Is globalisation accelerating migrations?

The circulation of information and goods, the development of transport, the internationalisation of the western model of consumption, and also the search for alternatives to that model, all these effects of globalisation are helping to facilitate or generate an intensification of migration flows. And yet, the main reasons that push people to migrate remain (socio-economic situations, conflict and violence, policies), and the same applies to the reasons why immigration is needed (economic or demographic).
The number of migrants has increased quickly: 77 million in 1965, 111 million in 1990, 140 million in 1997, 175 million in 2000 (2.8% of the world’s population), 281 million in 2020 ( 3.6% of the world’s population (UN), i.e., for a total population of 7.7 billion, 1 out of every 30 people.

Sylviane Drvar's gift: map of Czechoslovakia
Map of Czechoslovakia: having been used during her first trip, it is preserved by Sylviane Drvar as a piece of history, where each city visited has been circled. The word "socialist" has been crossed out by Czech youth
© Musée national de l'histoire de l'immigration

Status report: figures and migration flows

In 2019, with 164 million people, work-related migrations represented 60% of global migrations. The number of refugees worldwide reached 25.9 million (cf. 14 million in 2000). The number of people displaced inside their own country was 41.3 million (21 million in 2000). 3.9 million migrants were stateless.
For 2020, the HCR counted 48 million displaced people (48 million) and 26.4 million refugees (including 5.7 million Palestinians), i.e. a total of 82.4 million, a number that had doubled in the space of 10 years. Two-thirds of these people came from five countries: Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, Burma and South Sudan. Globally, the number of internally displaced people was estimated in 2009 at 740 million individuals (UNDP).

In 2019, Europe and Asia welcomed 61% of the world’s total migrant population (respectively 82 million and 84 million). 59 million international migrants (22%) were headed for North America, and 10% for Africa. In 2020, the destination continents for the 281 million international migrants were, in order: Europe (86.7 million), Asia (85.6 million), North America (58.7 million), Africa (25.4 million), Latin America and the Caribbean (14.8 million), and Oceania (9.4 million).
When compared to the population size in each region, the share of international migrants reached 21% in Oceania, 16% in North America, 11% in Europe. Between 2000 and 2019, Asia registered a 69% growth, i.e. around 34 million people, followed by Europe (+25 million international migrants), North America (+18 million) and Africa (+11 million).

Since 1970, the USA has been the leading destination country for international migrants. The number of people born abroad living in the country has almost quadrupled, going from less than 12 million in 1970 to almost 51 million in 2019. Germany, the second most popular destination for migrants, has registered an increase going from 8.9 million in 2000 to 13.1 million in 2019. Next come: Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, then France.

As concerns the distribution of international migrants by group of countries classified by income, in 2019 almost two-thirds of international migrants were living in high-income countries – around 176 million. That same year, 82 million people born abroad were living in middle-income countries (around one third of the total population of migrants), and 13 million in low-income countries.

The origin of migrants is 40% Asian (112 million): India and China first, followed by Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mexico is the second country of origin for international migrants, the Russian Federation ranks fourth, then comes Syria. Ukraine (even before the 2022 Russian invasion), Poland, the United Kingdom and Germany have substantial emigrant populations. In the list of the leading 20 countries of origin of international migrants, the first African country, Egypt, ranks only 19th.
According to the World Bank (2016), the global volume of South-South migration represents almost 40% of the total number of migrants (97 million), i.e. more than the volume of South-North migrations (89 million). 57 million North-North and 14 million North-South. In total, some 60% of migrations take place between countries with the same level of development.
According to the HCR, in 2020, 86% of people who had been uprooted were taken in by developing countries. Five countries welcomed at least 1.2 million refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad  (Turkey, Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda and Germany). The 124 million migrations towards the South of the planet (South-South and North-South) surpassed in numbers the approximately 120 million headed North (South-North and North-North).
Sub-Saharan Africa should represent 22% of the world’s population by around 2050 (14% today). While African migration is expected to increase, it will remain at around 15% in the direction of Europe. According to a study conducted by François Heran for the INED, Africans from the Southern Sahara would at most represent only 4% of the European population in 2050. In other words, far from the myth of the great replacement.
Globalisation has opened up new migration paths, now less dependent on colonial pasts or heritage. That concerns all continents, and notably Central and Eastern Asia or Eastern Europe.

Diversification of causes of mobility

Overpopulation, poverty, political crises, violence and persecution, religious or ethnic conflicts or the (relative) appeal of the western life style remain causes of mobility. Add to this the environmental disasters that are already leading to millions of displacements worldwide on more of a regional scale. The people migrating have transnational networks (family, trade, economic and sometimes Mafia) and money to cross borders, even illegally. A single exception, the forced migration of refugees, almost 9 out of 10 of whom are taken in by developing countries (HCR).
The profile of migrants is changing: young men from rural areas with few qualifications are now being joined by young men who are qualified, or even highly qualified, from the urban middle classes, women travelling alone, qualified, aspiring to independence, and even minors.
The HCR (2019) counted 27,600 individual requests for asylum in at least 60 countries in 2018 submitted by children, either unaccompanied or separated from their family. Even if this is an under-estimate, the trend has dropped consistently since 2015, when the number of requests had been exceptionally high (98,400).
The world is said to count around 31 million migrant children, of whom 13 million are child refugees, 936,000 asylum seekers, and 17 million children forcibly displaced within their own country.

Mustapha Harzoune, 2022