The mi­grant’s life

Refugees might be the face of mi­gra­tion, but 90% of mi­gra­tions are vol­un­tary, and mostly oc­cur for eco­nomic rea­sons.

Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY MIGRATION - By Lloyd Gedye edi­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

mi­gra­tion,refugees and asy­lum seek­ers have of­ten dom­i­nated po­lit­i­cal de­bate in 2016. From Europe to North Amer­ica mi­gra­tion has been a po­lit­i­cal hot po­tato, of­ten seen as a key is­sue when it comes to elect­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials, while back at home South Africa again faced a spate of xeno­pho­bic at­tacks in 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN’s Mi­gra­tion Re­port 2015 (the 2016 re­port is yet to be re­leased), the to­tal num­ber of in­ter­na­tional mi­grants grew to 244m in 2015, an in­crease of 41% from 2000’s to­tal of 173m.

Be­tween 2013 and 2015, the growth rate was 5%.

By the end of 2015, there were an es­ti­mated 76m in­ter­na­tional mi­grants liv­ing in Europe, 75m in Asia, with North Amer­ica in third place with 54m and Africa in fourth with 21m.

Vol­un­tary mi­gra­tion

In its Peo­ple On the Move re­port, re­leased at the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber, McKin­sey Global In­sti­tute points out that while “refugees might be the face of mi­gra­tion in the me­dia”, 90% of to­tal mi­gra­tions were vol­un­tary, and mostly for eco­nomic rea­sons.

The sum of fi­nan­cial re­mit­tances sent by in­ter­na­tional mi­grants back to their fam­i­lies was $581.6bn in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the UN’s re­port.

Of this, 75% went back to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and is equiv­a­lent to three times the amount of for­eign aid re­ceived by these coun­tries.

In 2015, In­dia re­ceived $70bn in re­mit­tances, fol­lowed by China ($64bn), the Philip­pines ($28bn) and Mex­ico ($25bn). The money mostly flows from the USA, Saudi Ara­bia and Rus­sia.

Im­por­tantly, the amount of in­ter­na­tional mi­grants as a per­cent­age of the global pop­u­la­tion has re­mained around 2% to 3% for a long time. In 2000 it was 2.8%, in 2013 it was 3.2%, last year it was 3.3%. This means that 96% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion still re­sides in their coun­try of birth.

Flee­ing to safety

Ac­cord­ing to McKin­sey, a to­tal of 10% of mi­grants are “refugees and asy­lum seek­ers who have fled to another coun­try to es­cape con­flict and per­se­cu­tion”.

For those who are forced to mi­grate, the jour­ney is of­ten fraught with dan­ger. Ac­cord­ing to the UN’s re­port, 2015 saw an ad­di­tional 5.8m peo­ple forcibly dis­placed due to per­se­cu­tion or con­flict, the high­est level of forced dis­place­ment ever recorded.

By the end of 2015 the world was host­ing 21.3m refugees, a 55% in­crease on 2011, mostly driven by the con­tin­u­ing es­ca­la­tion of the Syr­ian con­flict. It also, ac­cord­ing to McKin­sey, hosted 3m asy­lum seek­ers.

In 2015, at least 5 600 mi­grants lost their lives or went miss­ing while mi­grat­ing, with 3 370 of these dy­ing in the Mediter­ranean, a 12% in­crease on the death toll in the re­gion in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the UN.

About 800 mi­grants are es­ti­mated to have died or gone miss­ing in South­east Asia in 2015, 482 in Africa, and 341 at the US and Mex­ico border.

It is es­ti­mated that the Syr­ian refugee pop­u­la­tion is above 4.9m, the Afghanistan refugee pop­u­la­tion sits at over 2.7m and the So­ma­lian refugee pop­u­la­tion sits at over 1m.

Glob­ally, 1.8m peo­ple were given refugee sta­tus in 2015, com­pared with 1.2m in 2014. The ma­jor hosts of refugees are Turkey (2.5m) and Pak­istan (1.6m), Le­banon (1.1m) and Jor­dan (628 000).

Al­most one in three first-time asy­lum ap­pli­cants in the EU were mi­nors, an 11% in­crease on 2014. Al­most one in five of these was un­ac­com­pa­nied by an adult, a 300% in­crease on 2014.

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