Socio-economic change and human mobility are constantly interactive processes, so to ask whether migration or development comes first is nonsensical. Yet in both popular and political discourse it has become the conventional wisdom to argue that promoting economic development in the Global South has the potential to reduce migration to the North. This carries the clear implication that such migration is a bad thing, and poor people should stay put. This 'sedentary bias' is a continuation of colonial policies designed to mobilise labour for mines and plantations, while preventing permanent settlement in the cities. European policy-makers and academics are particularly concerned with flows from Africa, and measures taken by the European Union and its member states are often designed to reduce these - often in the guise of well-meaning development policies. By contrast, many migration scholars regard human mobility as a normal part of social transformation processes, and a way in which people can exercise agency to improve their livelihoods. This article examines these problems, first by providing a brief history of academic debates on international migration and development. It goes on to look at the politics of migration and development, using both EU policy and African approaches as examples. An alternative approach to migration and development is presented, based on a conceptual framework derived from the analysis of social transformation processes.