Borders & Belonging: The migrants that the West doesn’t talk about
70% of the world’s migrants aren’t headed for the Global North. Why are they moving and what do they need?
From the way Western media and politicians talk about migration, you’d never guess that only 30% of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants are heading for the Global North. Instead, most people on the move like this are travelling from one country in the Global South to another.
Why does this get so little coverage? What are the most popular destinations for migrants in the Global South? Do migrants moving South to South face the same problems as those headed North: harassment at border crossings, problems with documentation and discouragement from destination countries?
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Hear from Vani Saraswathi, a journalist who has spent years documenting the experiences of migrants working in the Gulf states. Then host Maggie Prezyna speaks with experts Nicola Piper (University of Sydney) and Joseph Teye (University of Ghana) to explore the unique patterns and challenges of South-South migration.
Maggie is a researcher with the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Migration & Integration program at Toronto Metropolitan University and this new podcast is Borders & Belonging. Maggie will talk to leading experts from around the world and people with on-the-ground experience to explore the individual experiences of migrants: the difficult decisions and many challenges they face on their journeys.
She and her guests will also think through the global dimensions of migrants’ movement: the national policies, international agreements, trends of war, climate change, employment and more.
Borders & Belonging brings together hard evidence with stories of human experience to kindle new thinking in advocacy, policy and research.
Top researchers contribute articles that complement each podcast with a deeper dive into the themes discussed.
Borders & Belonging is a co-production between the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration & Integration at Toronto Metropolitan University and openDemocracy. The podcast was produced by LEAD Podcasting, Toronto, Ontario.
Below, you will find links to all of the research referenced by our guests, as well as other resources you may find useful.
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Kafala system, Human Rights Watch
‘Decolonising knowledge production on south-south migration’, by Mariama Awumbila, Leander Kandilige and Mary Setrana, MIDEQ (25 March 2022)
‘Q&A: South-South migration has long been overlooked. Why?’, by Eric Reidy, MIDEQ (8 July 2021)
‘New labour law ends Qatar’s exploitative kafala system’, by Pete Pattisson, The Guardian (1 September 2020).
‘What or where is the ‘Global South’? A social science perspective’, by Sebastian Haug, London School of Economics (28 September 2021)
Research projects and policy
‘Africa regional fair recruitment report: The recruitment of migrant workers to, within and from Africa’, International Labour Organization (ILO)
‘The Future of African Migration and Mobility: Continent on the Move or Contained?’, by Mehari Taddele Maru, European Union Institute for Security Studies
‘GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub’, UK Research and Innovation
‘Migration Dynamics, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa’, by Aderanti Adepoju, United Nations
‘Migration for Development and Equality’ (MIDEQ), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)
South-South Migration, OECD
Cordell, D. D., Gregory, J. W., & Piché, V. (2020). ‘Hoe and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration System in West Africa’. Routledge.
Hujo, K., & Piper, N. (Eds.). (2010). South-South Migration: Implications for Social Policy and Development. Springer.
Kyei, R. K. O., Kadje, D. M., Kandilige, L., Abutima, T. K., Obour, P. B., Osiki, O. M., & Asante, R. K. (2017). ‘Migration and Development in Africa: Trends, Challenges, and Policy Implications’. Lexington Books.
Awumbila, M., Teye, J. K., & Yaro, J. A. (2017). ‘Social networks, migration trajectories and livelihood strategies of migrant domestic and construction workers in Accra, Ghana’. Journal of Asian and African Studies.
Castles, S. (2009). ‘Development and migration--migration and development: what comes first? Global perspective and African experiences’. Theoria.
Foley, L., & Piper, N. (2021). ‘Returning home empty handed: Examining how COVID-19 exacerbates the non-payment of temporary migrant workers’ wages’. Global Social Policy.
Piper, N. (2009). ‘The complex interconnections of the migration–development nexus: A social perspective’. Population, Space and Place.
Piper, N. (2022). ‘Temporary labour migration in Asia: The transnationality‐precarity nexus’. International Migration.
Piper, N., Rosewarne, S., & Withers, M. (2017). Migrant precarity in Asia:‘Networks of labour activism’ for a rights‐based Governance of migration. Development and Change.
Piper, N., & Rother, S. (2022). ‘Governing regional migration from the ‘bottom-up’: a nodal approach to the role of transnational activist networks in Asia’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.
Teye, J. K. (2022). ‘Critical migration policy narratives from West Africa’. International Migration.
Teye, J. K., Awumbila, M., & Benneh, Y. (2015). ‘Intra-regional migration in the ECOWAS region: Trends and emerging challenges’ (p.96). In, Migration and Civil Society as Development Drivers-a Regional Perspective. Center for European Integration Studies.
Withers, M. & Piper, N. (2022). ‘Decent wages for decent work in Asia: Addressing the temporality-precarity nexus in South-South migration. In Global Labor Migration: New Directions. University of Illinois Press.
Welcome to Borders & Belonging, a podcast that explores issues in global migration, and aims to debunk myths about migration, based on current research. This series is produced by CERC Migration and openDemocracy. I'm Maggie Perzyna, a researcher with the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration program at Toronto Metropolitan University. Today's episode is about South to South migration. It's a phenomenon that describes the movement of people between countries outside of Europe and North America. It represents the most significant migratory movement of people, and yet, the issues surrounding it are largely ignored by the West. In fact, most of the coverage we see in the media about migration focuses on refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants trying to get to countries in North America and Western Europe. In this episode, two esteemed researchers will give us insights into some of the major trends behind South-South migration. But first, we'll hear from a journalist who has spent years documenting the experiences of migrants working in the Gulf states. Vani Saraswathi is the editor at large and Director of Projects for migrant-rights.org. It's an advocacy organization that aims to advance the rights of migrants working in the Gulf region around the Arabian Peninsula. Many migrants come from India, East Africa, and the Philippines.
They come with a plan to build a house, to put their kids through school or to get their sister married or daughter married. They have these plans for a better economic environment for their children for their families. And that can go wrong, terribly wrong. What they don't account for is a lack of social support. That when they come here, they're going to be working and living in absolute isolation. If you're a female migrant worker in the domestic work sector, you're going to be literally imprisoned in your employer's home.
Vani currently lives in India, the same country where she was born and raised. But she spent 17 years living and working in the Gulf, where she met dozens of migrants with a range of experiences. Some made the trip after hearing success stories from their home countries, like this one from India.
The southern state of Kerala has a very, very high rate of migration. And it's a wealthy state, you see that wealth. And you know that wealth came from remittances from the Gulf. That is a motivator for everyone else.
While the motivation may be a widespread phenomenon, the success rate is a lot less common. Vani says this is due in part to the fact that all migrants in the Gulf are employed under something called the Kafala system.
It's a network of laws and practices, basically, tying an individual or non-nationals, residents and work permits to one national entity. To either a citizen employer or a citizen-run business or a locally registered business. So, it gives the employer unmitigated powers over the worker, your work and residence is tied to the same entity. The government has just outsourced immigration policies to the individual.
This is particularly problematic for a region where the majority of the labour market is made up of migrant workers earning low wages in construction, agriculture, and domestic work. And throughout the nearly two decades that Vani lived in Qatar, she saw the consequences of this with our own eyes.
So, you saw violations like, of course, overworking, being housed in terrible conditions, not being paid properly or not being paid at all. But what has really stuck was the fact that there was no accountability. The government wasn't held accountable. And the businesses, the employers were not held accountable. So, you saw that you had like millions of workers across the Gulf. Women coming from the Global South, having no labour protection, no legal protection outside of the visa regime. Domestic workers laws in these countries are very recent, and they've always been excluded from labour laws. So, you started noticing this more, that not only were there violations, but there was a deliberate attempt to stop any kind of access to justice.
Through her work, Vani has heard some heart wrenching stories from migrants. Some former domestic workers spoke about being sexually abused by their employers. People in the fishing industry talked about being arrested by coast guards while on the job. And across the board, there seemed to be an overall disrespect for their basic rights as workers.
A small thing like not being paid on time, which will appear small, has a devastating impact on the families, children dropping out of schools, the elderly, not getting medicine. So, these are the kinds of things that we try to bring in, in our reporting.
Vani's main takeaway from all her time in the Gulf, as a migrant herself, and now as an editor who travels there often for work, is that any potential solutions to improving the rights of migrants in the region should focus primarily on labour laws.
What they really need to look at is not just safe migration, yes, there is a trafficking component that we need to look at. But what is more important is forced labour in destination. And that can be avoided. And that comes when you ensure your laws, and the enforcement of the laws, protect the rights of your workers - labour rights and other human rights. And this doesn't exist in the Gulf context. Freedom of association, freedom of speech, all of this doesn't exist.
Many thanks to Vani Saraswathi, for sharing her experiences reporting from the Gulf. To discuss the unique patterns and challenges of South-South migration, I have Nicola Piper, professor of international migration and founding director of the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Center at the University of Sydney, and Professor Joseph Teye, director of the Center for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana. Thanks to you both for joining me. In the Global North, we hear mainly about South to North migration, and not as much about South to South migration. Can you tell us what defines South to South migration?
Professor Joseph Teye
Yeah, so when we talk about South to South migration, we are talking about migration from one country in the Global South to another region or country in the Global South. So maybe if I move from Ghana to Sierra Leone, or you know, Ghana to Nigeria, then we call it South-South migration, or somebody is moving from Haiti to Ghana, that we also call South-South migration, which is different from movement from a Southern country to another country, which is the South-North migration. Unlike South-North migration, where mostly, the distance covered is quite high, the South-South migration sometimes can be within the same region. So, if you take West Africa, for instance, you have countries within the region, where people have been moving from one country to another for millennia. So, in the Western African region, for instance, people used to move from the Sahel region, we are talking about countries, such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso. These are countries that find themselves in areas that are a little bit dry, where the rainfall region is not very good for cultivation of crops. So, they tend to move towards the southern part of the West Africa. So, they move into Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, southern Nigeria, to farm. And then they go back during the rainy season to farm in their own lands, and they come back. So. in the South-South migration, normally it's happening intra-regionally. So, whereas we talk a lot about South-North migration, about 70% of mobility, globally happens within the region. And South-South migration is a dominant form of mobility for people within the Global South. If you are talking about Africa in general, we tend to hear about exodus from Africa to Europe. And that is how the media presents it. But about 70% of the people that are migrating from Africa, are moving within their region. Even so, those that are moving out of West Africa, some are going to Central Africa, some are going to Eastern Africa, some are going to Southern Africa, or some are moving to places in the Middle East, which is also still part of South-South migration. And that is why within South-South migration is very important. But it is not well covered in the literature, and it is not well covered in the media.
So, it seems as though the term is not being used just as a geographical locator but as a euphemism for a more complex narrative. Nicola, what do you think?
Professor Nicola Piper
Yeah, I suppose in answering this question, I think we need to first of all think about what the term or concept South-South refers to. You know, to think about the broader questions, where and what is the Global South? When did this term emerge? Who uses the term and why? One definition used, in particular within policy circles, is very much of descriptive nature. And in this sense it represents the most recent term in a long list of catch-all concepts used to identify, define, and cluster the poorer parts of the word. So Global South in this context replaces terminology deemed no longer appropriate in an area of independent nations, you know, post-colonialism. So, analysts, researchers and NGOs usually draw on the World Bank's classification of countries as low or middle-income located in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean. But this is a rather economically driven classification. But as to be expected, the term Global South is a heavily debated and critiqued concept. It is subject to various schools of thought among academia. There's an ongoing debate regarding its meaning, use, applicability and analytical value. So, the answer to the question, what is the Global South, is therefore not straightforward. And it's not really possible to provide a quick and easy definition because the word is more dynamic and complex. And we can see this in migration as well. This complexity is reflected in the scholarly debate on this term. But one aspect heavily critiqued concerns very much the nation state focus of the very descriptive definition of Global South. So, scholars who have been vocal in voicing their objection to this typically, you know, nation state focused concept, they embrace an understanding of the Global South as part of an interconnected political economy. And they therefore view it as more if you like, deterritorialized conception, and the incentive of doing so for someone like me whose work is primarily about labour migration, and the migration of people as workers, is to draw attention to the uneven process of economic development, and the role of capitalism in processes of external and internal colonization. So, the idea behind this really is to highlight the limits of the promise of globalization in equalizing relations around the world.
Why is there so little coverage of this kind of migration in the Western media?
Professor Joseph Teye
Yeah, that is a very interesting question. So, it is true that if you look at most of the writings on migration, they tend to focus on the South-North migration, which is less than 30% of movements. And this is because much of what we hear about migration is written by journalists in the Global North of the Western media. So especially if you take after 2015, when a lot of people moved from Africa or Asia to Europe, people then thought that the whole of Africa was moving to Europe because they see a lot of people coming in, and they do not see the other people who are circulating within the Global South. So, they are just seeing just a few people moving in. But to them compared with the history, they think more people are coming. So, the Western media tend to paint a picture of the exodus that we see. The other reason for this is that research on South-South migration is not something that is done by many people in the Global South or the Global North even themselves, simply because if you look at the calls for proposal for research, the funding agencies are largely in the Global North, and they tend to fund researches that will benefit the Global North. So, if the funding agency is in Canada, for instance, they want to see how is it that more people are coming to Canada? How do they understand mobility towards Canada? That is what interests them and it's understandable because policymakers in the Global North want to understand mobility into the Global North, rather than mobility within the South-South. Some even see the South-South countries as if they are the same. So, there are many who even think Africa is a country, people don't even think Africa is a continent [laughing]. So, for them to say you are talking about mobility from Nigeria to Ghana, a funder in the Global North is not likely to understand those things. In recent years, there have been a few researches on South-South migration. In fact, one of the largest migration projects, which I'm part of, is called 'South-South Migration, Inequality and development', which is funded by the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation), and that one is looking at mobility only within the Southern countries, which is good, a few researchers are doing that. But another reason is not only the research, sometimes we conduct good researches and we write very good articles, which are published in High Impact Factor journals. But how many people read these things that we write? So, I think we as scholars also need to do a little bit more in disseminating our information, especially with people in working with the media is really, really good. Those are the things that I think we need to do more, because more people tend to listen to things that are published by the media than what we write in academic journals. Again, so when we work in silos, we conduct researches, we attend big conferences, we present our findings, many of these do not even get to the policymakers, they do not also get to other stakeholders. But if you put something in the media now or on the radio, millions of people will hear about it, and then they will know there is a South-South migration that we have not been talking about. So, I think that is what we as academics or researchers have not done very well over the years and the result that we are trying to change.
Professor Nicola Piper
Yeah, I suppose in the West, there is really the sort of perception that most migration is directed at Europe, North America and Australia. Yeah, so we have images of floods and mass migration often springing up in the media and public discourse. You know, we see it for example, in the posters used by Nigel Farage during his Brexit campaign, or the most recent statement by the latest Home Secretary in the UK, who used the term 'invasion'. So, this migration is typically also used, migration is also typically used for scapegoating problems we have in our western societies, and it's used in national election campaigns. So really, there's a lot of focus on in-coming migration in the West, rather than also really highlighting the fact that migration involves many other regions in the world. And in many ways, actually, there's more migration outside of the West. But it's politically of very little interest and also, therefore very little interest to the media.
What are the main countries attracting migrants and what's drawing them there?
Professor Joseph Teye
So that is an interesting question. Many people think that the Global South in general is not developed. But even within the Global South, there are areas which are relatively more developed. These countries tend to attract more migrants. If you take West Africa as an example, the main country that attracts many of the migrants from West Africa is Cote d'Ivoire. And there are about more than 2 million people who have moved from other West African countries and are residing in Cote d'Ivoire. And that is followed by Nigeria. So, Nigeria has about 1.3 million people who have moved from other countries in the Global South and, or in within the West African region and are living in Nigeria. The third one is Burkina Faso. And it's interesting here because Burkina Faso is largely a migrant sending country. It sends a lot of migrants to Cote d'Ivoire. Now, Burkina Faso has about over 700,000 immigrants from other West African countries, simply because you have displacement taking place in the Sahel from Mali, from northern Nigeria. And many of these people move to Burkina Faso. And then the fourth country is Ghana. So, Ghana also receives more than 500,000 people. And we are talking about these are documented immigrants. The figures could even be higher than what we are talking about, given that many of the South-South migration is not documented because people cross borders, sometimes they don't show any documents. Then we have new countries that are producing oil, where a lot of people are moving to within even Africa. So, you're talking about Equatorial Guinea, you are talking about Gabon. These countries are producing oil, so they tend to have better economies, and so people are moving to those countries. So, in 1979, the Economic Community of West African States what we call the ECOWAS, they then formulated and passed what we call the ECOWAS Free Movement Protocol, and which grants citizens what we call 'free entry'. And then also we have free residence, which is also called 'right of residence', and then 'right of establishment'. So free entry, right of residence, and rite of establishment were the three pieces of the ECOWAS free movement protocol. The free entry allows people within the ECOWAS region to move to another region freely without any visa for up to 90 days. They are now even thinking of scrapping the 90 days so that you can be there forever. So, all the 15 countries within the ECOWAS, people can cross the borders without any problem. Although sometimes you have a few harassment and others by border officials who want to take unofficial payments from people. Some of them don't have passports because it's quite poorly understood. Some of the people think because it is free movement, they just get up from their house and move freely without any passport. Yet the border officers they want to see the passport in order to demand them the right of entry or the free entry that we talk about. So, within ECOWAS region it's working. The free movement is not working well in the other regions, even though they have bilateral agreements that allow movement. So, if you're talking about the SADC region [Southern African Development Community]. The African Union itself has also drafted every movement protocol, which is supposed to follow that of the ECOWAS. Unfortunately, only a few countries have so far ratified, only five countries. The reason is that many people are thinking that their free movement will allow an exodus into their, so called, “developed countries” within the region. So, if you look at the big countries within the region, they are reluctant to ratify because they are taking more people. You would have seen a lot of what happens in South Africa, where a lot of other [people from] African countries move there. So, people are thinking the migrants are taking their jobs. So just as we hear about the siphoned-off migration, we have similar tendencies also, even within the Global South, where sometimes you have tension between the migrants and local people, because many of the migrants tend to work in the informal sectors, even the free movement does not allow people to work in the government sectors.
Professor Teye addressed some of the different free movement protocols in Africa, are there similar protocols between South Asian countries in the Gulf region?
Professor Nicola Piper
Yeah, no, that is actually a really key difference between Asia, Africa and Latin America, because both Africa and Latin America have really done a lot of work on freedom of movement protocols, which in Asia, we however, do not see. What happens in Asia is labour migration is very heavily regulated in relation to temporary contract migration and via bilateral labour agreements. But what this means is, migrants don't have full freedom of movement in terms of deciding where they want to go, how long they want to stay for, and in what area of work they would like to work. So, it's very, very narrowly defined with very little freedom. So, it leaves migrants as legal migrants. From that point of view, it's regular, but they are not free to change employers or to move to a different country easily. It involves an application process and a lengthy hiring and placement process. It involves paying fees to regulatory institutions and agents. And that is a key difference between Asia and other regions in this world.
Migrants moving South to North run into harassment at border crossings, lack of documentation, or countries trying to dissuade them from entering. Do migrants moving South-South face the same challenges?
Professor Joseph Teye
Yeah, so it depends. If they are moving within the same region, they don't face much problem within the same region [when] there's a free movement protocol as in West Africa. But if you are moving from West Africa to say, South Africa, you face the same issues, you still need to apply for the visa. If you are moving towards the Middle East it’s the same challenges that you face. The only difference is that it's relatively easier to get a visa to another Southern country than to get a visa to the Global North. That's in many cases. It's not always the case. But in many cases, that is relatively easier. Then we have other challenges. Sometimes even where there is a free movement protocol, the right of establishment becomes problematic. In the West African subregion, for example countries, such as Ghana, or Sierra Leone, or Nigeria, have reserved certain sectors for their citizens. For instance, when you want to operate a saloon or drive a taxi, these are seen to be sectors where they poor can invest. So they don't really encourage, even retail trading. They don't encourage migrants to be in those sectors. So those sectors are restricted. So those are the few challenges just as you will see in the Global North.
Professor Nicola Piper
Well again, in my area of work, which is labour migration, these dynamics are little different. It's not so much a matter of being harassed at borders, because as I just said, in Asia labour migration is very heavily regulated and migrants, often, not all migrants, but the majority of labour migrants, move under bilateral labour agreements and, therefore, don't have issues at borders. And they are welcomed employers, but not always for the right reasons. Meaning migrants are often employed precisely because they are seen as more docile, hardworking and importantly, less costly. You know in terms of social costs and also being subject to lower wages. They're often classified as low-skilled, which is often a proxy for cheap labour. A former student of mine who researched online platforms and social media as used by employers of domestic workers in Singapore, for example, found that most employers saw migrant domestic workers as a necessary evil. So, they would have preferred to do without them but they're heavily dependent on them, so they had to have domestic workers to assist them in their daily lives. So here you can see that is as such, not necessarily a great welcoming of migrants, as we see elsewhere, what the difference is in Asia, it's not so much in relation to harassment at borders, it's more to do with harassment at the workplace.
What support is available in host countries for migrants moving South to South compared to those moving to the Global North?
Professor Joseph Teye
So, the nature of support is quite complicated to generalize. In the sense that different countries have different support systems. Where we talk about formal support systems, ironically, that is rather better in the Global North. Because if a migrant manages to get to Canada, for instance and he has the right documentation, or to Europe or other places, he could have access to government support. For instance, just moving to Europe, while having their documentation, they can get support for housing if they are not having a house, or they don't have any place to stay. In the Global South, this is difficult, because the Global South countries find it difficult to provide these support systems, even for their own nationals. So, if you're in Ghana, you are in Nigeria, or you're in another part, where you don't have a house, for instance, you can't say you are going to the government to provide you with housing facilities, because they are not available. Even though we have social welfare systems. Largely, many people, that's how come you see a lot of people on the streets. So, for the migrants, there are no way to get these formal support systems. They may get like, free access to health, for instance, if they are refugees, or if they are poor migrants, they may get national health insurance systems may cover them, or education fine. But more support for housing and other things they may not get. But they get family support when you are in the Global South. That is the only thing that is better there compared with the Global North. Because you're normally moving into places where you have friends and relatives. So, people moving from Togo to Ghana, they have another family member maybe living in the same community who can provide them with their support. So, when they just get there, before they get even to work, they have somebody who can house them. That can happen also over here [Canada], but it is not that easy. It's easier when you are talking about the Global South. So, family support systems, people from the same community that are living there, friends and family that is a better support system that they get in the Global South.
Professor Nicola Piper
Well in Asia, and again in the area of labour migration, what we can see is because it's mostly temporary and in relation to temporary contract migration, the kind of support available derives mostly and largely from the civil society sector and faith-based organizations. So, there's a large and vibrant civil society sector in most host countries, except for the Gulf where this space has historically not evolved in the same way for a host of reasons. But even in the Gulf it is concerned citizens who try to carefully provide assistance to migrant workers. So, it really mostly comes from the civil society space.
What are the developmental and environmental impacts of this kind of migration?
Professor Joseph Teye
Yeah, so South-South migration has a lot of developmental or environmental impacts. We have already talked about it when we look at the developmental and environmental factors that drive South-South migration. We do know that climate change, environmental change is pushing people to migrate. On the other hand, the mobility of people into areas can also cause environmental impact. So, if you look at the urban areas that are receiving a lot of migrants. There you tend to have what we call 'informal settlement', or the emergence or slums. These are areas that are not prepared to receive the millions of people that come. So, when you talk about Lagos or you talk about Accra, or you even talk about Nairobi, you have the emergence of slums. And normally these people are South-South migrants. Either [?] migrants or people that are coming from other countries within the region. They don't have money to rent decent accommodation. They're having a lot of slum eviction in some of those countries. Developmentally, the path, you are talking about sometimes there is pressure on the little jobs that are available. So, that is a negative developmental impact, but there are also positive developmental impacts of South-South migration. So, we are going to get real gain. For instance, as one of the positive impacts. For instance, Ghana depends a lot on engineers from Nigeria, in the oil and gas industry because Nigeria has been doing oil and gas exploitation for a long time before Ghana found oil and gas. So, that is a contribution. Then we also have even in the construction sector, many of the work that is being done in Ghana, like just laying down of tiles or doing POP [Plaster of Paris] and all those things, we get them from Togo or Benin, so that is for instance as a contribution. So that is the skill transfer, or the gain that one can talk about. Then also trade. So, the South-South migrants who move, sometimes they move with their goods and services that they sell. So ,you can get now clothing from China, clothing from Nigeria, in other countries. So that is also a positive developmental impact. Then we are talking about remittances. So, when you talk about remittances from migrants, the remittances are not only coming from South-North migrants.
So, by remittances, you mean when migrants send home part of their earnings to support their families?
Professor Joseph Teye
Yes. If I were to look at remittance flows to Ghana, we have a higher proportion of remittances that are coming from Nigeria, or coming from Togo, or coming from Cote d'Ivoire. These are migrants from Ghana that are living there. It's the same for Nigeria, you have remittances from Ghana, flowing back, we have remittances from China also coming into Ghana and all those other countries. So, remittances are another developmental impact of South-South migration. And then finally investment. So, the South-South migrants also invest. They move to other countries, and they invest. They have a lot of Nigerian banks in Ghana, now, and all these banks are manned by Nigerians, so that is also an impact of the South-South migration that we can talk about.
Professor Nicola Piper
Well, I personally would say the environmental impacts and the link between migration and climate change, are still under-discussed and under-researched. And this is really very much in contrast to the migration and development nexus, which has been a dominant frame under which migration has been discussed and researched. And in earlier decades, especially around the 1960s, the discourse around the impact of development on migration has been much more negative, you know, as evident in concepts such as 'brain drain'. The tenor nowadays is much more positive. So, migration is seen as a tool for development measured typically in economic and monetary terms, through remittances. And the political talk is about how to enhance remittances and how to make money transfers cheaper. Other costs however, other developmental costs of migration to migrants themselves, you know, in terms of social and emotional impacts, are not measured and are not really taken into the equation. And this is a problem in Asia where most of the migration is temporary, which means migrants leave their families behind and they often spend many, many years abroad, renewing contracts, or moving elsewhere, which means children grow up without seeing much of their mothers or fathers. So, the psychological impact of this on both the left behind and the migrant parents themselves are under discussed and not really taken into the equation.
What changes do you see in the future of South-South migration?
Professor Joseph Teye
We do expect South-South migration flows to increase in the future. This is because it's becoming more difficult to get documents to travel to the Global North. And as I said earlier, more people were moving to Europe and North America, and then with visa restrictions, more people from Africa are now more turning to the Middle East. Some are moving within even Africa to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and then also to other developed areas within the region. As distant regions become more strict, we expect South-South migration to increase. Therefore, there's a need to pay more attention to South-South migration, especially to see how we can better govern South-South migration to maximize its developmental impact and to reduce its cost. There is not given much attention in the literature and also in both policy and academic sectors. We don't talk much about it, but it's going to increase. So, I think we have to better prepare to talk more about South-South migration.
Professor Nicola Piper
Yeah, that's an interesting question. You know during the COVID crisis, some migration scholars ventured the idea that migration is now, you know, a thing of the past. The era of mass migration is over. I personally don't think this is the case. We will see more pressure on out-migration. And also, as the result of course of climate change, we will see more complexity in the direction of migration in terms of, you know, cross-regional migratory movements between Asia, Africa and Latin America. But also in terms of, you know, the classic destination countries of Asians are diversifying. We see, for example, Asians now moving more into Eastern European countries, you know, like Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, where we never used to see Asians migrate to. China's investment and deepening overseas investment drive is, of course, also attracting more migrants into China, not only from Asia, but also from Africa. We see in the field of education, more student migration to education hubs in Asia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. So, from that point of view, we see more complexity and multi-directional migration in the future, I would say.
Any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with?
Professor Joseph Teye
So, any final thought is just to say, to thank you for this opportunity, and also to say that there is a need for researchers to work more with the media, so that our findings are being known to other people. The final issue which is important is migration has always been thought of negatively. Normally, when you talk about migration, whether it's South-North or South-South, people begin to talk about negative aspects. So, they are talking about brain-drain for the sending areas. And then they are talking about competition for jobs for the destinations. But migration, whether it's South-South or South-North actually can contribute to socioeconomic development. And so, we have to look at ways of harnessing the benefits of migration. We believe if migration is well managed, it can contribute to economic transformation for both the destination and the countries of origin. So, there is a need for us to talk more about how we can better improve migration governance so as to harness these benefits. And this, we cannot do alone. We need to work with policymakers, the media, and all other stakeholders.
Professor Nicola Piper
Yeah, I guess, given you know, my personal interests are very much in the institutionalization of migration policy and also in migrant rights advocacy, I am less optimistic in relation to greater freedom of mobility being instituted in the near future and migrant rights being advanced. You know, politically, there's very little appetite for that. And it really looks as if temporary migration is being deepened and Asia is even sort of taken as a model for countries outside of Asia in terms of, you know, bilateral labour agreements and temporary labour migration being seen as the key policy tool for the future. So from that point of view, I am a little bit less optimistic, and I see migration becoming more instrumentalized in the immediate future, and we really, really need to see you know, advocacy politics, staying where they are becoming more vibrant and more active all around the world.
Thanks to Professor Joseph Teye and Professor Nicola Piper for joining me today. And thank you for listening. This is a CERC Migration and openDemocracy podcast produced in collaboration with Lead Podcasting. If you enjoyed the episode, subscribe to Borders & Belonging on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. For more information on South-South migration, please visit the show notes. I'm Maggie Perzyna. Thanks for listening!
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