World Bank Promotes 'Circular Migration'
Ann De Ron

BRUSSELS, Jan. 18 (IPS) - Most migrants from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union would prefer to spend shorter periods abroad and then return home, says a new World Bank report.

The Bank is discussing the launch of pilot projects with several European Union member states that encourage such 'circular migration'.

"Sixty to 75 percent of the migrants from Bosnia/Herzegovina, Romania, Georgia, Bulgaria, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan would prefer to leave their home country only temporarily and return home fairly soon," the Bank says in its report 'Migrants and remittances: Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union'.

The report was released Tuesday at a policy dialogue organised by the European Policy Centre, the World Bank and the King Baudouin Foundation in Brussels.

"The current bilateral agreements for migration do not contain mechanisms to encourage circular or repeated migration. If it is costly for potential migrants to apply for a space on a temporary migration programme, they may well have an incentive to remain abroad for longer periods than they prefer," said report editor Ali Mansoor at the release of the report.

The current agreements also fail to meet their objectives in other ways, says Mansoor, a former lead economist at the World Bank and now finance secretary at the ministry of finance and economic development in Mauritius.

"They cannot stem the current of illegal migrants. Illegal migration has important disadvantages for both sending and receiving countries, and the migrants themselves are more likely to be subject to abuse. On top of this, the agreements are often not able to facilitate large amounts of legal, unskilled migration."

An alternative framework stimulating circular migration offers employers in receiving countries the means to obtain affordable services while respecting the law in sectors where they cannot find workers in their own countries, says the report.

It reduces illegal migration and the risk of abuse and meets the preference of migrants to stay away from home shorter for periods, the report says.

If migrants can return more easily, it will help check brain drain and the negative social consequences that result from long-term separation of families, the report says. Combined with higher penalties for hiring undocumented labour, this could decrease the demand for undocumented migrant workers and slow down inter-regional labour movements, the report says.

"Circular migration can be at the same time a solution for the paradox that migrant receiving countries need labour forces but do not want to take care of them," World bank economist Bryce Quillin, co-editor of the report said at the policy dialogue meeting.

"We now need small-scale experiments with this type of migration, and talks about this with EU member states are in an early stage," he said.

"Circular migration is indeed a promising idea," said Jean-Pierre Bou, policy officer at the directorate-general for justice, liberty and security at the European Commission. "We must invest in circular migration as an idea, but there are also a number of traps. For instance, we must find incentives for people to enter this type of migration, and to return back home."

To stimulate this return, the World bank proposes that pension benefits be made payable only in the country of origin.

"Until now the EU has mostly concentrated on legal migration of skilled labour," says Bou. "We will indeed also need unskilled workers, and therefore this World Bank report is very important."

Bou added: "It doesn't take rocket science to know that Europe will need a lot of migrants. But they must come on the framework of a well-organised procedure. The EU will have to look for the best way to attract the people our labour market needs."

Bou says circular migration will best be limited to specific areas like agriculture and personal care, because in those areas there will not be too much resistance.

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