Citation: Sabates-Wheeler, R. (2009). The impact of irregular status on human development outcomes for migrants (Research Paper 2009/26). New York, NY: United Nations Development Programme.
Abstract/Description: The purpose of this paper is to explore how irregular status impacts a range of human development outcomes for labour migrants. The analysis indicates that for poorer labour migrants, irregular (or undocumented) migration provides a positive, private return to income and livelihood improvements for themselves and their families as compared to 1) no movement at all, and at times, 2) regular (or documented) migration. However, irregular status is associated with a range of forms of disadvantage and vulnerabilities that often compromise migrants’ rights, entitlements and the rate of return they achieve from the migration process. Migrants are as rational as other members of the population and, being aware of these vulnerabilities, many still choose to migrate. The larger hypothesis of this paper is that, as long as poverty drives migration, legal status will not be a priority for migrants. Migrants will be willing to endure short to medium term hardship and the undermining of a range of capabilities and rights (such as education, social assets, rights and personal welfare) to provide economic safety nets for their families and future improvements to their (and their families) livelihoods and wellbeing. As long as migrants on average achieve a positive increase in income and assets through the migration experience (which they do) they will sacrifice a whole range of freedoms and rights. It is therefore imperative that policy makers make active steps to protect migrants with regard to basic human rights and facilitate positive outcomes from their migration experiences. In particular, we urge southern governments to advocate for all their migrants abroad, regardless of legal status. If southern country governments accept the mainstream opinion that migration is good for development, and furthermore recognise that a substantial number, if not the majority, of their migrants are irregular, and continue sending remittances and investment, then governments should seek to protect their citizens aboard, facilitate safe remittances, and begin to stand firm in the face of pressure to control national borders.
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This is NOT a C-MISE publication: this website hosts links to external publications and resources selected by the C-MISE team on the basis of their relevance for city authorities interested in service provision to migrants with irregular status, and are only presented here as suggested readings. External publications are the product of the authors there mentioned, and are not in any way the product of the C-MISE initiative, nor are they related or endorsed by the C-MISE initiative.