Thomas-Hope, Elizabeth M.
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Department of Geography and Geology
Trends and patterns of migration to and from the Caribbean
International migration and development in the Americas
Place of Publication
International Organization of Migration
Date of Publication
Series Editor Role
Series Volume Identification
Series Issue Identification
Also published in Simposio Sobre Migación Internacional en las Américas pp. 1.2.1-1.2.22
Migration has become deeply embedded in the psyche of Caribbean peoples over the past century and a half. It has evolved as the main avenue for upward mobility through the accumulation of capital financial and social. Thus the propensity for migration is high and there is a general responsiveness to the opportunities for moving whenever they occur. At times these opportunities have come from within the region itself or the wider circum-Caribbean region, as in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; in more recent times from North America and Europe. The migration dynamic reflects the interplay of international, national and highly personal circumstances. Global changes affect the international economic order and the division of labour and, as a consequence, legislative controls and inducements to the movement of labour across selective national borders. At the national level, economic, social, demographic and political factors influence the variable access of people to economic rewards and social opportunities. But migration is not a passive reaction to internal ‘pushes’ and external ‘pulls’. Within this wider international and national context, migration is part of a dynamic set of negotiations at all levels. For whether ‘free’ movement or refugee, there is a selective process that operates at the interface of the needs of the immigration country on the one hand and the potential for migration in the emigration country on the other. Besides, these are complex and not solely determined by simple economic forces. Pressure, based on the social and political implications of the migration, is sometimes greater than the need for labour in the economy. Within the sending country, there are pressures from high propensity migrants to seek migration opportunities; yet their departure in large numbers is likely to create deficits in the reservoir of human resources with potential negative implications for national development. There are, therefore, a number of conflicts of interest within both receiving countries and sending countries at the national and local levels between the costs and benefits of migration. The compromise between these conflicts in the receiving country is manifest in the immigration regulations and recruitment drives that emerge. The compromise in the sending countries is reflected in the system of obligations, responsibilities and expectations that the migrants and non-migrants establish. The sending country has a relatively poor negotiating position at the national level, even though, in many instances, the labour force and other recruits (such as students) are highly valuable at the destination. Only in the contract labour schemes has the Jamaican government, for example, been able to enforce a requirement of saving and foreign currency remittance. By and large the sending country has simply to accept the spontaneous benefits that accrue through migration. It is in this regard that policy should focus upon the development of mechanisms to channel the benefits into national productivity so that as much as possible value-added may be derived.....