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December 2002, Volume 9, Number 12

UN: 175 Million Migrants

The United Nations Population Division in October 2002 estimated there were 175 million people residing outside their country of birth in 2000, double the number in 1975, and equivalent to almost three percent of the world's 6.1 billion people. About 60 percent of the world's migrants, some 104 million, are in more developed regions- making them 8.7 percent of the 1.1 billion developed-region population--and 40 percent or 71 million are in the less-developed regions, where migrants are 1.5 percent of residents.

There were 56 million migrants in Europe (32 percent of global migrants); 50 million in Asia (29 percent); 41 million in North America (23 percent); and 16 million in Africa (nine percent). The US had 35 million migrants, 20 percent of the total; followed by Russia with 123 million; Germany and Ukraine, about seven million each; and France with six million- the top five countries had 40 percent of the world's migrants. The next five countries with migrants were India, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Australia-they had 26 million or 15 percent of migrants. The next five were UK, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Ivory Coast, and Iran- they had 14 million or eight percent of migrants. The top 15 migrant countries had 63 percent of global migrants.

The number of migrants has doubled since 1975. Between 1995 and 2000, the number of migrants in developed countries rose by12 million, or 2.3 million a year, including 1.4 million a year in North America and 0.8 million a year in Europe. Remittances were reported to be more than 10 percent of GDP in 2000 in El Salvador, Eritrea, Jamaica, Jordan, Nicaragua and Yemen.

In 1976, seven percent of the 150 UN member-nations had policies to restrict immigration. Today, 40 percent of the UN's 193 member-nations have policies aimed at restricting immigration.

The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, ratified by 19 countries, establishes an international definition of the different categories of migrant workers. The 2000 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, ratified by 18 countries, aims to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, particularly women and children. The 2000 Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, ratified by 17 countries, aims to combat and prevent the smuggling of human cargo, reaffirming that migration in itself is not a crime, and that migrants may be victims in need of protection.

Refugees. The migrants included 12 million refugees and four million Palestinians. About three million refugees were in developed countries. The UN has approved a 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified by 141 countries, and a 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified by 139 countries.

The UN has been defrauded of millions of dollars by tens of thousands of Afghan refugees who have been given repatriation allowances and pretended to return to Afghanistan. About a third of the Afghans who left the main repatriation center in Peshawar, Pakistan to return home had doubled back into Pakistan after receiving their allotted money and provisions.

UNHCR faces an $80 million shortfall and is calling on donor countries to come forward with more funds. In 2001, there were 12 million refugees and an additional 7.5 million people of concern to UNHCR, including recently returned refugees and internally displaced people.

Population. The United Nations population conference in 1994 in Cairo embraced a new concept of population policy based on improving the legal rights and economic status of women to reduce excessive population growth. The final plan of action, endorsed by 179 countries, calls for "reproductive health services and reproductive rights" for women in order to stabilize the world's population at 9.8 billion in 2050.

The Bush administration in October 2002 threatened to withdraw US support for the Plan of Action from Cairo unless that phrase was removed, since it could be construed to promote abortion. In July 2002, the Bush administration decided to withhold $34 million in previously approved aid to the United Nations Population Fund, contending that it helps Chinese government agencies that force women to have abortions.

Education. The OECD's Education Policy Analysis 2002 reported that there were 1.5 million foreign students in the 30 OECD countries, and that countries such as Australia have more than 10 percent foreign students, reflecting "growing international trade in educational services."

United Nations Population Division. 2002. International Migration Report 2002 ESA/P/WP.178. November. Christina Lamb, "Afghan refugees run a scam on UN relief," London Sunday Telegraph, November 10, 2002.