The World - Migration

Human rights and migration
978-3-14-100890-6 | Page 38 | Ill. 2
The World | Migration | Human rights and migration | Karte 38/2


Migrants are people who leave their country voluntarily or involuntarily for more than one year. The reasons can be war, persecution, and famine, but also the hope for a job and a better life.

Global migration in numbers

According to the United Nations, there were around 271 million migrants worldwide in 2019, up from 191 million migrants in 2005 and 176 million in 2000, making migrants more than three per cent of the world's population. The largest number of migrants in a single country live in the USA (2019: 51 million), by continent in Asia and Europe (84 and 82 million respectively). Around 13 million migrants lived in Germany in 2019, with the largest groups here being people from Turkey, Poland and Russia. In Luxembourg, there were 292,000 migrants, including 84,000 from Portugal, 45,000 from France and 24,000 from Belgium.


According to UNHCR, a total of 83.8 million people were fleeing their homes at the end in 2020, and their numbers have increased sharply since 1990 (see chart). UNHCR distinguishes between four groups:

- Asylum seekers are refugees who have been accepted in other countries and for whom an assessment is currently being made as to whether they are entitled to political asylum and a right to remain there.

- Refugees according to the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951 are people who are persecuted in their home country for ethnic, religious or political reasons, or because they belong to a social group, and have therefore left it.

- Well over half of the refugees in 2018 were people who had left their place of origin, for example because of war, violence or human rights violations, but who were still in their own country and had not crossed its borders (internally displaced persons).

-the last group consists of stateless individuals and others.

The UNHCR does not cover refugees who have left their home country, for example, for economic reasons or due to natural disasters. The UNHCR's refugee aid requires considerable expenditure, which has increased in absolute terms since 1990 - parallel to the rising number of refugees worldwide. However, per capita spending is comparatively low: in 2018, UNHCR spent around US$80 per refugee.


The "illegals"

Every year, tens of thousands of people are deported from Europe alone. Many refugees and migrants have to live almost completely without rights in camps or struggle along as illegals.

Worldwide, 30 to 40 million people are affected by this fate; in Germany, the number of "illegals" is estimated at several hundred thousand people. Most of them are migrants whose visas have expired, rejected refugees, family members without visitation permits or former students who stayed after their student visa expired. Even years of residence, recognised refugee status, children born here, or a job do not protect against illegality.


Causes of flight and migration

The causes of flight or involuntary migration are, on the one hand, the numerous persecution situations: Persecution for political, religious or ethnic reasons to the existentially threatening oppression of women. Other reasons for flight are war and civil war situations as well as famine. Two further reasons that are becoming increasingly important are environmental destruction and climate change, which make survival in affected regions more and more difficult. However, many people also leave their home country voluntarily, although not always without existential need, to work elsewhere (so-called labour migrants). People who risk their lives to escape a situation of financial and economic lack of perspective are often described with the disparaging term "economic refugee" in the industrialised nations.

Pushing the borders forward

The wealthy migration destination countries in particular are increasingly getting their neighbouring countries, which serve as transit countries, to stop illegal migration on their territory. In this way, migration control is already being shifted to the peripheries. At the same time, development aid and financial assistance for indebted governments are often made conditional on them agreeing to so-called readmission agreements and taking over migration control - including through reception facilities, raids and deportations - in their area. Mexico, for example, has intensified the monitoring of its southern border since 2001. Every year, about 250,000 migrants from Central and South America on their way to the USA are intercepted and deported there. The Mexican southern border is much easier to monitor than the 3200-kilometre-long border between Mexico and the USA. In Europe, Frontex, the "European Border and Coast Guard Agency" of the EU member states, exists since 2004. Frontex's task is to actively secure the EU's external borders. States such as Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Ukraine, and Turkey are assigned a gatekeeper function at the gates of Europe. The upstream monitoring and the increasingly efficient defence measures mean that the escape routes are becoming longer and more dangerous and that the number of deaths is rising, for example in dangerous boat passages in the Mediterranean.

Spatial patterns

The map shows the main areas of origin and destination of migrants by arrows. The green arrows refer to cross-border migrations of job seekers. Many come from Mexico and have the USA as their destination - this is the largest migration between two countries in the world. South and East Asia are also important regions of origin for migrants at the global level, often with the USA as their destination, but also West Asia. The European Union is the destination of labour migration to a much lesser extent than the USA, with no region of origin emerging as dominant. Within the EU, the countries of Western, Central and Southern Europe are the main destinations for labour migrants. Switzerland is also a destination. Migratory movements of labour migrants at the regional level are characterised, for example, by Southeast Asia (Cambodia - Thailand, Myanmar - Thailand, Indonesia - Malaysia and vice versa), southern Africa (with South Africa as the destination) and the states of the former Soviet Union (with Russia as the destination). Intra-European migrations of job seekers are not shown in the map. Many migrants are from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the destination areas coincide with those mentioned above. Civil wars, armed conflicts and human rights violations are examples of causes that can trigger international refugee movements. They are marked on the map with red arrows. The regions of origin that stand out are the Middle East (especially Syria and Iraq, but also eastern Turkey), Central Africa, the northern part of East Africa and Mali, but also Afghanistan, the Caucasus region, and Myanmar. The country of origin with the largest number of refugees in 2019 was Syria. More than half of the world's refugees came from just three countries in 2019: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The map shows that the majority of refugees from these crisis areas are hosted in neighbouring countries (see red arrows) or remain in the country itself (see blue circles).

In September 2019, Jordan had a population of 10.1 million and around 3 million refugees, which corresponds to almost 35 per cent of the population. Converted to Germany, this would mean taking in around 29 million refugees. In 2019, the countries with the most refugees were Turkey, Jordan, Palestinian Territories, Pakistan, Lebanon and Uganda.

As the blue circles on the map show, a very large number of refugees remain in the country of origin itself. This is the case, for example, in Syria, Iraq, Sudan/South Sudan and Somalia. The fact that the number of internally displaced persons in Colombia is so large is due to the country's decades-long civil war. As a result of the current negotiations to settle the conflict and a peace treaty between the parties involved, the number of IDPs in Colombia could decrease in the future.