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Keywords:

  • reverse remittances;
  • migration–development nexus;
  • international migration;
  • multi-sited methodology;
  • Africa;
  • Europe

Abstract

Scholarship on the migration–development nexus has focused on the outcomes of remittances received by the inhabitants of countries in the Global South. This paper argues that this conceptualisation of remittances as one-way flows obscures the fact that remittances are part of reciprocal social relations. As such, they also entail flows of goods, money, and especially services from countries in the Global South to migrants, or what is called reverse remittances. The paper contributes to emerging literature on reverse remittances by broadening the conceptualisation of reverse remittances and presenting an analysis of their characteristics as well as those of receivers and providers. We find that most remittances from home communities to migrants are in the form of services rendered. These include childcare and helping with migrants' investments in housing and business. Furthermore, we elaborate on another type of reverse remittance overlooked in the literature: services conducted to help migrants obtain documents to regularise their stays in the host country. The type of reverse remittance received differs for documented and undocumented migrants, and the providers differ according to kin and non-kin relations. Depending on their significance, reverse remittances can be important in determining whether and how migration can lead to a betterment of people's lives in the Global South and are therefore relevant for the migration–development nexus, which has heretofore neglected their existence. The analysis is based on a simultaneous matched sample methodology conducted with 131 migrants in the Netherlands and their network members in Ghana, using both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.