This paper examines the efficacy of the increasingly popular idea of utilizing foreign aid as a mechanism to deter immigration. This dynamic is evaluated in response to ethnicity-based anti-immigrant sentiment from native British citizens leading up to, and in the wake of Brexit. I focus on the migratory relationship between the Caribbean and the United Kingdom. This discussion includes an investigation into the practices of foreign aid policy between the UK and the Caribbean over the past decade which have been analyzed in concert with established literature on the relationship between foreign aid strategy and its effects on immigration.
Leading up to the ratification of the withdrawal agreement that officially marked the UK’s departure from the EU, the topic of immigration policy became a critical point of contention for UK citizens and politicians alike. During the debate over Brexit, immigration became the single most salient policy issue to British citizens according to a study from The Migration Observatory from the University of Oxford. In addition to recording the importance of the topic, this study also corroborated an article published by Robert Ford in 2011 that detailed the existence of an “ethnic hierarchy” regarding opinions of the countries of origin from which British citizens are more or less likely to approve of immigrants. Both studies found that, when controlling for skill level and socioeconomic status, there are significant differences between the favorability of potential immigrants from predominantly white countries and those from predominantly black countries. Despite the decreasing salience of immigration in the wake of Brexit, the policy strategies introduced and entertained during that period of time will have lasting ramifications on the future of immigration and integration into the UK.
It is within this context that I consider ethnicity-based anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK, and the consequent proponents of developmental foreign aid as a deterrent mechanism for immigration. The rationale of this strategy dictates that by improving the economic and political opportunities for potential immigrants in their countries of origin, they will be less likely to emigrate. This option is presented as a mutually beneficial tactic that satisfies the goal of maintaining a positive relationship between the target country and the country of origin by spurring the growth of developing countries while also preventing vitriol from British citizens who oppose immigration, particularly from regions with majority black populations. To survey this dynamic, I will examine the relationship between Caribbean countries and immigration to the UK. The Caribbean presents a unique example because as former British colonies, many Caribbean states’ histories are deeply entwined with British aid and intervention, and in addition, citizenship laws adopted throughout the mid 1900’s led to mass flows of immigration to the UK, and resulted in a concentrated population of Caribbean citizens and Caribbean descendants living in the United Kingdom today.
The purpose of this essay is to explore whether the utilization of foreign aid and development programming is an effective deterrent to Caribbean-UK immigration, and by extension, an effective solution to the problem of the “ethnic hierarchy” in the UK. This purpose is borne out of a significant historical legacy of leveraging foreign aid as a deterrent to immigration. For example, this legacy is visible the EU Trust for Africa, which, according to Britain’s former Minister of International Development and current Home Secretary Priti Patel, serves the explicit purpose of utilizing the foreign aid budget for “creating jobs in poorer countries so as to reduce the pressure for mass migration to Europe.” or the “hostile environment” policies established in the mid 2010’s that were designed to make integration into UK society extraordinarily difficult for immigrants. These policies aren’t relegated to an archaic past but are instead the logic and the foundation of the future of foreign aid and immigration policies.
To evaluate the validity of these policies and the logic behind them, I will first establish brief context regarding the history of Caribbean-UK immigration. Next, I will explore the literature on foreign aid and its impacts on immigration, and then detail the current status of immigration projects in the Caribbean. Once both have been established, I will analyze Britain’s current foreign aid practices and evaluate whether these practices have the potential to deter immigration. Finally, this paper will conclude with a brief exploration of the ramifications of these findings and relate them to the current relationship between Caribbean immigrants and UK native citizens. This brief final evaluation will require an analysis of the impact of immigration on economic, political, and social life of the target countries and the role that race and ethnicity play in shaping public opinion and integration.
To begin, it’s necessary to provide a brief context both on the Caribbean and on foreign aid from the UK. There are 26 countries located within the Caribbean Sea. Of these 26, several are official territories of other European countries such as the French territory of Guadeloupe. For the purpose of this essay, when the Caribbean is mentioned, the countries that currently and historically receive foreign aid funding from the UK are the countries being referenced. The Caribbean and the United Kingdom in particular have a unique history. Beginning in the 16th century, the Trans-Atlantic slave trade resulted in nearly two million enslaved Africans being forcibly relocated to Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands. Throughout the following centuries, many of these countries navigated complicated transitions from British colonial status to British Commonwealth status and varying degrees of independence. Notably however, new citizenship laws, particularly the British Nationality Act of 1948 acted in conjunction with post WWII labor-shortages to result in mass emigration from the Caribbean to the UK, commonly referred to as the Windrush Generation, named after the ship carrying them, the MV Empire Windrush. This massive expansion of Caribbean immigration to the UK, coupled with the Caribbean’s exploitation-driven contemporary underdevelopment and particular geographic vulnerability to natural disasters has resulted in a complicated, but deeply entwined dynamic of immigration and foreign aid today.
Having discussed the political and cultural history between the UK and the Caribbean, I will now address the status of foreign aid policy between these two regions. While Caribbean countries have been the recipient of millions of pounds in funding from the UK over the past decade and beyond, including over £145 million since 2019 alone. the type of foreign aid projects and allocation of funding are often congruent with policy areas that are most geopolitically salient to donors, resulting in the propagation of projects that aren’t aligned with the factors most influential to migratory patterns. This dissonance is the result of two distinct phenomena: the particular vulnerability and ineffectiveness of foreign aid funding overall, as well as the dissonance between current foreign aid strategies and the documented relationship between foreign aid and immigration. Three of the factors contributing to the inherent ineffectiveness of foreign aid funding will be discussed first: the lack of tools for measurement and accountability, the policy gap, and the risk of aristocratic recapture. Next will be the relationship between types of foreign aid projects and emigration behavior, specifically considering the difference between how foreign aid is presumed to impact emigration and how foreign aid impacts emigration in actuality. To do this, we’ll explore four main sectors of aid as is recognized by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID): Economic development projects (EDP), social development projects (SDP), climate and environmental concern projects (CECP), and government and stability projects (GSP). Last will be an outline of the most recent decade of foreign aid in the Caribbean and a comparison to the established literature.
Before analyzing the logic of aid, it’s first critical to explore how well researched and well-structured foreign aid is subject to three drawbacks. The first is the difficulty in establishing accountability for the programs. This is a result of ambiguous language undergirding the development of the programs in combination with ineffective tracking metrics. This is exemplified in the data presented below. Not only are many projects built around amorphous terms like “resilience building” and “migration management” that offer little traction for evaluation, but official reports also reflect this lack of accountability. For many projects listed below, accompanying documents tracking implementation and expenditures are sparsely filled out with missing descriptions and funding amounts, as well as straightforward acknowledgements that project implementation was either only partially successful or not successful at all. The second pitfall is that foreign aid programs are especially susceptible to the “policy gap.” The policy gap is the tendency for policy proposals on paper to not match up with the practical implementation, most often due to slashed funding.
The final vulnerability of foreign aid funding is the risk of elite economic recapture. A 2020 study from the World Bank’s Development Economics and Development Research Group identified a pattern in which highly aid-dependent countries are associated with significant increases in deposits in connected offshore financial institutions, particularly those associated with secrecy and discretion. These effects are not replicated in other economic sectors, and they’re not related to exogenous shocks like civil conflicts, financial movement, or natural disasters. The average “leakage” rate is around 7.5% of aid, but it increases as the ratio of aid to GDP increases. This phenomenon is particularly prominent in tax haven states, which are essentially countries that have extremely low corporate taxes and encourage offshore banking of individuals and corporations, and are common in the Caribbean. This also means that the GDP per capita figures presented below have a high potential to misrepresent how much money is circulating in the economy and how close these countries are to development statuses that would suggest decreasing immigration.
Part Two: The Relationship Between Foreign Aid and Immigration
The baseline criteria for successfully using foreign aid as an immigration policy is that the programs seeking to deter migration must result in specific and sufficient changes in the country of origin to disrupt the exogenous factors that engender emigration. This is often acknowledged by target countries. For example, the EU Trust Fund for Africa has pledged £3.4 billion to address “root causes” of immigration. The terms “root causes” and “key factors” are also mentioned in the Obama Administration’s 2012 US foreign aid plan for Central America in reference to addressing and decreasing migration to the United States. But what are the root causes of emigration and how does contemporary foreign aid claim to address them? The current political rhetoric is demonstrated again by Priti Patel, Britain’s former Minister of International Development who reported a focus on “creating jobs in poorer countries so as to reduce the pressure for mass migration to Europe”. This idea presents as logically sound. If economic opportunities are more readily available in a poor country of origin, then there is decreased incentive for citizens to leave home in search of better opportunities for economic mobility. This assumption has informed foreign aid policy for decades, and the DFID has followed suit regarding the Caribbean. The financial breakdown of the 2018/2019 bilateral plans included a focus on the four aforementioned sectors: 73% of funding went to economic development, 13% went to human development, 12% went to climate and environmental projects, and 2% went to governance and security. However, these objectives demonstrate a parochial understanding of how foreign aid influences emigration incentives. Contrary to established wisdom, economic and social development programs tend to increase emigration for several reasons.
Foreign aid projects that fall under the category of economic and social development can include youth employment projects, humanitarian assistance, conditional cash transfers, basic local service provisions, cultural development, and anything else that supports the goal of economic recovery or expansion, or humanitarian development. The first reason these programs tend to increase the amount of emigration is because increased economic mobility allows for more people from the country of origin to act on incentives for emigration. The first incentive identified by scholars studying the relationship between migration patterns and developing economies is the ability to protect against economic shocks, which families accomplish by diversifying their source of income, accessing labor markets that would be unaffected by domestic and local shocks like natural disasters, job loss, or illness. Economic advancements don’t eradicate the need for economic security, and with more disposable income, the economic security of living in a developed country is simply more accessible.
The second incentive that increases the likelihood of emigration with improved economic development is immigration as an investment, a technique often utilized by families and individuals from low-income countries for similar reasons as the logic of diversifying income. Immigration as an investment is typically associated with high material and immaterial upfront costs, including the economic costs of immigrating, the relinquishment of domestic wage earning until a new job can be found in the target country, and also separation from family and community for long periods of time. Of course, the decision to emigrate is predicated on the promise of increased economic opportunities, as well as the financial security that comes along with diversification of income mentioned previously. This frames the relationship between emigration and economic development in the same lens as any kind of investment and begs the empirical question of whether increased disposable income prompts action in accordance with a decreased obligation to invest for the future, or an increased ability to do so. Combined data from the OECD and a study from the Journal of Development Economics suggests that this increase might result in the former conclusion in upper middle-income countries, but for low-income countries, there is significant evidence to suggest that the opportunity to migrate will be taken advantage of.
In addition to direct incentives to emigration that become more accessible with increased economic development, this dynamic also results in demographic and cultural shifts that encourage immigration. One such example is the relationship between economic growth, fertility rates, and infant and child mortality rates. In poor countries with high infant mortality rates there is typically a corresponding high fertility rate. However, as economic growth produces better maternal health outcomes and better access to post partem resources that prevent the predominant causes of child mortality – such as malnutrition, lack of vaccinations, and lack of access to clean water – the number of children that survive infancy and childhood increases before the birthrate decreases in response. This delay eventually produces a sharp increase in working age adults with incentives to emigrate for higher wages. While this particular example is a temporary result of successful economic development, economic development overall does have an impact on cultural attitudes and expectations towards both emigration from countries of origin and immigration to specific regions and countries.
What’s more, beyond this demographic movement, perceptions of immigration and globalization are also subject to change. Overall, as individual and country-wide fiscal advancements emerge, citizens are more able to take advantage of the benefits of increased globalization. This includes expanded access not only to the inherent incentives for emigration previously discussed, but also to resources that incentivize international migration including internet access, language skill building, and international tourism, which is especially applicable in the Caribbean. Further, while some studies have suggested that increasing youth employment has the potential to temporarily deter emigration, this dynamic is eventually overcome as a result of sustained economic development that shapes changes in income, education, aspirations, and general relationships to the international world. In other words, while some studies have found evidence of temporary decreases in immigration following economic expansion, this expansion ultimately results in increased accessibility to globalization and increased openness towards international travel and migration itself. Here it is critical to note that economic expansion can result in a long-term reduction in immigration, but the qualifications for that shift are related to governmental development and stability and are detailed in the following paragraphs.
The next sector to address is environmental protection and development programs. While they are categorized separately by the DFID, they are included in this analysis of economic and social development programs because they most similarly mirror the effects of other social and economic aid projects as is explored in the literature on immigration and foreign aid. As the Caribbean is a region particularly susceptible to natural disaster, environmentally-directed foreign aid has, in some cases been effective in rebuilding communities and land that were impacted by both natural disasters and pollution or deforestation, but the success of these programs is highly variable. Essentially, the degree to which implementation is effective depends on the support of the domestic political infrastructure. Similarly, although categorized with government and stability, aid targeted at conflict prevention is largely contingent on the fundamental stability of the established political system. In fact, in a meta-analysis study from 2017, it was concluded that conflict prevention is not only often unsuccessful at mitigating the types of civil conflict that engender emigration, they are also likely to instigate or intensify conflict if performed in an environment that is not already fairly stable. Of course, the relative success of these programs – improving environmental protection, providing job opportunities for local workers – is still subject to the critique levied against all economic projects. In a region that is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, environmental and humanitarian foreign aid is often extremely beneficial. However, there is no evidence to suggest that it is a reasonable sector to invest money in if the end objective is deterring immigration.
The final category of foreign aid is governmental development projects. As discussed previously, government stability projects related to conflict prevention still offer poor expected results. However, unlike socioeconomic development and environmental protection, governmental development programs stand out as a foreign aid sector that has an empirical relationship to decreased immigration rates. Unfortunately, however, decreased immigration rates only occur with long-term stabilization and political development. Emigration tends to taper off and then decrease as countries develop past low-income status to middle-income and upper middle-income status. Of course, the majority of independent Caribbean countries will not approach that point for several decades at current estimates of growth rates. In fact, countries typically don’t demonstrate reductions in emigration until they surpass a GDP per capita of around $10,000, and of the Caribbean countries the UK supports with foreign aid, only five countries have even approached or surpassed this threshold. However, governmental durability is an essential prerequisite because economic growth is only impactful if distribution mechanisms are well enough established that the growth is accessible to the majority of citizens. That growth must not only override intrinsic incentives for immigration, but it must also contend with the increases in the working-age population and cultural norms that emerge from increased economic mobility and international accessibility. This means, for example, allowing for the benefits of globalization to be accessed in the country of origin rather than serving as new incentives for emigration.
Part Three: Data on UK-Caribbean Foreign Aid
The question now remains: how do the UK’s current foreign aid programs in the Caribbean appear in light of this literature? In this section, I lay out the past decade of UK foreign aid projects in the Caribbean, and then analyze whether these programs adhere to the misguided logic of foreign aid as an immigration policy. The entirety of this data is sourced from the UK’s DFID Development Tracking database. British foreign aid projects in the Caribbean range from cultural and tourism projects in the human development project (HDP) sector like the Chevening Scholarship – which pays for Caribbean students to attend UK universities – and the Supporting Human Rights, Democracy, and Rules Based International System projects in the governmental stability project (GSP) sector, to disaster relief and economic growth projects in the climate and environmental concern project (CECP) sector and economic development project (EDP) sector respectively.
Part Four: Conclusion
According to the data reported by DFID, the UK had a £104 million budget for foreign aid in the Caribbean between 2018 and 2019. 73% was allocated to economic development projects, 12% to climate and environmental concern projects, 13% to human development projects, and just 2% to governmental stability. Over the course of the past 10 years, a £757,158,539 budget for foreign aid was distributed with 83% of the funding going towards EDP, 8.6% going towards HDP, 4.9% going towards CECP, and just 3.5% dedicated to GSP. The requirements for foreign policy to successfully reduce immigration are steep, and this model reveals a fundamental flaw in the logic governing foreign aid to low-income countries as a whole. As it currently stands, foreign aid allocation isn’t responsive to empirical evidence regarding successful economic, social, environmental, and governmental development. This is because the ultimate goal of quickly reducing immigration is incompatible with the mechanisms necessary to accomplish it. This is not to say that foreign aid is inherently ineffective or unproductive, but rather that while reducing immigration is possible, it won’t reliably stem from short-term projects that target supposed push factors leading people to emigrate. The process of increasing stability in tandem with economic growth that ultimately results in decreased emigration will inevitably fuel more immigration in the short term. This is to say that as long as UK foreign aid targets decreasing immigration to the UK as a fundamental goal, the ensuing policies will only serve to generate short-term economic development that will actually move more Caribbean residents into an income range that is able and likely to emigrate.
When observing more trends in how foreign aid is implemented, it is revealed that arguments supporting the theory of a myopic logic of foreign aid are persuasive. This is particularly well demonstrated in the concept of migration-sensitive allocation of funding. In the same paper in which authors Czaika and Mayer describe the general threshold above which immigration tends to decline, they also outline the phenomenon by which donor countries allocation of funding amount is correlated with spikes in migration. This assertion is underscored by findings from Bermeo and Leblang’s 2015 paper discussing foreign aid and migration. Utilizing data from the OECD, these authors found that an additional migrant from a particular country of origin roughly corresponds to a $242 increase in aid spending for that country from a developed nation. However, increased funding doesn’t typically appear to observe the empirical data outlined above. While the amount of funding allocated for different countries is responsive to relative migration patterns – illustrating that foreign aid is in fact motivated by immigration deterrence – the allocation of funding to specific migration-relevant sectors doesn’t appear to be impacted by increasing or decreasing migrations flows. In other words, foreign aid funding distribution is based on the prevalence of migration from certain countries, but the effort is superficial as it doesn’t employ the use of tactics that would actually address the increasing migration it was intended to quell.
This exploration of both the literature of foreign aid and immigration as well as the contemporary practices of UK foreign aid to the Caribbean have led to the conclusion that foreign aid policies are ineffective at reducing immigration in the short-term. This doesn’t mean that foreign aid itself is ineffective, but the current implementation is only fostering the increase of Caribbean residents that have access to the economic mobility necessary for emigration. This paper argues that this gap between intention and actuality isn’t simply symptomatic of inefficient implementation but is instead the result of an intrinsically flawed approach to foreign aid. The only effective mechanism to achieve long-term reduction in immigration from a low-income country is long-term commitment to the growth and stability of that recipient country, and this commitment must acknowledge the inevitability of increased immigration in the short term. In summation, the UK will remain unsuccessful at deterring immigration from low-income and developing countries as long as the design and execution of foreign aid are guided by domestic priorities as opposed to genuine investment in the development of the recipient country.
This conclusion suggests the inevitability of future Caribbean immigration to the UK, at least in the short term, and no viable policy options to prevent it. However, the requirement that the UK prompt its foreign aid development in accordance with a dispassionate and authentic pursuit of the advancement of Caribbean countries brings us back to the driving factor of this paper: the ethnicity hierarchy. This original topic will guide the conclusion of this paper and identify the implications it has beyond the scope of Caribbean to UK immigration. This conclusion requires context of its own. The aforementioned Windrush Generation of Caribbean immigrants are widely credited with propelling the British economy with much-needed labor in the wake of WWII. However, these black immigrants were not granted equal access to social and political institutions in the UK, nor access to economic mobility enjoyed by other immigrants. The majority of them – including highly-skilled workers – were relegated to low-wage labor options for employment and were both legally and socially barred from accessing community establishments like shops, pubs, and churches. In addition, they were excluded from educational institutions, and allowed access to segregated housing institutions.
T ensuing racial disparities are still impactful to this day, affecting autochthonous and allochthonous British Caribbeans alike, and what’s more, anti-black and anti-immigrant sentiment continues to fuel this dynamic. Why is this important? Although the majority of new British citizens of Caribbean heritage are now native-born rather than immigrants, African immigration is increasing. What’s more it’s clear that racial prejudices and the vestiges of discriminatory policies are preventing black UK residents from engaging fully in political and social institutions in the UK, regardless of immigration status and country of origin and across employment, education, crime, health care, and every other facet and institution of British life. This continued prejudice has widespread implications for the future of all black immigrants in the UK, and the inability to successfully integrate black immigrants will ultimately have a stagnating effect on the United Kingdom as a whole. Race and ethnicity undeniably play a significant role in both attitudes towards immigration as well as immigrants and their descendants in the UK. The certainty of future Caribbean, African, and ethnically diverse immigration necessitates improvements to integration mechanisms as well as foreign aid, and an evaluation of racial bias in the implementation of those mechanisms and policies in order to capitalize on the potential for immigration to improve the lives of native and immigrant citizens of the UK. This paper proposes that the still-unfounded ramifications of Brexit provide the opportunity to structure an effective immigration policy for Caribbean migrants that is mutually beneficial for all UK residents, irrespective of immigration status, race, or ethnicity.
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 Clemens, Postel
 Czaika & Haas
 (43.88% Forestry policy, 20.81% environmental policy 14.09% trade policy 14.6% Public sector policy) DFID
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