Spanish Council Presidency: how can we use the diaspora population as leverage for migration control?


The EU should use policies on the diaspora population to step up pressure on third countries to cooperate with migration control, the Spanish Council Presidency has suggested, by “embedding discussions on diaspora relations in bilateral relations on migration with partner countries.”

Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

Image: Focal Foto, CC BY-NC 2.0

In a document (pdf) that has the lofty title of ‘Diaspora as a development agent – remittances and beyond’, the Spanish Presidency asks some blunt questions:

“How can we integrate diaspora investment and remittances in bilateral relations with partner countries, making use of its potential as an incentive to deepen cooperation on migration with the EU?”

“What role could diasporas play to facilitate returns? How to involve diasporas in some of the aspects of voluntary return?”

The paper is couched in the language of development and gives significant attention to the question of remittances by diaspora populations to non-EU states, which “were the largest source of capital inflows to low- and middle-income countries in 2022, ahead of foreign direct investment and aid. Their importance is growing.”

The aim of reducing the cost of remittances, in particular to Africa, is highlighted in the paper, but it laments a “lack of standardized regulations among EU member states further contributes to the divergence in remittance costs, hindering the potential for a more inclusive and affordable financial ecosystem for all within the bloc.”

However, the paper also notes that in recent years, “several institutions” have moved “away from the traditional focus on remittances to emphasise the benefits that can be gained through active diaspora engagement.”

In this vision, “diaspora is beginning to be seen as a "collective action", whose members can contribute directly to investment, as well as act as agents of development.”

The paper notes that:

“The actions of diaspora investment promotion agencies (IPAs) are starting to play a major role in this regard, promoting a range of activities such as: the creation of marketing materials for their diaspora to invest, outreach and awareness-raising through cooperation with diaspora organisations, networking in host countries through events and social gatherings, meetings with diaspora-owned companies in host countries or engaging diaspora members working in large multinational companies to obtain information on key contacts. In addition, an increasing number of migrant sending countries is looking at raising funds from its diaspora through Diaspora Bonds, issuing bonds at a favourable premium to its diaspora, generating a flow of funds while creating a process that keeps the diaspora highly engaged with their home countries. The EU, with its resources and know-how, has the potential to assist in this work.”

The EU may well have the “potential to assist,” but the paper indicates that the question of engaging the diaspora as a means for development for its own sake may well play second fiddle to development as an instrument for reducing migration to the EU.

At one point the paper notes how “diasporas’ investment for climate adaptation in rural communities is enormous but still under-exploited, as it could help mitigate the cycle of climate-induced forced migration.”

It is noteworthy that the paper was distributed to the Council’s Working Party on External Aspects of Asylum and Migration (EMWP), and its handling codes (MIGR, JAI, ASIM, RELEX) refer to migration, justice and home affairs, asylum and external relations – not development, trade or aid.

The paper goes on to say:

“Remittances, and other forms of diaspora investment and engagement, are a key source of income for migrant-sending countries. They are the reason why so many partner countries keep a keen interest on legal migration, often sustaining their economies and their GDP. Working on legal migration pathways should thus go hand in hand with enhancing the EU’s support to maximise the impact that the Diaspora can have. This support, if well used and coherently put together, has also the promise of becoming a significant incentive for deepening cooperation on migration more widely from partner countries, and also on matters of specific concern to the EU.”


Our work is only possible with your support.
Become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

Further reading

06 July 2023

Commission remains tight-lipped on Balkan deportation scheme

Earlier this year, Statewatch published a secret ministerial statement that committed EU and Schengen states to providing financial and material support for deportations from the Balkans. The European Commission recently answered a parliamentary question on the topic. The answer contains nothing of substance.

10 July 2023

“PUSH BACK FRONTEX”: campaign in Senegal targets deployment of EU border agency

A campaign against the deployment of Frontex in Senegal is seeking to halt a proposed agreement between the EU and the West African state and to denounce “how the EU collaborates with our complicit regimes killing people in the Mediterranean and in transit countries.”

07 June 2023

Tracking the Pact: Council prepares to approve negotiating positions

The Council is hoping to approve its negotiating positions on the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation (AMMR), Asylum Procedure Regulation (APR) and Single Permit Directive on legal migration at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting tomorrow. The texts, published here, were circulated in the Council yesterday (AMMR and APR) and at the end of May (Single Permit Directive).


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error