What role does migration play in national development strategies?

Migration remains high on the political agenda in Georgia (ICMPD, 2015). Georgia is one of a few countries in the world that is increasingly including migration in national development strategies, defined by its migration strategy document. The government offers three motivations for Georgia’s 2016-20 migration strategy (SCMI, 2015b): i) ensuring the security and long-term stability of the country; ii) helping to facilitate the process of approximation9 of national legislation with that of the EU; and iii) to better manage migration in order to tap its potential for economic and social development in the country.

The desire to include migration in Georgia’s wider development sphere dates back to 1997 when the President of Georgia approved the Migration Policy Concept of Georgia, which outlined the country’s vision on immigration processes, international protection and internal migration. While these efforts were novel and represented a significant step forward, the document lacked an implementation mechanism.

In October 2010, the government created the State Commission on Migration Issues (SCMI) but it was not until 2012 that it approved a much more developed migration strategy, which notably included an action plan to support it. With the assistance of the EU Mobility Partnership10 and within the EU-funded Targeted Initiative for Georgia (TIG) framework to “Support the reintegration of Georgian returning migrants and the implementation of the EU-Georgia readmission agreement”, the SCMI drafted the inaugural 2013-2015 Migration Strategy of Georgia (SCMI, 2012). The process of developing a strategy paper in the field of migration management was therefore largely facilitated by the co-operation between Georgia and the EU within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) as well as the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP). One of the challenges has therefore been to ensure that Georgian legislation, and specifically its migration-related policies, are synchronised (“approximated”) with the relevant EU legislation.

On the heels of the expiry of the 2013-15 migration strategy, the SCMI incorporated the lessons learned from it into a new strategy, drafted and approved in 2015, for 2016-20. Its vision is stated as:

“To create, by 2020, a legislative and institutional environment that:

  • • ensures the state’s enhanced approximation to the EU;
  • • facilitates peaceful cohabitation of various religious, cultural and ethnic groups;
  • • protects migrants’ rights and their successful integration into society;
  • • promotes the reintegration of returned migrants and the usage of the positive economic and demographic aspects of migration for the development of the country;
  • • and increases legal migration opportunities for the citizens of Georgia.” (SCMI, 2015b).

A major challenge and priority for Georgia, highlighted in the new strategy, is the significant fall in Georgia’s population between the 2002 and 2014 census years.

The current strategy includes the following eight thematic directions, each with its own specific subgroups:

  • 1. facilitating regular migration
  • 2. combating illegal migration
  • 3. developing the asylum system
  • 4. facilitating the integration of immigrants and the reintegration of returned migrants
  • 5. leveraging migration for development
  • 6. improving migration management
  • 7. raising public awareness of the strategy, and migration issues in general,
  • 8. deepening international co-operation.

Each thematic direction has a goal and a list of objectives to reach before the end of the strategy period, supported by analysis. Apart from general initiatives that aim to improve all dimensions of migration, such as better policy co-ordination, data collection and analysis and deeper international co-operation, several of the eight thematic directions are explicitly linked to emigration, remittances, return migration and links with the diaspora. For instance, the first thematic direction discusses steps to improve the registration of emigrants and promote the internationalisation of the education sector, providing more opportunities for educational exchanges and meaning Georgian credentials are more likely to be accepted by employers abroad. Another thematic direction discusses facilitating the reintegration of return migrants.

Some of the directions remain vague on these issues. For instance, there is a specific direction on leveraging migration for development, which mentions migration’s potential for development, the development of circular migration and the investment potential of emigrants and the diaspora, but it only seldom specifically mentions the use of remittances.

In order for migration to be effectively integrated into a country’s national development strategy, the migration strategy must take into account the country’s other objectives and ongoing initiatives. To what extent does Georgia’s migration strategy achieve this? First, it highlights the importance of integrating the links between migration and labour market and education policies, such as vocational training and higher education planning. Second, it contains a section on the strategies with which it complies. These are:

  • 1. The State Strategy for the Formation of the Labour Market in Georgia (2015-2018)
  • 2. The State Border Management Strategy of Georgia (2014-2018)
  • 3. The National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights in Georgia (2014-2020)
  • 4. The Communication and Information Strategy for the European Integration (2014-2017)
  • 5. The Socio-economic Development Strategy of Georgia - Georgia 2020 (2014-2020)
  • 6. The Association Agenda between the European Union and Georgia (2014-2016)
  • 7. The Vocational Education and Training Development Strategy of Georgia (2013-2020)
  • 8. The Policy Planning System Reform Strategy (2015-2017)
  • 9. The Diaspora Relationship Strategy of Georgia (2015 draft).

The list is long and covers much of the development sphere in the country. However, two of the strategies listed (numbers 2 and 9) are migration-oriented and should naturally be integrated into the migration strategy anyway, while several important sectors are seemingly left out, including agriculture, finance, investment and trade. Beyond the migration strategy however, it is often the case that the sectoral strategies do not take into account the migration dimension.

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