Bild von der EU-Fahne und von der Afrikanischen Union

Making fair external migration policy a reality

Comprehensive and sustainable policy responses to migration and refugee dynamics require principled approaches in both domestic and foreign policies. Creating a coherent external migration policy involves improving horizontal coordination across different policy areas and the vertical coordination of policies across municipal, national, European and international levels. It also involves ensuring that the relevant actors from civil society and government in countries of origin, transit and arrival prove able to play an active role in the spirit of partnership.

We need policies that incorporate the interests of all sides while identifying and fostering sustainable approaches to solutions that go beyond issuing deterrents and imposing restrictions. Migration and development need to be seen as interconnected issues. Lasting results can be achieved only if international cooperation on migration issues incorporates the interests of migrants as well as those of origin and destination countries. Our work aims to help implement this triple-win approach in Germany and abroad.

Contact Persons

Foto Najim Azahaf
Najim Azahaf
Senior Project Manager
Foto Susanne U. Schultz
Dr. Susanne U. Schultz
Senior Expert



The so-called refugee crisis has ushered in a new era of external migration policy. In the context of Germany’s need for skilled labor and demographic developments across much of the global south and in Africa in particular, the issue has become even more volatile. The trajectory of demographics in Germany is creating a growing number of skilled-labor shortages in certain industries and regions. At the same time, many countries of the global south have growing numbers of people of working age who face little hope of productive employment in their domestic labor markets. Efforts to match these needs, which are driven by contravening demographic forces, opens up the opportunity to institute a new migration policy that advances global sustainable development in ways commensurate with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We aim to help make external migration policies more fair and in harmony with the goals of a triple-win approach

  • within the framework of the Migration Strategy Group on International Cooperation and Development (MSG),
  • by promoting partnerships in migration cooperation, and
  • through the framework of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).

1. Migration Strategy Group on International Cooperation and Development (MSG)

In order to ensure a triple win with impact, national governments must pursue a coherent policy agenda that links up migration, development, labor market and other policy areas in targeting long-term objectives. We support and strengthen efforts to achieve these goals through the MSG, an initiative that we coordinate in cooperation with the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the German Marshall Fund. The MSG brings together at regular intervals representatives of federal ministries, international organizations and other relevant actors to engage in open dialogue on issues affecting migration. This exchange, which reaches across ministry portfolios and sectors, focuses on good practices and solution-driven approaches found in Germany and elsewhere to managing migration in ways that support development objectives. Throughout 2020-2021, the MSG will focus on how the effects of digital transformation and technological developments will impact refugee and migration policy in an international context.

MSG background papers and policy papers can be found here.


The Migration Strategy Group's Background Papers and Policy Papers

2. Migration Cooperation and Partnership Strategies

Cooperating with African states on migration policy is becoming increasingly important for Germany. However, the nature of this cooperation has been characterized by strong asymmetries and divergent interests that have intensified in recent years. On the European side, defensive attitudes have dominated the debate regarding migration. Complicating matters is the fact that both sides see the available instruments and actors in ways that contradict each other. Migration, and in particular (forced) returns, often become bargaining chips leveraged by both sides. Any solution to this problem must be grounded in cooperation efforts between Germany (within the EU framework) and African states that are conceived in terms of a partnership. As the EU’s most populous country, and thanks to its proactive migration and refugee policy, Germany can serve as an inspiration here. We help foster discussion on this issue by providing forums for dialogue and exchange and conducting research. Our policy brief Giving fresh impetus to Germany’s collaboration with Africa on migration highlights the relevant issues at stake (Download DE | EN).

Policy Brief

Giving fresh impetus to Germany’s collaboration with Africa on migration

[Translate to English:] auf einem foto der Weltkugel spannen sich Fäden zwischen Deutschland und dem afrikanischen Kontinent

Because they incorporate the needs of all sides in the sense of a triple-win approach, transnational skills partnerships that target the joint development of skilled labor offer a particularly promising opportunity. More information on our activities available here.

Foundation-driven international cooperation
Together with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is bringing new ideas to labor migration management and transnational training partnerships with African countries through a series of events designed to focus on developing innovative forms of cooperative migration partnerships between Africa and Europe in a post-COVID world. The “Innovation in Africa-Europe relations beyond Covid-19” event series demonstrates the commitment and potential of foundations in helping cultivate new kinds of partnerships. More information here.   

EU cooperation on migration
The European Union plays a key role in setting the framework conditions in which partnerships for managing migration are developed, and has begun taking on a stronger operational role in this regard. European countries must observe in theory and practice the requirements proposed in the EU Pact on Asylum and Migration for balanced and tailor-made partnerhsips and be diligent in ensuring that such requirements are met in practice. Participants at our digital discussion event, the Migration Zoom Time “New Forms of Partnership-based Cooperation with Africa?” explored the challenges and potential benefits of migration policy cooperation between the EU and Germany with African states. A video recording of this event can be accessed through our online media library below. A video recording of this event is available at the bottom of this page in the media library.

3. Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD)

In the coming decades, forced and voluntary migration will continue to be one of the grand challenges we face in our increasingly globalized world. Now, more than ever, we need the international community to develop effective approaches to managing migration that yield long-term mutual benefits for all stakeholders. Working to develop cross-border solutions, the GFMD brings together thought leaders from more than 150 countries to debate migration management and development potential at the following forums: Government Days (government representatives), the Common Space program (international civil society stakeholders), and the Business Mechanism Meeting (private sector). Germany and Morocco co-hosted the GFMD in 2017 and 2018, which focused on efforts to strengthen civil society, the Global Compact on Migration as well as the

north-south dialogue on transnational training partnerships


Videos of these events can be found here in our online library.