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International Migration Report 2002

accruing to sending, receiving and transit countries. Over the past decades, the number of Governments adopting new measures to influence migration has grown rapidly.  In particular, the number adopting policies to lower immigration rose from 6 per cent in 1976 to 40 per cent in 2001.

In his proposals for strengthening the United Nations Organization, (Report of the Secretary-General, A/57/387), the Secretary General of the United Nations stressed that “it is time to take a more comprehensive look at the various dimensions of the migration issue, which now involves hundreds of millions of people and affects countries of origin, transit and destination.  We need to understand better the causes of international flows of people and their complex interrelationship with development.”

The many questions arising from growing concerns about international migration, however, have few clear answers largely because of the lack of accurate and up-to-date information on international migration. This report attempts to address some of these questions by providing an overview of international migration levels, trends and policies for countries and regions and for the world as a whole.


Some of the major findings of the report are as follows.

Around 175 million persons currently reside in a country other than where they were born, which is about 3 per cent of world population.  The number of migrants has more than doubled since 1970*.  Sixty per cent of the world’s migrants currently reside in the more developed regions and 40 per cent in the less developed regions.  Most of the world’s migrants live in Europe (56 million), Asia (50 million) and Northern America (41 million). Almost one of every 10 persons living in the more developed regions is a migrant.  In contrast, nearly one of every 70 persons in developing countries is a migrant.

In the ten years from 1990 to 2000, the number of migrants in the world increased by 21 million persons, or 14 per cent (see table 1 below).  The total net growth in migrants took place in the more developed regions.  Europe, Northern America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan in total registered an increase of migrant stock of 23 million persons, or 28 per cent.  The number of migrants in Northern America grew by 13 million (48 per cent) during the last decade, while Europe’s migrant population increased by 8 million, or by 16 per cent.  In contrast, the migrant population of the less developed regions fell by 2 million during the 1990-2000 period.  The number of migrants residing in Latin America and the Caribbean declined by one million, or by 15 per cent.

In just the five years from 1995-2000, the more developed regions of the world received nearly 12 million migrants from the less developed regions, an estimated 2.3 million migrants per year. The largest gains per year were made by Northern America, which absorbed 1.4 million migrants annually, followed by Europe with an annual net gain of 0.8 million and by Oceania, with a more modest net intake of 90,000 migrants annually.

The top twenty countries with the largest international migrant stock are shown in figure I.  With 35 million migrants, the United States contains the largest number of migrants, followed by the Russian Federation with 13 million and Germany with 7 million.

United Nations Population Division2

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