Visa restrictions can increase illegal migration: Study
While imposing visa restrictions can reduce overall migration, it may push more would-be migrants into unauthorised channels, according to a study.
Researchers from the University College London in the UK investigated how individuals are likely to move from one country to another based on varying levels of restriction.
In particular, they looked at the student and high-skilled visas, low-skilled and family visas.
The study, published in the journal PNAS, found that restricting students and those eligible for high-skilled visas does little to change the overall volume or composition of incoming migrants.
Illegal reorientation is especially problematic when government restrictions are placed on family reunification, where roughly a quarter of all those who would have migrated legally would, instead, move abroad through illegal channels.
"We show that even minimal visa requirements can significantly reduce immigration, but this comes at the cost of reorienting aspiring migrants towards unauthorized channels," said Miranda Simon from University College London.
"The largest reorientation towards unauthorized channels happens when the family route is closed because it is the most easily accessible out of those considered," said Simon.
"When restricting immigration policy, governments need to consider that they are also reducing aspiring migrants' already limited options for legal migration," Simon said.
The study found that under a baseline policy scenario in which anyone could migrate as long as they met minimal visa eligibility requirements, only 44 percent of aspiring migrants moved abroad through legal channels.
Restricting low-skilled worker or family migration reduced immigration by 21 and 32 percent respectively from baseline levels, but also increased unauthorized immigration by 14 percent and 24 percent, respectively.
Results also show that enforcement of unauthorized migration is generally not an efficient solution as more than 80 percent of unauthorized migrants would need to be apprehended to offset the effects of legal restrictions.
Researchers used a data-driven, agent-based computational model (ABM) to examine migration for one corridor - ie individuals moving from one origin country to one destination country.
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