Hans-Dietrich Lehmann

In his speech given on the closing day of the conference, Hans-Dietrich Lehmann, Assistant Director at the Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), emphasises that migration should be seen as an opportunity for all concerned: for migrants themselves, for countries of migration, and for countries of origin. For this to occur, one essential prerequisite is education. This human right has to be implemented in practice if migrants' prospects of life in Germany are to be improved, and if their countries of origin are to benefit from their potential, through the transfer of funds and knowledge.

The Right to Education in the Context of Migration and Integration - the Development Cooperation Perspective 1

I. Welcome

I was very pleased with the topic agreed for this conference. It links domestic and foreign policy actions in the fields of development and education, which overlap widely but are still all too often treated separately.

Migration and integration are inescapable social aspects of globalization. We shall only be able to understand them and manage them sensibly politically if we think across sectors and develop appropriate ways of acting.

I am grateful to the organizers of the conference because they have set out to reinforce this new approach - in the aim of justice for the migrants concerned.

II. The Significance of the Right to Education in Development Cooperation

Approximately 113 million children worldwide are currently not in school. Around a billion people are illiterate. In Europe, they generally live in relative poverty, and in developing countries, in extreme poverty. Throughout their lives, they are restricted in their ability to help themselves because of lack of education.

Education is a human right because it facilitates personal development and increases the likelihood of living in dignity. It drives social and economic development and is therefore the key to strengthening other human rights. In terms of development policy, this means that without education there can be no combating poverty, no economic progress and no sustainable development. Basic education in particular is indispensable.

The key importance of education is also stressed by the United Nations. The second Millennium Development Goal is to provide complete basic education for all children by 2015. German development policy is heavily committed to supporting this challenging goal and the right to education, particularly in Africa, but also in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

I shall not discuss this classic form of development cooperation any further, however, but will look more closely at the topic of integration and migration.

III. Education as a Necessary Adjunct to Migration and Integration

The majority of migrants from the South belong to the middle class in their country of origin. They have school education and an occupation. They can pay for the long journey and have the confidence to build a better life in an industrialized country.

This courage stems from a rational assessment of the comparative opportunities and prospects in their homeland and the destination country. That too calls for education. If they have not been recruited specially for a specific job, what awaits them is many years of exhausting legal argument over residency status and work permits. During that time, especially if they are actually granted the right to stay and work, there is no question that migrants need one thing: access to continuing education.

Language courses, integration courses and vocational training are fundamental if the occupational knowledge that they bring is to be adapted to ways of working in the economy of the destination country. Without access to continuing education, integration will not be achieved, nor will the migrants' dream of a better life.

The PISA study shows that educational and social status are closely linked in Germany, and are indeed inherited. Many children from a migrant background fail in our school system because they have never properly learnt German. This reflects a culpable neglect of education, which we cannot afford on either humanitarian or economic grounds.

At the current time, over 800,000 people with an Asian passport, 275,000 people with an African passport, and some 100,000 migrants with a Latin American passport are living in Germany. These people have great intercultural and economic potential for this country, which we need at a time of globalization and a low birth rate. Through education, we can top up what they need. And - to return to the issue of development policy - migrants also offer great potential for their countries of origin.

IV. The Development Potential of Migration

For a long time, migration was widely regarded in a negative light in development policy. One main argument was that an exodus of trained people would lead to a shortage of skilled workers, a socalled brain drain, which would damage the economy of developing countries. Without ignoring this substantial problem, we see migrants today as also having great potential. They contribute substantially to the development of their home countries.


The most important contribution made to development by migrants is the transfer of money, known as remittances, to family members in the country of origin. In 2006, these remittances amounted globally to over 300 billion US dollars, of which around 39 billion (11.5 %) went to Africa. The scale of this can be seen in the fact that it is more than double the amount that countries throughout the world spend on development cooperation.

Many developing countries rely on remittances: in Morocco they account for almost 10 % of gross domestic product. According to estimates by the Bundesbank, approximately 154 billion euros flowed from Germany to Africa in the year 2006. The money primarily enables recipients to pay rent, to buy food, to cover health and education costs, and to repay debts.

This private expenditure is important to the economy. Every euro that is remitted brings with it a turnover of two to three euros in the local economy. Remittances improve living conditions for families, whose increased purchasing power in turn encourages local trade and creates jobs. Family members frequently come into contact with the banking system for the first time through remittances, learning to deposit money, and to take out loans and insurance policies. In Uganda, Ghana and Bangladesh, a clear connection has been found between remittances and a decline in poverty (source: World Bank 2005, Global Economic Prospects).

Knowledge Transfer

The knowledge and experience of migrants flowing from host countries back to countries of origin offers a huge potential for development. This knowledge transfer or "brain gain" can only occur if contact with the home country is not lost. Migrants have to have the option of returning for varying lengths of time, taking their knowledge with them.

Panel discussion (from left to right: Hans-Dietrich Lehmann, Rita Süssmuth, Paul Bélanger, Paulyn Jansen, Rüdiger Schmitz)
Source: Hans Pollinger 

One good example of this is the computer specialists who went back to India from the United States and are now playing a key role in India's economic expansion. These Indian migrants obtained good skilled jobs in the United States because of their training. In turn, they were able to make use of the skills and commercial contacts that they acquired there, together with their savings, to build up their own businesses in India.

The opposite situation, brain drain, obtains in smaller African countries. In Malawi, for example, there has been a sustained mass exodus of skilled health workers. Health services in the country are at serious risk. The Millennium Goals in the area of health are unlikely to be achieved in Africa because over 16,000 nurses left the continent between 2000 and 2005 to work in the United Kingdom.

One possible solution is to halt the emigration of skilled workers; this is difficult, however, given the advantages accruing to both destination countries and migrants. The European Union is currently drawing up ethical principles for recruiting staff in the health sector, work which began under the German Presidency.

Another possible solution goes under the name of "circular migration" . This means issuing work and residency permits for a limited period, so as to bring about commuting between countries of origin and host countries. This is another way in which the EU hopes to reduce illegal migration and its dangers for migrants. However, a return to guest worker schemes would not be very popular in Germany, so that we obviously need some innovative ideas and proposals in this area.

The suggestion of giving people from a migrant background the option to return if they wish to work repeatedly for extended periods in their home country is of relevance to development. Continued legal residency status in Europe would make it easier for many of those affected to return voluntarily to their country of origin. This could be an attractive option for skilled health sector workers in particular. The brain drain could gradually be transformed into brain gain and brain circulation.

The German Immigration Act currently permits a maximum stay of 6 months in the country of origin, and then only with the approval of the Aliens' Department, but the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) would be in favour of greater flexibility. Let us think, for example, of Afghans contemplating a return to their home country. They cannot be sure that their plans for making a living in Afghanistan will prove realistic. The certainty of retaining a "foothold" in Germany even if they return to their country of origin would provide the security they need seriously to consider going back. We should not forget that these people were prepared to build a bridge from their homeland to Germany. It would be a mistake to knock down such bridges behind them. Both development policy and Ger-man employers abroad have an interest in people who are able - and willing - to move between different cultures.

Migrant Organizations as Bridge-Builders

Migrant organizations, so-called diaspora communities, fulfil an important function as bridge-builders. They work with local groups in the country of origin to carry out social, cultural and educational projects, such as building schools.

The diaspora also has an influence on political development in countries of origin. Migrants who are well integrated into a democratic, open society also support democratic, liberal parties in their home countries. By doing so they strengthen political change in the direction of human rights, democracy, tolerance and gender equality. They call public attention to problems in their countries of origin through protest marches, petitions and information campaigns. They induce politicians and social movements in their host countries to intervene or provide cooperation.

There are, however, radical representatives of the diaspora who contribute to instability in their countries of origin. In my view, educational provision for migrants in the area of democracy and tolerance could help significantly to ensure that the proponents of such radical ideas meet with a less positive response.

Development Potential through Education and Integration

Experience has shown that educated, integrated migrants are more likely to become involved in the development of their country of origin: either by making remittances to their families, by investing in the economy, by becoming involved in non-profit activities or by passing on the values of democracy and the rule of law. Integration in Germany is therefore the basis which migrants need to realize their potential to combat poverty. In turn, integration requires access to education in the destination country.

V. How German Development Policy Can Strengthen the Potential of Migration

Within the framework of the EU we are working to create a constructive and coherent policy on migration. Since 2005 there have been useful developments and joint activities with African countries of origin and transit countries. Our overall aim is, firstly, to put a stop to illegal, dangerous migration and the brain drain, and secondly, to maximize the positive effects of migration for countries of origin.

One important area of activity is cheap methods of making remittances. Transfer fees of up to 25 % are currently being demanded. At the end of the month the BMZ is therefore opening a website on which migrants will be able to find information about cheaper options. We aim to increase transparency and competition in the money transfer business. Initially we shall provide information on Morocco, Ghana, Vietnam, Serbia, Albania and Turkey. Our website will follow the British example, "sendmoneyhome.org" . This has successfully resulted in more money being sent through formal channels, falling costs and therefore larger amounts of money reaching countries of origin.

Another way forward is cooperation with diaspora organizations. Their involvement in developing the social infrastructure in their countries of origin has aims similar to those of development cooperation. Since there are as yet very few points of contact between the two groups, we are attempting to work through intermediaries, such as the integration officials of the Laender and local commune authorities. They too are becoming increasingly aware of the positive connection between migration, integration and development. It has become clear that integration and transnational commitment are not contradictory, as used to be assumed.

Cooperation between development cooperation and the diaspora can create synergy effects: development organizations profit from the country knowledge of migrants, who benefit in turn from the professionalism of the development organizations. The latter can provide help with application procedures, funding and implementation of projects in countries of origin.

We are currently planning a pilot project in Morocco: the Government has recognised the importance of its diaspora and is very interested in working with us and other countries. Morocco intends, among other things, to encourage the economic involvement of Moroccans abroad. To this end, we propose to promote links between the diaspora in Germany and small and medium-sized enterprises in an area of Morocco particularly affected by emigration. Advice on banking will also ensure that remittances of savings are increasingly invested in the economy of the region.

One particular way of working with the diaspora is what is known as the Support Programme for Returning Skilled Workers. We have been funding this programme for many years. Our intention is that migrants should apply their knowledge to supporting development in their countries of origin, after studying at university in Germany, for example. The programme provides advice, job-finding, networking and grants or loans. Incentives are offered to take up development-related activities in countries of origin, so that brain drain is turned into brain gain. In 2006, over 780 migrants returned under this programme. 218 of them were from Africa, and the African countries with the largest number of returners were Ghana, Cameroon and Morocco.

Example: We are supporting Ghanaian water supply specialists through the programme. They return to Ghana with know-how and assistance with equipment, and become involved in training staff of the Ghanaian Ministry for Works and Houses. Other returners use their knowledge to help build up private engineering firms.

There are no doubt more possible ways of making use of the potential of migrants. I shall continue to explore these.

VI. Conclusion

The topics of education, integration and migration are closely interconnected with development. My concluding propositions are as follows:

  1. We need to perceive migration primarily as an opportunity - for countries of origin too. In terms of integration activities, this means that we should no longer condemn migrants' attachment to the country of their birth as an obstacle to integration. This can still take place even if they retain an interest in their country of origin.
  2. The implementation of the right to education for migrants is of great importance from the standpoint of development - as well as from that of domestic policy and integration. Migrants need educational integration and employment, and linguistic and cultural knowledge, if they are to have the freedom of movement to play any active part in their countries of origin. In my view, therefore, creating better educational opportunities for migrants both improves their prospects for life in Germany, and helps to contribute to the development of their home countries.

1. The spoken word takes precedence.

Adult Education and Development


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