Migrants usually leave their countries of origin with the primary aim of supporting their families. However, while they may be able to send remittances, these alone do not solve the other serious social problems those left behind face. In particular, social care systems often do not have the capacity to assist those affected by the migration of a family member – particularly a parent or a spouse. Therefore, when a member of a couple leaves, their partners are often forced to take on unfamiliar new responsibilities in an environment that does not prepare them or accept them in this role. If both the parents of a child leave, the child may be left in the care of elderly grandparents, other families, or left to fend for themselves. Even the migration of a brother or sister may increase the amount of work in the household that their siblings left behind have to do.
Therefore, migration may cause social vulnerability for the family members they leave behind. The results can be drastic, leading to discrimination and disempowerment, affecting children’s schooling, and in some cases even facilitating trafficking in human beings. Special measures and attention is therefore required to ensure that the migration of a family member does not lead to those left behind suffering.
This issue has been growing in importance in recent years. It has led to the development of an important body of theory and practice focusing on what issues should be considered for those left behind, methodologies for identifying the issues specific to particular communities, and ideas for responses. The following resources will provide an insight into what should be considered and what can be done.