South-south flows make up almost half of all emigration from developing countries and roughly a third of international migration worldwide. Nevertheless, international migration theory has focused on explaining south-north migration and has left the dynamics of south-south flows largely unexplored. This paper argues that one key to understanding intercontinental south-south migration is the interplay of immigration policies, and more specifically of access policies. Some migrants from developing countries, who face severe restrictions to reach their preferred destinations in the north, move to accessible destinations in southern regions, either because this opens up opportunities for onward migration to northern countries, or because these countries are relatively attractive in their own right. This paper examines Ecuador’s extreme policy of universal visa freedom of 2008 as a quasi-experiment to test the impact of the de facto opening of borders of a Latin American country on south-south migration from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Complementary qualitative findings shed light on the characteristics and motivations of recent extra-continental immigrants in Ecuador.
International Migration Institute