In analyses of migration policy outcomes, existing theoretical approaches focus on explaining whether or not migration policies realise their intended effects. Through an in-depth analysis of the bilateral return agreement between Norway and Ethiopia, this paper explores a different avenue for analysing migration policy. By exploring the context of the agreement, this paper discusses what constitutes the diverse effects and outcome of the policy. While focusing on changes in public discourse on migration and changes in the two countries’ bilateral relationship, this paper concludes that research on migration policy would benefit from extending its scope of analysis to include other societal effects since these can be as significant as the effect of numerical changes in migration flows. The inclusion of policy effects and the bargaining power of Ethiopia in the analysis, further demonstrates the importance of including the sending state perspective in order to reach more detailed and fruitful research on migration policy and migration policy outcomes.