11/03/2015: GTD Colloquium “When Policies appear Successful: Declining Migration and the Role of Migration Policies” by Masja Van Meeteren (Leiden University)

When Policies appear Successful: Declining Migration and the Role of Migration Policies

Masja Van Meeteren (Leiden University)

Globalisation, Transnationalism & Development Colloquium – organized in association with Maastricht Centre for Citizenship, Migration and Development (MACIMIDE)


Migration scholars have often demonstrated how and why migration policies fail by pointing at social dynamics of migratory processes. Through chain migration potential migrants in origin areas become connected to migration destinations,  and migration flows continue beyond the ‘pioneers’ as previous migrants mediate the migration of friends and family. Migrant networks facilitate the moves of newcomers by providing positive feedback and information about the new society and by providing assistance, for example, with housing and employment. The ways in which migrant networks facilitate migration regardless of migration policies have been well documented in migration research. Whereas a large body of knowledge exists on the mechanisms through which migration flows expand, we understand very little of declining migration flows. Do declining flows imply that migration policies are successful? Drawing on the cases of declining Moroccan migration to the Netherlands and declining Brazilian migration to Portugal, the role of perceptions of migration policies in declining migration flows is scrutinized. Insights from in-depth interviews with 30 Moroccan immigrants in Rotterdam, 30 Brazilian immigrants in Lisbon, 30 returned migrants from the Netherlands or Portugal in Morocco, and 38 returned migrants from the Netherlands or Portugal in Brazil are used to formulate hypotheses that are tested using survey data on Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands (N=420) and Brazilian immigrants in Portugal (N=400). Do perceptions of migration policies, economic opportunities and discrimination affect the willingness to provide assistance to new migrants? Do such perceptions affect the feedback that immigrants send to their origin countries? It is concluded that there may be a modest indirect effect of perceptions of migration policies that works through feedback mainly, and for Moroccans also through some forms of assistance.

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