Press Release


Migrant Population Has Doubled in Twenty-five Years

New York, 28 October -- With around 175 million people currently residing in a country other than where they were born, the number of migrants in the world has more than doubled since 1975, with most living in Europe (56 million), Asia (50 million), and Northern America (41 million), according to findings from the wall chart International Migration 2002, issued by the United Nations Population Division.

     As the issue of international migration has been thrust to the forefront of the international agenda, the need for accurate, timely and comparable information and analyses on international migration levels, trends and policies has acquired unprecedented urgency.  But the available information and analyses have not kept pace with growing demands.  Most recently, the Secretary-General indicated in his report on strengthening the Organization (document A/57/387) that, “it is time to take a more comprehensive look at the various dimensions of the migration issue, which now involves hundreds of million of people and affects countries of origin, transit and destination.  We need to understand better the causes of international flows of people and their complex interrelationship with development”. 

In its continuing efforts to address these issues, the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs has issued the wall chart, which presents the latest available key information on international migration for all countries and regions of the world, including estimates of migrant stock, net migration flows, refugees and workers’ remittances.  These estimates are supplemented with information concerning governments’ views and policies on international migration and the status of ratification by countries of United Nations instruments regarding international migration.  In addition to the wall chart, the Population Division is issuing next month, a companion publication, International Migration Report 2002 (document ESA/P/WP.178), which provides additional information on international migration for countries, regions and the world for 2000, as well as for 1990.  The wall chart and the Report are also available on the Internet at:  http://www.unpopulation.org.

The major findings of this study are:

Migrant stock -- Around 175 million persons currently reside outside the country of their birth, which is about three per cent of world population.  The number of migrants has more than doubled since 1975.  Sixty per cent of the world's migrants currently reside in the more developed regions and 40 per cent in the less developed regions.  Most of the world's migrants live in Europe (56 million), Asia (50 million) and Northern America (41 million).  Almost one of every 10 persons living in the more developed regions is a migrant.  In contrast, nearly one of every 70 persons in developing countries is a migrant.

Number of refugees -- The number of refugees in the world at the end of 2000 stood at 16 million, of which 12 million are under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and 4 million under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  The largest number of refugees are found in Asia, 9 million, followed by Africa with 4 million.  Three million refugees are located in developed countries.

Net migration -- The world’s more developed regions gained an estimated 2.3 million migrants from the less developed regions, or nearly 12 million over the period 1995-2000.  The largest gains were made by Northern America, which absorbed 1.4 million migrants annually, followed by Europe with an annual net gain of 0.8 million and by Oceania, with a net intake of 90,000 migrants annually.

Workers’ remittances -- Remittances are a major source of foreign exchange earnings and are an important addition to gross domestic product (GDP) for a number of countries.  For example, in 2000, remittances from abroad augmented GDP by more than 10 per cent for countries such as El Salvador, Eritrea, Jamaica, Jordan, Nicaragua and Yemen.  Remittances can be used to import capital goods and provide investment funds for entrepreneurs.  Also important, remittances can add to household income and savings and be used for the purchase of consumer products and services.

Government views and policies on immigration -- Major changes in governments’ views on the level of immigration are taking place, as a result of growing concerns with the economic, social, political and demographic consequences of immigration.  At present, about 40 per cent of the countries in the world have policies aimed at lowering immigration levels.  Although developed countries are more inclined towards lowering immigration, developing countries are also moving in a similar direction towards more restrictive policies.

Government views and policies on emigration -- Developed and developing countries are strikingly similar in their views and policies concerning levels of emigration.  About three quarters of both developed and developing countries view their level of emigration as satisfactory.  In contrast, one in five countries have policies in place to lower levels of emigration.

Parties to United Nations instruments:

-- The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified by 141 countries, establishes legal protections and a clear definition of the status of refugees.  It also prohibits the expulsion or forcible return of persons accorded refugee status.

-- The 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified by 139 countries, extends the scope of the 1951 Convention, which benefits

only persons who became refugees prior to 1 January 1951.  It also extends the application of the Convention to persons who became refugees after that date.

-- 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.  It formalizes the responsibility of receiving States with regard to upholding the rights of migrants and assuring their protection.

-- 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; to protect and assist the victims of such trafficking; and to promote cooperation among States parties to meet these objectives.

-- 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.

     For further information, please contact the office of Ms. Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; tel: 1-212-963-3179; fax no. 1-212-963-2147.

International Migration 2002 (Sales No. E.03.XIII.3) may be obtained for $5.95 per copy from the Sales Section, United Nations, New York or Geneva, through booksellers worldwide, or by writing to the Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New York, N.Y. 10017, United States of America.

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