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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 15:33 GMT
Global migration reaches record high
Ethnic Albanian refugees in a Nato camp
Civil conflicts have contributed to the rise in migration
Migration has reached its highest level ever, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The Geneva-based organisation says there are now about 150 million migrants worldwide - just under 3% of the world population. That is 30 million more than 10 years ago.

Chinese migrants
China exports the greatest number of migrants
The reasons for the increase include the collapse of Communism, globalisation and an upsurge in civil wars.

In its first comprehensive review on global migration, the IOM predicts that there will be even greater movements of people during this century - both forced and voluntary.

Most of those movements are expected to follow the trends established in the 20th century.

Movement patterns

Europe, Asia and North America appear to be the major destinations for both legal and illegal immigrants.

Top 10 destinations
United States
India
Pakistan
France
Germany
Canada
Saudi Arabia
Australia
United Kingdom
Iran

China is not only the world's most populated country, but also the largest source of unskilled labour, according to the report.

It says that up to 400,000 leave the country annually - possibly half of them with the help of organised smuggling rings.

The IOM estimates that by the early 1990s, more than 30 million Chinese lived abroad.

Passport control
Thirty million people have left their countries in the past decade
The country that receives most immigrants is the United States, where almost one million people settle legally every year, and another 300,000 do so illegally.

The IOM report also says that although the total number of people who are smuggled across borders is unknown, human trafficking is believed to be rising.

Another trend described by the IOM is the rising number of women who leave their countries, many of them as principal wage earners, rather than accompanying family members.

Women now account for 47.5% of all international migrants, according to the report.

Global policies

The IOM report indicates that the most rapid growth in the number of international migrants is a result of crises across the world.

Definitions
Voluntary migration: For employment, study, family reunification or other personal factors
Forced migration: To escape persecution, repression, conflict, natural and human-made disasters and ecological degradation
But it says that it is often difficult to distinguish between forced and voluntary migrants.

Migration produces effects both in the countries which people leave and those which receive them.

And the IOM suggests that it might be time to implement global migration policies similar to those that govern world trade.

But aid agencies dealing with refugees and the displaced say it is the root causes of migration - such as the widening gap between rich and poor and the upsurge in conflicts - which should be addressed, the BBC's Claire Doole reports from Geneva.

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See also:

31 Oct 00 | South Asia
Indian teachers for UK schools
12 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Call for immigration rethink
11 Jul 00 | Americas
Patrols puncture immigration racket
19 Apr 00 | Europe
Italy: Immigration or extinction
21 Mar 00 | Europe
Stark choice over immigration
18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan launches new immigration law
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