314 - Migration 2020

Issues of asylum seekers have been raised in awareness (again) recently. One wonders whether this is to divert attention from other issues.  Clarity is virtually absent: numbers are trivial compared to something like Covid deaths; the conflation of asylum seeker with refugee and migrant continues. I think the fear is not "Can we cope with the numbers?" but far more "If we show that we can cope with the numbers then will there be a flood?". Brexit really does not help. The problem lies elsewhere: yes there is an issue with illegal immigrants and there are allied issues such as the traffickers and preventing this traffic. That doesn't remove the need from the perspective of the asylum seeker.

UN report 2020 [1]

The number of international migrants globally in 2019: 272 million (3.5% of the world’s population). 52:48 male:female, 74% in 20-64 age bracket.

India continued to be the largest country of origin of international migrants   followed by Mexico and China. The top destination country remained the United States (50.7 million international migrants).

The number of migrant workers declined slightly in high income countries while increasing elsewhere.  Globally, male migrant workers outnumbered female migrant workers by 28 million in 2017. There were 96 million male migrant workers (58%) and 68 million female migrant workers (42%).

The global refugee population was 25.9 million in 2018. 20.4 million refugees were under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and 5.5 million were refugees under the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the Near East.. 52 per cent of the global refugee population was under 18 years of age.

The number of internally displaced persons due to violence and conflict reached 41.3 million. The Syrian Arab Republic had the highest number of people displaced (6.1M) followed by Colombia (5.8M) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (3.1M).

The number of stateless persons globally in 2018 was 3.9 million. Bangladesh had around 906,000,  followed by Côte d’Ivoire (692,000) and Myanmar (620,000). 

Migration patterns vary from region to region. While most international migrants born in Africa, Asia and Europe reside within their regions of birth, the majority of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean and Northern America reside outside their regions of birth. In Oceania, the number of intraregional migrants and those residing outside the region remained about the same in 2019. More than half of all international migrants (141 million) lived in Europe and Northern America.

Migration has been a key determinant of population change in several countries. Intraregional migration has been an important contributor to population change in some African countries such as Equatorial Guinea. Labour migration has contributed to significant population changes especially in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States. With the exceptions of Oman and Saudi Arabia, migrants made up the majority of the populations in GCC countries.

Displacement remained a major feature in some regions. The Syrian Arab Republic and Turkey were the origin and host of the largest number of refugees globally, 6.7M and 3.7M respectively. Canada became the largest refugee resettlement country, resettling more refugees than the United States in 2018. Around 4 million Venezuelans had left their country by mid-2019. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was the largest source country of asylum seekers in 2018 (over 340,000).

Perhaps better—more intelligent—action by Britain would be to address the original problem(s). One such is the whatever that causes people to migrate with such desperation, where one has to wonder if there is a foreign problem we could to some extent alleviate without adding to our domestic problems. We could do a lot about this is we were open about the costs — cost of action there and here and the costs of inaction too.

We are always going to have a demand for migration, but we could stop illegal migration. We could be open about asylum. We could educate ourselves as to the various categories of migrant. A refugee is an asylum seeker whose position has been recognised, and therefore a refugee in this sense has already been deemed welcome. An asylum seeker is someone asking to be allowed such status, obviously. See here (Aus) and here (UK) and essays 91, 171, 173, 174, 175. Migrants, as the essays make clear, are categorised as either of illegal or legal. I ignore internal migration and emigration here. Legal migrants might well be classed by age, intention and liability. Their acceptability depends on skills, assets/liabilities and, again, intentions. Read the essays. I don't claim to have any answer, but I have more nearly understood what the problems are. We haven't had the discussion and we, mostly, haven't even tried to ascertain what the problem is. Those who are given media time generally don't explain what it is we don't understand; sometimes they push their point of view and succeed in pushing opinion in their direction largely because we don't understand. Overall, we fail to have a strategy that is in any way understandable, let alone crucial matters like being transparent or even sensible. Reaction is not policy.

I can see a case for a lengthy considered tv series where a topic is broached, the possible avenues explored and the government policy also explored, so that even if we disagree, we understand what has been agreed is our state policy and how that affects our actions.

As regards worldwide migration, previous essays describe this adequately. Summarising, the global movement figures are affected radically by the breakup of the USSR, such that what had been internal movement became recorded change; there continues to be dramatic movement from places with war or near equivalents (Lebanon and Syria for example); from famine and related disasters. People who see another place as offering more opportunity—or less danger—wish to move; families wish to follow a family member. All of these remain true.

What is changing is the climate. As the weather becomes more erratic, so we might reasonably expect these migratory pressures to worsen. In consequence I would expect a change in relative affluence, such that every country exhibiting success has a lengthening queue of people wishing to join that country.  I continue to say we need fewer people as a whole; I continue to say that any country accepting immigrants wants (only) people who will add value. I continue to say that I think it would be better to address the problem—positively—at source. 

As the climate changes so we will lose agricultural land. Yes, we may gain some, but not immediately. We will change what we try to grow and again, not immediately. These gaps will appear as a shortfall in food supply. The very variability and greater extremes of the weather—well advertised effects of climate change— will cause the loss of crops and render our food supply also erratic. All of these problems would be reduced with fewer people, especially so if each such person was better educated and more proactive. If we do not address climate change we will shortly be growing most of our food in enclosed spaces; indoors.

The latest UN report on migration [1]  provides a snapshot of the current position. At the same time it points out that migration is largely unpredictable (and that predictions have not been useful). Do read the report for yourself, though I've captured some content [[1], §1] of that fairly densely in the text box to the right.

The estimated number of migrants is 3.5% of the world population, up from 2.8% ten years earlier. If this was uniform and linear, then by 2050 we would expect 5.6%. That begs a question: when is a migrant no longer counted as such? Perhaps we are looking at only 0.7% of the population becoming new migrants? On 7.8 billion that would give us approaching 55 million new migrants every year with a growth rate of a little over 1% a year. (worldometers)

§2 of the same report discusses issues arising from migration. That supports much of what I wrote in earlier work and I can add :- 

(i) that the amount of money moved, remittance, is a significant volume, growing at a similar rate to migration itself;  money sent typically from the migrant worker back to the home nation is of a similar volume to that of international aid. Is there a hint of a rule of thumb there?

(ii) that there is steadily more research and measurement being made into this general topic – which strikes me as a good thing. 

An excerpt from the 2003 report still strikes a chord: 

UK 2019 [2]

6.2 million people were living in the UK who had the nationality of a different country (9% of the total population),

3.7 million EU nationals were living in the UK, and

994,000 UK nationals were living in other EU countries excluding Ireland.

677,000 people migrated into the UK and 407,000 people emigrated from it, leaving a net migration figure of 270,000. 

9.5 million living in the UK were born abroad.                       Full report.

Migration is an eminently political topic. Over the past decade, the politicisation of migration has been evidenced by a series of developments: the fear in Western countries of an influx of masses of migrants from countries of the former Soviet bloc and in European Union countries of an invasion by citizens from new member countries with each enlargement of the Union; the questioning of the role of migrants in the economic and social upheavals triggered by the financial crisis in South-East Asia; restrictive policies and anti-immigration backlash in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; renewed outbreaks of xenophobia in several African countries that blame domestic crises on migrants; and the exploitation of migration issues by some politicians to gain electoral mileage. All these examples illustrate the close links between economic, political and social issues on the one hand, and mobility on the other. More than ever therefore, migration is a ready target with psychological, economic, and public relations connotations.

Looking closer to home, Europe has about 82 million migrants, which must include the internal movement.  This is rising steadily by about 1.5M a year, 0.3%. Eurostat [5] counts the external movement; the 2018 figures say that 21.8M of the 446.8M (just under 5%)in the EU27 were non-EU27 citizens, that the EU27 gave citizenship to 672k people that year; that 2.4M immigrants entered the EU27 that year. ¹

The UK has about 6.2 million migrants and 9.5 million born elsewhere, which I think means the people representing the difference have become nationals. The UK migrant increase is around is 250-300 thousand per year, say 0.4% (0.375 to 0.450) (2019 figures; 270k, 0.4%)   See [2]. 

According to source [4] the Institute of Migrants, 123,920 irregular migrants arrived in Europe in 2019. I doubt the precision of this figure; try 'not less than'. The term irregular migrant is used in place of the loose version of refugee so that this is the number that, in theory at least, are those applying for asylum. The general rule is that you register as an asylum seeker in the first country you reach (typically Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia, Sweden and Hungary in Europe) and then, once granted asylum (so now technically a refugee and welcomed as such) you move on, or not.  Thus the majority of displaced persons reaching Europe are as already listed and the numbers reaching UK shores is a tiny part of the whole. Of 2019's 120 thousand, only about 20% came overland. See orange bar chart Immigrants 2018, which shows figures per thousand of population, (UK, 9.1 per thousand, Malta 54.6, Luxembourg 40.5) [5]

We can expect the situation post-Brexit to change, such that irregular migrants (illegals, in media-speak) will be in some sense encouraged from the continent into Britain. This is a one-way flow, so there are no issues of equality or equivalence and, given the Brexit event, there is no incentive for the EU27 to accept any returns. This comment is predicated upon an assumption that the version of Brexit we end up with is pretty strict and unco-operative, though I would say that is a situation entirely of our own making. So in consequence we should expect immigration to continue at 250-300k per year, but that the number of irregular migrants rises from its fairly steady 7000 a year (that we know of). Try reading [6]. ²

DJS 20200820

top pic from ONS 

Partial conclusion: if you really want to stop the illegals in this country, you must accept the demand to carry ID at all times.  Which might be an embedded RFID rather than a card. Accept at the same time that the demand to deal with this will also encourage connectivity of all the cctv cameras we have around the nation. Big Brother.  If you don't want this, start campaigning for alternatives. But not simply 'not this', you have to do the work that finds alternatives you think make sense and meet all the criteria, not just what suits you personally.



³  ⁴  ⁵  ⁶  ⁷  ⁸  ⁹  

[1] World Migration report. https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/wmr_2020.pdf

Also from the UN:

World Migration Report 2000
World Migration Report 2003: Managing Migration – Challenges and Responses for People on the Move World Migration Report 2005: Costs and Benefits of International Migration
World Migration Report 2008: Managing Labour Mobility in the Evolving Global Economy
World Migration Report 2010: The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change
World Migration Report 2011: Communicating Effectively about Migration
World Migration Report 2013: Migrant Well-Being and Development
World Migration Report 2015: Migrants and Cities: New Partnerships to Manage Mobility
World Migration Report 2018
World Migration Report 2020

[2] https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn06077/

[3] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration takes you to a page of links.

[4]  https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/21811/migration-to-europe-in-2019-facts-and-figures

[5] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Migration_and_migrant_population_statistics    full data available

[6]  https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/irregular-migration-in-the-uk-definitions-pathways-and-scale/  good reference list. 

[7]   https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/immigration-detention-in-the-uk/  and lots of onward links to source material

Further reading:

[8] https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/eu-migrant-returns-policy-towards-sub-saharan-africa discusses the ⅔ failure to return those ordered to remove themselves from the EU. One of the issues here is that the home nation relies upon the level of remittance (money sent home).


1 Sloppy, but I've written 9k for nine thousand and 5M for five million. I think I have decided to do this in future, too. I prefer figures to be densely packed.

2 I'm amazed that 2007 (data, report 2011) is the most recent report I can find. Irregular estimates are (obviously) vague so the 2007 UK figure is 417-863k with a central figure of 618k. Most of these have overstayed their visa, and so  are not the illegal entrants that one first assumes. We need the 2021 census to discover better estimates. Overall ([6] still) it would seem that 10-15% of all migrants are somehow irregular. The EU irregular figures are 1.9-3.8M; the data are inconsistent in quality so comparisons should not be made and the only thing worth saying about this is that we could (all) do very much better at establishing what the numbers are. At the same time we do not have any robust strategies, certainly no transparent ones and we have not at all had any public conversation as to what we should be doing, aside from (useless, say I) reactions such as 'Send all the foreigners home'. 

Policy is explained (but in my head not following a public discussion), [Source 7]. There is an easily found count of 'entering detention' and the total at any time is between 1600 and 3500. This makes the UK's detention levels one of the highest in Europe.

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