The effects of development aid on irregular migration to europe: Deterrence or attraction?

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Responding to growing immigration concerns in recent years, European countries have claimed to tackle the root causes of migration using development assistance. Some recent analyses find more aid associated to lower immigration, providing support to this policy. But these findings rely on measures of regular migration, while donors’ concern is on irregular migrants.

This study tests whether development aid has a deterring effect on irregular migration to Europe.

Adopting innovative data on irregular migration flows to Europe between 2009 and 2016, a simultaneous equations model accounts for the potential endogeneity of both total and bilateral aid.

The study finds that total aid does not significantly reduce numbers of migrants apprehended at Europe’s border. Moreover, bilateral aid tends to raise these numbers. The estimated costs for each deterred irregular migrant are high: in the best‐case scenario the range is between USD 150,000 and USD 320,000. The estimated costs to deter regular migrants are even higher, between USD 0.9 million and USD 2.5 million. Both estimates concur with those from previous work. Findings are robust to different aid measures and specifications.

Policy implications
Empirical results provide no evidence to support the use of development aid to deter migration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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