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April 2016, Volume 22, Number 2

Global Migration

The UN released new estimates of international migration. ( The UN estimated that 244 million people were outside their country of birth for a year or more in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010, an increase of 4.4 million a year. Some 3.3 percent of the world's 7.3 billion people are international migrants.

Europe (76 million) and Asia (75 million) each had almost a third of the world's migrants, followed by North America (54 million) and Africa (21 million). A separate tabulation of migrant workers found a third were in Europe, a quarter in North America, and most of the rest in Asia. The highest shares of migrants among all workers are in the Gulf oil-exporting countries.

The US had 47 million or almost 20 percent of the world's migrants, followed by: 12 million each in Germany and Russia; 10 million in Saudi Arabia; nine million in the UK; and eight million each in the UAE, Canada and France. Two-thirds of international migrants live in 20 countries.

The major sources of migrants were: India, 16 million abroad; Mexico 12 million; Russia 11 million; China 10 million; Bangladesh seven million; and Pakistan and Ukraine, six million each. The Philippines, Syria, UK and Afghanistan each have five million persons abroad. Almost all Mexican migrants are in the US, while only 20 percent of Indians are in the UAE, the leading host country.

The ILO estimated that 150 million or 65 percent international migrants were in the labor forces of the countries to which they moved in 2013, so that 73 percent of migrants 15 and older were employed or seeking jobs, compared with 64 percent of non-migrants. Both male and female migrants have higher labor force participation rates than non-migrants, 78 compared to 77 percent for men and 67 compared to 51 percent for women.

Refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees registers foreigners seeking refuge after they leave countries where they face persecution and arrive at UNHCR offices. UNHCR counted over 14 million refugees in mid-2015, most in neighboring countries, so that, for example, most Syrian refugees are in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

UNHCR gives priority for resettlement to the most vulnerable 10 percent of those registered, and about 100,000 a year are resettled, including three-fourths in the US and 10 percent each in Australia and Canada. However, most registered refugees eventually return home or find a country on their own in which to begin anew.

The US admitted 784,000 refugees between 2000 and 2014, an average 56,000 a year.

The 1951 Refugee Convention, and 1967 amendments making it applicable everywhere, commits almost 150 countries not to refoul or return a person who is outside her country of citizenship and unwilling to return because of "a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."

This means that people who have made their way to another country can request asylum and be recognized as refugees and be given temporary or permanent immigrant status. So-called territorial asylum in a higher wage country can serve as a beacon to those in refugee camps with smugglers who offer to help migrants get to safe countries.

Reform proposals aimed at avoiding another mass migration to Europe include three key elements, that is, increase the number of refugees who are resettled, offer more assistance to countries hosting refugees, and giving refugees the right to work and attend schools in countries that host them.

Dadaab is a refugee camp of 500,000, mostly Somalis, in northern Kenya that has evolved into a makeshift city, with restaurants, soccer leagues, and hotels and hospitals. City of Thorns profiles nine residents of Dadaab, most of whom want to be accepted as refugees outside Africa.

Rawlence, Ben. 2016. City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World?s Largest Refugee Camp. Picador. Acosta Arcarazo, Diego and Anja Wiesbrock. 2015. Global Migration Old Assumptions, New Dynamics. ABC-CLIO. May


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