Youth Voices: RemittancesEmmanuel, male, age 26, student migrant, Ghana → Macedonia: It has been 12 years since my father left the shores of Ghana. One positive effect of his migration is that he has been able to support our education through the remittances that he sends.
George, male, age 35, family member in the country of origin, Nigeria: I send my family members abroad greeting cards during festival periods and also send them music tapes. I receive money from my family once in a year, and it comes during the Christmas period.
Although young people left behind recognize and appreciate the socio-economic benefits deriving from remittances, many of them would gladly trade the financial gains for greater physical proximity to their parents.
B., female, age 29, youth migrant, Philippines → United KingdomAs we grew older, these gifts, though lovely and admired, were just gifts and didn't really make that much of an impact anymore, because what we needed then was the presence of the migrant parent, not the remittances sent to us.
The amounts, types and frequency of remittances vary widely. Migrants may send money home as often as once a month or as seldom as once a year. Transfer arrangements depend on a number of factors, including the young immigrant’s employment status and income level in the destination country, the needs of family members in the country of origin, the cost of sending remittances, and in some cases the availability of someone trustworthy to hand-carry the funds back home. Migrants may send financial and non-financial resources to their immediate or extended families through formal or informal channels.
The decision to use formal or informal avenues for remittance transfer is guided by considerations such as the migrant’s immigration status, the cost of sending remittances, and the migrant’s relationship with individuals returning to the same country of origin. In some countries, migrants in an irregular situation may not have access to formal transfer systems. If the cost of sending remittances is prohibitively high, many migrants will resort to informal means.
Pawser, aged 19-25 years, refugee, Thailand → United States of AmericaI save money here by myself and send money to my family and poor children at Christmastime. Sometimes it can be expensive to send it via formal means.
The decision to stay abroad or return home
Migration outcomes vary widely. Some young migrants return to their country of origin, either voluntarily or involuntarily, whereas others remain in the destination country.
To understand the dynamics of return migration, it is important to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary return. Voluntary return among young migrants tends to be linked to greater potential for development in countries of origin. Those who travel home on their own terms are often equipped with new skills, qualifications and economic resources that may generate long-term benefits for the returnees, their families, and the local community. Conversely, young migrants subjected to involuntary return frequently experience difficulties that increase their vulnerability and make their return and reintegration more challenging. This is particularly true for migrants in irregular situations subjected to deportation and perhaps less true for youth who are compelled to return home to fulfil contractual obligations linked to migration sponsorship programmes.
Filiga, female, aged 15-35 years, UNICEF RVOY focal point for TuvaluOne of the main reasons migrants return home is because they find life overseas harder than life at home. Others return because of their parents’ influence or instructions, which in Tuvalu play a significant role in the lives and choices of young people. Some have returned because their wives or husbands or children are still back home. Those who went overseas for education may have had jobs waiting for them in their country of origin, or they may have been required to return because part of the contract they signed with their employer was to return for a set period (especially in the case of sponsored students).
While migrants returning home voluntarily are generally at a relative advantage, they nonetheless require social support and reliable information on economic prospects to facilitate their reintegration. For returning youth, detailed and accurate information on development opportunities is essential to compensate for any loss of social capital upon return. Some youth migrants approach both migration and repatriation with a clear purpose. Young student migrants from developing countries in particular often feel that their enhanced skills and qualifications will allow them have a positive developmental impact on their societies and countries of origin when they return. Most of the youth in this category were initially motivated to study abroad by an interest in acquiring new skills and ideas and in joining business networks that would be useful for their countries of origin upon their return.
Laz, male, age 30, student migrant physician Nigeria → United StatesIt is my desire to return to my home country or Africa, live closer to my loved ones, and use my skills as a health expert for the benefit of a population that needs it most.
While some youth may choose to return home permanently, others might decide to settle in their destination societies. Those in the latter category feel that the factors that caused them to migrate—such as poverty, high unemployment and poor infrastructure—are still prevalent in their countries of origin.
George, male, age 32, student migrant Ghana → South AfricaInadequate opportunities in Ghana [are] an issue of concern. The statistics for unemployed graduates (most of whom are my colleagues) have skyrocketed in recent years, and I simply can't add to the numbers. … I literally packed my whole life up from Ghana to study and hopefully search for economic opportunities. I have made a huge investment in my studies as a self-funded student, and I feel it would not be economically wise to forfeit this effort.
Many of those who settle abroad permanently maintain ties with their origins through short, periodic visits to their native countries or communities. This group includes young migrants who are involved in diaspora-driven activities.
James, male, aged 20-35 years, community activist_____ Kenya → CanadaWhen I got to Canada, I still wanted to continue with my passion: community work. In 2009 I formed Youth Initiative Canada, which is a diaspora-driven organization working to empower youth in Canada and Kenya through sports, education and entrepreneurship. What has kept the organization running is working closely with diaspora organizations and community partnerships with community-based organizations in Kenya. I try to travel back to Kenya every year. I'd like to encourage young migrants to stay in touch and get involved in development in their countries of origin and also to preserve their culture as they integrate into the new country/home.
Whether young migrants decide to stay in their destination societies or return to their countries of origin, they typically find that the migration experience has transformed them into ‘third-culture youth’ influenced by experiences in both their home and host countries.
Timothy, male, student and traveller. No age given Nigeria → United StatesI have never been more aware of my identity as a Nigerian. Unlike in Port Harcourt, where I could be mistaken for another youth down the street, I stand out in the small Texas town of Wimberley. I hear myself when I speak. I feel my own presence in a room. I get smiles and sometimes a little “Hello, where in Africa are you from?” The anonymity that others enjoy eludes me. But this awareness within a new society is my strength; it is my contribution to the melting pot. Knowing the importance of retaining my originality and staying in touch with the realities at home, I am cautious of the melting pot experience. It is a give-and-take situation, though; something must give way. What that ‘something’ is, I do not know. As Derek Walcott said in one of his poems, “Motion brings loss.” The more one moves, the more difficult it becomes to reconnect with the realities of one's home country. Home, as it were, becomes a state of mind and a function of place and time.
A number of young returnees and immigrants report undergoing an identity crisis, which can be especially pronounced when they return home for visits or permanent resettlement. Youth migrants, especially those who left at a very young age and have been away for a long period of time, often have problems fitting in and feeling at home in their countries of origin as they tend to be viewed as outsiders, which can be a source of frustration. Third-culture youth feel that they do not really belong anywhere—either in the destination country or in the country of origin.
Esi, female, aged 20-35 years Ghana → United StatesThough I strongly identify as Ghanaian and have always had a desire to return, the lack of familiarity makes it hard for me to form new relationships and successfully integrate into a new environment in my home country. I find that most migrants (like me) are often treated differently (like outsiders) by others in their home country. There is a bit of difference in culture and experience. I’ve been away for so long and I’m often perceived as someone born in the U.S.
Maintaining contact with people in and from their countries of origin allows young migrants to keep abreast of social, cultural, political and economic conditions at home. Staying connected through various means, including diaspora-driven activities or the use of social media, e-mail and other forms of electronic communication—is critical for migrant reintegration and transmigrant identity formation.
Magdalena, female, aged 15-35 years Mexico/Chile → Australia[It would be useful] to have a safety net of acquaintances to support you during the ‘transition’ period of your return, including relatives that offer you safe and affordable accommodations, a friend that advises you on what is ‘logical’ to locals but not so logical to you anymore, and/or a professional colleague or mentor to guide you on how to get a job and keep it.