In the thick of the global immigration debate, the many benefits that diaspora populations bring to their host and home countries are at risk of being forgotten. The governments of most countries in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) with large numbers of citizens scattered abroad—Palestine, Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, and Algeria—do little to reap the economic benefits of the bonds of kinship.
With a diaspora equal to at least 5% of its total population, or 20 million people, the MENA region has a much higher proportion of its citizens living in the diaspora than the world average. Mobilizing MENA’s diaspora would tap the expertise and networks of its professionals worldwide, broadening their role beyond that of sending remittances back home.
Remittances are valuable, particularly in times of hardship as a source of foreign exchange. MENA’s emigrants and their descendants sent about US$53 billion in remittances to relatives and friends back in their countries of origin in 2014, their value in Lebanon and Jordan making up about 15% of GDP in each country.