Second Meeting of the MIREM Project

Defining a framework of approach and formulating recommendations in order to take into greater account the link between return migration and development. Rabat 18th and 19th April 2008

The second meeting of MIREM took place in Rabat (Morocco) on 18th and 19th April 2008.  The meeting gathered together more than 50 participants from governmental and intergovernmental institutions, associations and unions from the Maghreb and European Union countries, all interested in migratory issues (see participants list). The meeting followed on directly from the initial work and debates organised by the European University Institute on 23rd and 24thNovember 2007.   These had allowed for the identification of the main principles around which it is necessary to structure all measures aiming to reinforce the contribution of return migrants to the development of their country of origin, and to support their socio-professional reintegration.


The meeting in Rabat provided a reminder of these general principles which are as follows:

  • Returning is the act of coming back to the country of origin on a temporary or permanent basis.  From this point of view, the return does not necessarily constitute the end of the migratory cycle ;
  • The return must be perceived as a process which is prepared over time;
  • The preparation is based, amongst other things, upon the sovereign choice of migrants to return to their county as well as their capacity to summon the necessary resources for their reintegration ;
  • The conditions pre and post-return have an effect on the different degrees of preparation ;
  • There exist numerous profiles of return migrants whose needs in terms of reintegration support differ ;
  • The return and reintegration of migrants concerns their country of origin just as much as their destination country ;
  • A return policy, developed through a framework of dialogue between countries of origin and destination, must support temporary as well as permanent reintegration of migrants for the purposes of development ;

The main objective of the meeting was to answer the questions put forward by the participants during the first meeting in November 2007 and to endeavour to propose recommendations aiming to support the reintegration of return migrants. These are the interactive exchanges which took place during the course of the second session allowing for the development of an overall set of recommendations divided into 5 sections.  


I. To sustain research and the production of information

1.     The only way to ensure the better management and reintegration of return migrants is to make its implications more accessible to decision-makers and the concerned parties in the public and private sector. As a result, it is desirable:

  • To maintain the tools of analysis as well as the production and dissemination of detailed information on the methods of reintegration of return migrants :
  • To organise a survey on a wider scale in the countries of origin, in order to develop and perfect the methodological tools presented by the MIREM project ;
  • To create a greater degree of representation within the samples ;
  • To continue to fill the deficit of information regarding the post-return circumstances of migrants in their country of origin ;
  • To highlight the numerous variables affecting migrant’s modes of reintegration in their country of origin ;
  • To cover the entirety of the regions which migrants return to in order to illustrate more effectively the diversity of their profiles ;
  • To advise about, amongst other things, the direct consequences of readmission or enforced return.  This aspect is yet to be studied in great detail ;
  • To further a greater awareness amongst public and private actors with regard to the impact of return policies on the perspectives for integration of migrants in their country of origin.

2.  It is equally desirable to undertake comparative studies with experiences in other European countries, Asia and Latin America in order to understand how other countries of origin have developed their institutional and legal systems in order to support the socio-professional reintegration of their citizens on their return.  The understanding and evaluation of these systems will contribute to the identification of best practices which could be adapted in the context of each of the Maghreb countries.  

II. To reinforce a balanced framework of dialogue on return

3. The MIREM surveyshows that a successful migratory experience abroad increases a migrant’s chances of reintegration in their country of origin.  As the migratory experience abroad has a direct effect on the methods of and opportunities for reintegration of migrants, it is recommended to increase the dialogue between countries of origin and destination in order to define measures aiming to support the reintegration of migrants. 4. Until now return policies have been the subject of minimal, if non-existent, dialogue between countries of origin and destination.    This explains the reluctance of Maghreb countries to collaborate fully in the framework of return policies, and all the more so because these policies are mainly orientated towards the security interests of European Union Member States, rather than towards the needs of the countries of origin of migrants.

5. This way, it should be possible to adopt another framework of dialogues including new bilateral and multilateral discussions on the issues of return. To do this it is advisable:

  • To involve representatives from the countries of origin as well as destination in the framework of consultations or reflection groups organised regularly on an ad hoc basis.
  • To place the return in the context of mutual development where the return constitutes merely a single step on the migratory route and not the end of the migratory cycle ;
  • To distinguish clearly between return, on the one hand, and readmission or expulsion, on the other, as the ensuing needs and implications differ greatly.
  • To enhance the value of returns, placing the aspirations of migrants at the centre of return policies.

III. To envisage concrete solutions responding to common interests

6. One of the recommendations in the final report from the Global Commission on International Migration specifies that “the states and international organisations should formulate policies and programmes to maximise the impact of return and circular migration on development”[1]. This recommendation echoes point 54 mentioned in the action plan on world population, adopted during the conference on world population in Bucharest August 1976, which underlines the fact that the bilateral cooperation between developed and developing countries is a necessary prerequisite for the creation of employment opportunities for migrants wishing to return to their country of origin.

7. With regard to the European Union and its Member States:

  • The launch of a consultation on a “community policy for the temporary and permanent return of legal migrants” by means of, for example, a Green Paper presented by the European Commission.  This consultation would welcome, amongst others, the propositions and points of view of:
    • Institutional and governmental partners form the south of the Mediterranean ;
    • Employers’ unions and associations ;
    • Migrant associations in the euro-maghreb zone;
    • The scientific community.
  • The Green Paper would tackle return migration as an integral part of circulation migration and give it the advantage of a solid basis.  Taking into account the heterogeneousness of the modes of integration (temporary and permanent) of migrants in their country of origin, it will be necessary to make the distinction between the different profiles of return migrants (for example., seasonal migrants, students/interns, qualified working migrants, or those in retirement);
  • The initiation of talks engaging interested parties from Europe and the Maghreb on the subject of return migration and development.  These talks would allow for:
    • The taking stock of and exploitation of existing tools (databases, statistics, large scale surveys and reports on studies) in order to allow for more effective evaluation and understanding of the impact of return migration  on the reduction of poverty and the development of the private sector in the countries of origin ;
    • The agreement of an action plan allowing for the insertion of return into the dynamic of circular migration schemes. This action plan should come within the framework making use of already existing mechanisms which do not assume a need for new specific institutions in order to avoid the duplication of institutional outlines.  The adoption of this action plan will need to be based on the definition of return which best serves the interests of all parties.  As a result it will be best to employ the defining framework employed by the scientific community that the return is the act decided upon individually to return to the country of origin having resided for some time abroad ; the return can be of a permanent or temporary nature.  This basic definition has the advantage of differentiating between the return from expulsion or readmission and avoids all misunderstanding in the use of terminology as it puts the emphasis on the free will in the return process.
  • The allocation of funds allowing for the application of the action plan agreed upon during the negotiations.  For example, ad hoc financial aid aiming to support the projects of migrants wanting to return to their country of origin on a permanent or temporary basis will be envisaged.  These projects (professional projects, productive investments, collective education projects) will be accompanied by a follow-up programme whose main aim will be to identify and overcome any obstacles standing in the way of these projects.

With regard to the Maghreb countries: 8. The experience of numerous countries of emigration in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia shows that it has been necessary for them to play an active role in defining measures aiming to support the reintegration of return migrants. This move has been accompanied by initiatives enhancing the value of the return from a development perspective, at the same time recognising the human and financial potential of migrants. This also comes within an institutional and infrastructural context characterised by liberal reforms, the opening up of economies and the expansion of the private sector, good governance and the rule of law. 9. Furthermore the MIREM survey has demonstrated that migrants tend to optimise their preparation for return by gathering information from a variety of sources.  The migrants know if, how and when the return can constitute an option in the course of their migratory route. This is important for understanding that it is not sufficient just to undertake information campaigns aimed at migrants, favourable conditions and fertile land must also be created to encourage a return be it temporary or permanent.  The participants have provided a unanimous reminder that favourable conditions in the country of origin have a great influence on the decision of whether or not to return.[2]10. Today, these considerations are all the more important since the introduction of temporary welcome programmes for migrants, qualified or otherwise, and since the migratory circle has acquired greater importance in the framework of bilateral and multilateral negotiations between Europe and the countries of the Maghreb. These programmes will not be able to operate a concrete economy of measures as well as supporting the reintegration or migrants in their country of origin. It will also be necessary to:

  • Insert the return of migrants, whether temporary or permanent, into the framework of migratory policies, development and work-force mobility;
  • Communicate a vision of return responding the challenge of development and the fight against poverty and unemployment in the Maghreb countries.
  • To consolidate a pro-active approach to migrations based on common propositions and initiatives of the Maghreb countries which could be collated with positions of states of destination, among them the Member States of the European Union, on the subject of return migration.  These propositions could, for example, be orientated towards the need to:
    • Develop pilot programmes to bring out the capital financial and human value of migrants wishing to return to their country. These programmes would not only concern migrants bringing with them projects of economic value but equally those whose competences and training could be invested in projects of high added value to their country of origin. The ease of access to finance, necessary for the creation of economical projects, could be envisaged by the putting into place of mixed financial mechanisms between banks of countries of destination and origin;
    • Accord project leaders a form of free sponsorship in order to assist them in the realisation and maintenance of their economical projects should the need arise.  This sponsorship requires the participation of employment organisations and public authorities;
    • Propose attractive advantages, of limited duration, to migrants wishing to return to their country by the development of a specially adapted institutional and legal framework;
    • Orientate public investment towards the improvement of the necessary infrastructure indispensable for the making use of investments which migrants are deprived of.  Furthermore these measures could be accompanied by:
      • The creation of a bank of human resources, managed by specialised public institutions allowing local businesses to identify the competences of migrants abroad which could be of use to them ;
      • The conception and installation of a ‹‹ programme for talent searching ›› similar to the expatriate communities following the example of those already developed by countries of emigration such as South Korea, Japan and New Zealand ;
      • The creation of information portals forming part of networks with chambers of commerce abroad, diplomatic representations, employment organisations and migrants, and public authorities in order facilitate the access to economical opportunities in the country.

IV. To promote vocational training

11. It is necessary for vocational training to be placed at the centre of the measures to be adopted. The MIREM survey has demonstrated repeatedly that migrants who have benefited from training abroad or on their return to their country of origin, have a higher propensity towards social and professional reintegration. A propos of this it must be remembered that the European Convention on the legal status of migrant workers, dated 24thNovember 1974 and ratified in 1983, makes provision for close collaboration between the countries of origin and destination in order to ensure that “the vocational training and retraining schemes cater as far as possible for the needs of migrant workers with a view to their return to their State of origin.” 12. As a result, the engagement in regular dialogues between unions, employer associations and public authorities in the countries of origin and destination on the socio-professional reintegration of migrants, their right to professional training and their integration into the labour market, is recommended.

V. To guarantee the rights of return migrants

13. Free will is a determining variable in the context of the process of socio-professional reintegration of migrants in their countries of origin.  It is important to remember that, circumstances permitting, the migrant has the possibility to evaluate the situation in his country of origin before returning. This capacity for evaluation appeared during the course of the survey undertaken by the MIREM project and shows that this is a contributory factor in the preparation for return. 14. On the other hand, when the course of migration is violently interrupted, for example following an expulsion, the degree of preparation for a return is significantly reduced, if not eliminated.  The survey has shown that in these cases the propensity for reintegration is weak.  As a result it will be necessary to take appropriate measures guaranteeing the right to professional reintegration for migrants. These measures are all the more necessary given that more than a quarter of the sample of migrants interviewed in the MIREM survey, who had been compelled to return to their country of origin, were unemployed. 15. The public authorities in countries of origin are called upon to react to the social, human and economic consequences linked to forced return and to adapt their institutional systems to guarantee the right to socio-professional reintegration for returning citizens who have been subject to an expulsion order. 16. The public authorities in destination countries are called upon to take into account the post-expulsion conditions of migrants being sent away from their territory by force so as to define, in collaboration with the public authorities in the country of origin, professional reintegration programmes to limit the human, social and economic consequences of readmission on the individual and the country of origin. 17. Many participants were concerned about the forthcoming adoption of the proposal for a directive on common norms and procedures in the member states for the return of third-country nationals illegally residing in the EU (the “EU Return directive”), as the proposed text does not include any provision for guaranteeing the right to socio-professional reintegration for individuals after their expulsion. What is more the third countries concerned were not consulted during the drafting of this text which explains the fact that there is no mention of the need to guarantee socio-professional reintegration, while the notion of “sustainability” of return is a central concern of decision-makers at European level and of their so-called return policies. 18. It should be acknowledged that Article 18 in paragraph 2 of the European Convention on the legal status of migrant workers encourages contractual parties to guarantee the rights regarding social security acquired by migrants during their time abroad, even after their return. 19. The animated discussions during the course of the MIREM meeting emphasised the fact that obstacles to the international mobility of people do not facilitate the effective introduction of circular migratory programmes and consequently measures aiming to support the temporary or permanent return of migrants to their country of origin.  This applies in equal measure to cases of south-north migration as well as intra-Maghreb migration,  within the territory of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). These recommendations propose some solutions and routes allowing for a more balanced and shared vision for co-operation on the issue of return migrants.  Their objective is also to initiate a new way of thinking, orientated towards concrete measures facilitating the participation of return migrants in the development of their country of origin.  Greater attention needs to be paid to this school of thought linking return and development, all the more so now that the topic of circular migration and the introduction of temporary welcome schemes for migrants, qualified or not, is gaining greater importance in the context of bilateral and multilateral dialogues between Europe and the Maghreb countries. The third consultative meeting, organised in November 2008, in the framework of the MIREM project, will seek to bring new elements to decision-makers and stakeholders of the Maghreb countries and of the EU member states.  

[1] See Recommendation n. 11 in the Annex of the report (p. 80). Global Commission on International Migration, Migration in an Interconnected World : New directions for action, GCIM, Geneva, October 2005.

[2] This point is also stressed in the chapter on return migration of the ILO report: International Labour Organisation, Towards a Fair Deal for Migrant Workers in the Global Economy, Report IV, International Labour Conference, 92nd Session, 2004, ILO, Geneva, p. 26-27.