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International Migration Report 2002



A fundamental characteristic of people is their movement from place to place.  The right to move was recognized globally over a half century ago with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Declaration states in Article 13 that  “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state” and “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

As noted in the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, orderly international migration can have positive impacts on both the communities of origin and the communities of destination.  Migration also has the potential of facilitating the transfer of skills and contributing to cultural enrichment.  Today the number of people residing outside their country of birth is at an all-time high of about 175 million, more than double the number a generation ago. The vast majority of migrants are making meaningful contributions to their host countries. At the same time, however, international migration entails the loss of human resources for many countries of origin and may give rise to political, economic or social tensions in countries of destination.

International migration, with its intricate web of demographic, social, economic and political determinants and consequences, is a topic that has moved to the forefront of national and international agenda.  In the last few years, immigration has become a major issue of concern in an increasing number of countries. More recently, in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001, some countries have further tightened their policies towards immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

The United Nations system is addressing the various dimensions of international migration.  For example, the United Nations Secretariat has focused on the collection, analysis and dissemination of information on the levels, trends and national policies of international migration.  Other parts of the United Nations have been concerned with issues such as human rights, internally displaced persons, family reunification, undocumented migrants, trafficking and the social and economic integration of migrants.  In addition, specialized agencies have focused on issues related to their expertise and mandates, such as labour flows, refugees and asylum seekers and remittances.

The United Nations General Assembly has addressed on a variety of occasions the issue of international migration and development. Recently, the General Assembly, in its resolution 56/203 of 21 December 2001, called upon the United Nations system and other relevant organizations to continue to address the issue of international migration and development and to provide appropriate support for processes and activities on international migration and development.  In response to this resolution, and also to provide further information on international migration to the General Assembly, the United Nations Population Division organized in July 2002 the first system-wide Co-ordination Meeting on International Migration.

The implementation of national policies to affect levels and patterns of international migration has also intensified, spreading to all regions of the world. Discussions on issues such as sustained low fertility and population ageing, unemployment, brain-drain and brain-gain, worker remittances, human rights, social integration, xenophobia, human trafficking and national security have led to a re-examination of migration policies and the potential benefits and disadvantages

United Nations Population Division1

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