Numbers tell the story of global refugee tragedy
The number on international migrants globally has reached a record high, south-south migration flows are growing and almost a fifth of migrants live in the world’s top 20 largest cities, according to a snapshot of migration trends released this week by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The IOM’s Global Migration Trends 2015 Factsheet says that in 2015, the number of international migrants worldwide – people residing in a country other than their country of birth – was the highest ever recorded and reached 244 million, up from 232 million in 2013.
But as a share of the world population, international migration has remained stable over the past decade, at around 3%, the report said.
Female migrants constitute only 48% of international migrants world-wide, and just 42% in Asia. But women make up the majority of international migrants in Europe, at 52.4%, and North America, at 51.2%, it said.
South-South migration flows – between developing countries – continued to grow compared to South-North movements.
The IOM report said that in 2015, 90.2 million international migrants born in developing countries resided in other countries in the Global South, while 85.3 million born in the South resided in countries in the Global North.
Germany became the second most popular destination for international migrants globally in terms of total numbers, behind the US and ahead of the Russian Federation, with an estimated 12 million foreign-born residing in the country in 2015, it said.
More than 46 million migrants entered the U.S. and almost 12 million entered the Russian Federation.
As a proportion of the host country’s population, however, numbers of international migrants continue to be highest in Gulf Cooperation Council countries: the foreign-born population makes up 88.4% of the total population in the United Arab Emirates, 75.7% in Qatar and 73.6% in Kuwait.
Close to 1 in 5 migrants in the world live in the top 20 largest cities, according to the IOM report.
International migrants make up more than a third of the populations of cities like Sydney, Auckland, Singapore and London – and at least a quarter of residents in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris.
2015 saw the highest levels of forced displacement globally recorded since World War II, with a dramatic increase in the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people across various regions of the world – from Africa to the Middle East and South Asia.
The world hosted 15.1 million refugees to mid-2015, a 45% increase compared to three and a half years ago, largely due to the continued conflict in Syria.
Around five million people were newly displaced in the first half of 2015.
In 2015, Germany also became the largest single recipient of first-time individual asylum claims globally, with almost 442,000 applications lodged in the country by the end of the year.
The number of asylum claims worldwide almost doubled between 2014 and the first half of 2015, from 558,000 pending applications by the end of 2014 to almost 1 million in June 2015.
By the end of 2015, the EU as a whole received over 1.2 million first-time asylum claims, more than double the number registered in 2015, and almost double the levels recorded in 1992 in the then 15 Member States.
Almost one in three first-time asylum applicants in the EU were minors, an 11% increase compared to 2014 levels; and almost one in five of these were judged to be unaccompanied – the highest number since 2008 and a three-fold increase on numbers registered in 2014.
Despite these figures, the vast majority of refugees continue to be hosted by developing countries, particularly those that are proximate to the refugees’ countries of origin: for instance, the bulk of the Syrian refugee population is hosted by Turkey (2.2 million), Lebanon (1.2 million) and Jordan (almost 630,000), according to figures recorded in December 2015.
And most forced displacement globally still occurs within countries’ borders, with an estimated 38 million people internally displaced by conflict and violence at the end of 2014 – from Iraq to South Sudan, from Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.
The year 2015 was also the deadliest year for migrants: increased levels of forced displacement globally were tragically accompanied by record-high numbers of people perishing or going missing while trying to cross international borders.
More than 5,400 migrants worldwide are estimated to have died or gone missing in 2015. According to IOM’s Missing Migrant project, migrant fatalities during migration to Europe increased by 15% compared to the previous year, reaching at least 3,770.
New estimates for the number of migrant workers globally show that the large majority of international migrants in the world are migrant workers. Migrants have higher labour force participation than non-migrants, particularly due to higher labour force participation rates for migrant women relative to non-migrant women.
Remittances continue to climb globally while remittance-sending costs remain relatively high. The sum of financial remittances sent by international migrants back to their families in origin countries amounted to an estimated $601 billion in 2015 – over two thirds of which were sent to developing countries. In Tajikistan remittances constituted over 40 per cent of the country’s GDP.
However, average remittance transfer costs were still at 7.5% of the amount sent in the third quarter of 2015, higher than the 3% minimum target set in the Sustainable Development Goals to be met by 2030. Remittance transfer costs are particularly high in Sub-Saharan Africa – now standing at 9.5% on average.
And public opinion towards migration globally is more favourable than commonly perceived – with the notable exception of Europe, according to the report.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist