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Migrant remittances crucial for both families and sustainable development

Flickr AMISOM Public Information

15.6.2017 – Migrants send home 51% more than they did ten years ago, lifting millions out of poverty and contributing to the sustainable development goals.

According to a new report released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the increase in remittances is far greater than the 28% increase in migration from the receiving countries.

Sending Money Home: Contributing to the SDGs, One Family at a Time is the first-ever study of a 10-year trend in migration and remittance flows over the period 2007-2016, and is published ahead of the International Day of Family Remittances, observed on 16 June.

“It is not about the money being sent home, it is about the impact on people’s lives”, says Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, stressing that the impact of remittances must be viewed one family at a time. “The small amounts of $200 or $300 that each migrant sends home make up about 60% of the family’s household income, and this makes an enormous difference in their lives and the communities in which they live.”

But the migrants are paying a high price. Over 1808 migrants have died already in the Mediterranean in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration, IOM.

Migration in the spotlight at EU development days

Both migration and remittances were debated during the European Development Days (EDD’s) in Brussels in June, where several conferences and brainstormings took place.

“Those who cross the Mediterranean today, risking their own lives, are among the most courageous, entrepreneurial people we could possibly find”, said IOM’s EU Regional Office chief, Eugenio Ambrosi during his intervention at one of the seminars. “Just imagine how beneficial they could be to our societies if we actually tapped into these positive characteristics, which basically all of them have.”

More than 200 million migrant workers are now supporting an estimated 800 million family members globally. It is projected that in 2017, one-in-seven people in the world will be involved in either sending or receiving more than US$450 billion in remittances.  

“Migration is the fastest way towards development”, said Rainer Münz, Adviser on Migration and Demography to the European Political Strategy Centre, EPSC. “During all times, people have migrated towards more productive economic areas. Europe’s problem has rarely been migration, but rather integration.”

Taken together, these individual remittances account for more than three times the combined Official Development Assistance (ODA) from all sources, and more than the total foreign direct investment to almost every low- and middle-income country. However, transaction costs to send remittances currently exceed $30 billion annually, with fees particularly high to the poorest countries and remote rural areas.

“About 40% of remittances - $200 billion – are sent to rural areas where the majority of poor people live,” says Pedro de Vasconcelos, the manager of IFAD’s Financing Facility for Remittances and lead author of the report. “As populations in developed countries continue to age, the demand for migrant labour is expected to keep growing in the coming years. However, remittances can help the families of migrants build a more secure future, making migration for young people more of a choice than a necessity.”


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