development. Human Development Research Paper, 29, 1–39.Google Scholar
  63. Zanfrini, L. (2016). Introduzione alla sociologia delle migrazioni. Roma: Laterza.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università Cattolica del Sacro CuoreMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations