The economic and social effects of remittances and return migration in conflict-affected areas: The case of Burundi

Sonja Fransen, UNU-MERIT / School of Governance

In the emerging academic and policy literature on migration and development in conflict-affected states, migration is generally regarded as a positive force for development. Migrants may contribute positively to economic development and thereby reconstruction and peace building in conflict-affected states through sending remittances or by bringing back skills and assets upon their return. Conflict-affected states however differ significantly from other developing country contexts that have not been affected by conflict, which can make us question the extent to which remittances and return migration have the potential to contribute to development in these contexts.

This dissertation studies the economic and social effects of remittances and return migration on households and communities in Burundi. The aims of this dissertation are to a) provide insights into the lives of households and communities that are recovering from civil conflict and the role that migration plays in their lives, b) to apply specific tenets of theoretical approaches that have often been used to study labour migration to a conflict-affected setting, and to c) to study how migration affects both economic and social aspects of a conflict-affected society.

This dissertation shows that in a conflict-affected country such as Burundi, which is one of the poorest countries the world, migration does not have the anticipated development-boosting effect that comes forward from the policy and academic literature on migration and development. The economic development impact of remittances, for example, was limited because remittances did not reach the citizens who needed it the most. Similarly, return migration led to structural inequalities between return and non-return households in terms of land ownership and was found to negatively affect the living conditions of non-return households as well. The findings of this research highlight the necessity of a basic level of development before migration can positively affect development. In the absence of investment opportunities for remittances or opportunities for returnees or returning households to establish their livelihoods, the development effects of remittances and return migration will be limited or, in the case of return migration, even negative.

Venue: Aula, Minderbroedersberg 4-6, Maastricht

Date: 16 June 2015

Time: 12:00 - 13:30