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Document Abstract
Published: 2005

Regularization programmes: an effective instrument of migration policy?

Benefits of regularisation programmes as an instrument of migration policy
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This paper explains the rationale, types and outcomes of migrant regularisation programmes in destination countries, highlighting their meaning and potential.

The first part of the paper provides an overview of the concept and history of regularisation programmes in various countries. It then examines the different forms and criteria employed in Europe and the US, and evaluates the outcome of these programmes and their impact on the resident migrant populations. Finally the paper discusses to what extent regularisation could be considered a policy option for the future.

The study finds that occasional regularisation programmes do not bring sustainable results in terms of minimising irregular migrant populations or preventing further irregular arrivals. However, the possibility of obtaining legal status for those resident in the country should not be underestimated or prevented. Therefore, the paper argues, ongoing regularisation possibilities seem to be a more effective policy option.

Further recommendations include:

  • long term permits support upward mobility, taxing and family reunion. For example, a combination of initial three year residence and work permits that are renewed for five years and then become permanent could be more effective
  • eligibility needs to be based on clear and flexible criteria, so as to make information, preparation and application procedures feasible. Employment or existence of a job offer should remain an essential requirement for granting legal status to resident migrants; on the other hand, the permits should be flexible when it comes to renewal, even in the absence of employment or job offer at the time of application
  • the regularisation process needs to be in conformity with human rights standards and international norms, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN 1990 Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the European Convention on Human Rights
  • to combat irregular migration regularisation needs to be combined with tighter border controls, employer sanctions and law enforcement.
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A. Papadopoulou

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