Despite a growing body of research on migration and development, the literature highlights the limited empirical evidence available on the effectiveness of migration programmes. The aid-spending departments of the UK government are in the process of identifying how UK aid contributes to tackling the “root causes of mass migration” and developing new, targeted programmes. A recent rapid review of the UK’s aid response to irregular migration in the central Mediterranean recognises that the body of research offers limited guidance on what works (ICAI, 2017). It calls for improved labelling of migration programmes, investment in monitoring and evaluation, and for the UK’s aid response to irregular migration to be informed by robust analysis.
Best practice in migrant programming has been difficult to draw together but commonalities in what should be considered and recommendations include:
- Donors and international agencies should conduct market, political and policy mapping of the local context before investing, and ensure that programming is designed based on these findings.
- Implementing agencies and partners should prioritise and draw on the knowledge of refugees, host communities and local actors, who are best placed to understand local needs and opportunities and design programmes that complement existing local initiatives.
- Donor governments must promote refugee human and economic rights and could pair livelihood assistance with diplomatic advocacy to promote host-country policies that grant refugees the right to work.
- Programmes must be monitored and evaluated to provide an evidence-base to inform policy. This will involve explicitly identifying the strategic goals of a programme and using these to develop metrics to measure its success in meeting its targets (such as the number of beneficiaries served) as well as the impact on the lives of migrants.
- Programmes must respond and be adaptable to increasingly complex migration patterns.
- There should be improved documentation and analysis of the costs of refugee self-sufficiency and resilience, sustainable voluntary return, local integration and resettlement to permit comparison, where relevant, between programmes and to identify opportunities to pool resources or develop economies of scale.