Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 06/2011

Beyond Aid: Migration as a Tool for Disaster Recovery

Michael Clemens, Kaci Farrell

June 2011

Center for Global Development


Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes can devastate people’s lives and a country’s economy, particularly in the developing world. More than 200,000 people perished when a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, and Americans responded with an outpouring of private and public assistance. Those relief efforts, as they nearly always do, focused primarily on delivering aid. The United States barely used another tool for disaster relief: migration policy. This policy brief explores the various legal channels through which the U.S. government could, after future overseas disasters, leverage the power of migration to help limited numbers of people. We describe what could have been done for Haiti, but the lessons apply to future scenarios.