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Dec 28, 2023

Migration: Compulsion or Aspiration

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Arun Ranjit
People moving for better life opportunities. Image credit UNCTAD
People moving for better life opportunities. Image credit UNCTAD

Since the earliest times, humanity has been on the move. Some people move in search of work or economic opportunities, to join family, or to study. Others move to escape conflict, persecution, terrorism, or human rights violations.

During a decade-long civil war in Nepal from 1996 to 2006 thousands of Nepalese also left the country seeking safe places around the world. Besides, to find peace from the life-threatening (from the then rebel group) huge numbers of Nepalese youngsters had left the country to seek employment.

Human migration is the movement of people from one place to another with intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily, at a new location.

Whatever might be the reasons, in general, the most important reasons for international migration are due to differences in income and economic opportunities, varying levels of social and human security as well as existing ethnic and diaspora networks.

As the world has become a Global Village, the movement of people has become swift and more common across borders. Today, more than ever, people leave their own country and move to unfamiliar places, most often on the lookout for better living conditions.

Migration is a development challenge. About 190 million people—2.5 percent of the world’s population—live outside of their country of nationality. Almost half of them are in low- and middle-income countries. Because of global economic imbalances, demographic trends, and climate change, migration is expected to be increasingly necessary in the decades to come for countries at all levels of income.

According to a 2021 report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there were 281 million international migrants of which 48.4 % as women and the rest as male migrants globally till the end of 2020. So, as almost two years have passed, the figures might have definitely increased.

In 2020, about 73 per cent of the migrants were of working age between 20 and 64 years. 15 per cent were below 20 years, and 12 per cent were 65 years and above, IOM revealed. It seems more people are choosing to emigrate whether for free education, better healthcare or career opportunities

In 2020, Europe hosted around 87 million whereas Asia hosted around 86 million international migrants. North America hosted 59 million international migrants. Africa recorded 9 per cent, Latin America and the Caribbean stood each at 5 per cent, and Oceania at 3 per cent.

When compared with the size of the population in each region, shares of international migrants in 2020 were highest in Oceania, North America and Europe, where international migrants represented, respectively, 22 per cent, 16 per cent and 12 per cent of the total population.

In comparison, the share of international migrants is relatively small in Asia with 1.8% and Africa with 1.9% and Latin America and the Caribbean 2.3%.

Asia experienced the most remarkable growth from 2000 to 2020 with 37 million people coming to 74 per cent. Europe saw an increase of 30 million international migrants, while North America recorded an increase of 18 million international migrants followed by 10 million in Africa. The number of international migrants has increased worldwide but has increased to a greater degree in Europe and Asia.

In today’s globalized economy, workers are increasingly looking for job opportunities beyond their home country in search of decent work and better livelihoods.

In this context the movement of migrant workers can take many forms and patterns and affect men and women differently. While movement of labour is an important aspect of globalization and provides alternative livelihood opportunities to many people; it also poses new challenges for governments and policy makers in managing safe labour migratory flows both in the countries of origin and destination.

Today IOM is one of the specialized bodies of the United Nations since 2016, has been working worldwide from its creation in 1951 to ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.

In other-side, the UN says, over the past eight years, about 51,000 migrants have lost their lives and thousands of others have gone missing. Unofficially, tens of millions of people in the world have been internally or externally displaced due to conflict, natural disasters and climate crisis, according to the latest report released by the United Nations.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), another body of the United Nations working for refugees, said that in 2022, due to violence, poverty and protracted conflict nearly one million people in the world were forced to leave their homes from different parts of the world including Ukraine, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Syria, Myanmar and many more countries.

The war in Syria has been disrupting life for 11 years. About 5 million children born in Syria have never known the country in peace and forced over 4.3 million people to flee their homes. Likewise, it is almost half-a-decade now, thousands of Rohingya fled their homes in Myanmar temporarily residing in Cox Bazar of Bangladesh and some thousands in Nepal too.

Nepal is also a place where it had hosted the Then Tibetan refugees in 1960 and Bhutanese refugees of around 100,000. Of them, there are no official records of Tibetan refugees’ whereabouts and their numbers. Likewise, nearly 100,000 refugees entered Nepal in 1990 from Bhutan but many of them had officially transferred into Western countries and still there are a number of those refugees. Also, many have died, there were new born also but it has not been in records.

According to the statistics of the United Nations refugee agency, there are more than 7.8 million Ukrainian refugees across Europe as of December.

Millions of people have been displaced due to the armed conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region that started in November 2020.

More than 40 per cent of all international migrants worldwide in 2020 (115 million) were born in Asia IOM described adding nearly 20 per cent primarily originating from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Philippines.

Mexico was the second largest country of origin followed by the Russian Federation along with Ukraine, Poland, the United Kingdom, Romania and Germany.

To host those millions of refugees displaced by war, violence and human rights violations it needs funds wherever they are living. Thus, the UNHCR has revealed that various developed nations around the world have committed about US $1.13 billion for the livelihoods of those homeless people.

For international migrants, the United States has been the top destination since 1970. IOM estimated it was 12 million in the 1970s but has increased to 51 million in 2019. Germany, which became the second top destination for migrants has also observed an increase from 8.9 million in 2000 to nearly 16 million in 2020.

Migration increased the slum areas in cities which increase many problems such as unhygienic conditions, crime, pollution etc. Sometimes migrants are exploited. Migration is one of the main causes of increasing nuclear families where children grow up without a wider family circle.

It is a universal truth that migration cannot be stopped fully, but could be decreased if there could upgrade the living conditions of the people, aspire to an advanced education system, creation of more employment opportunities and improve entire sociable factors.

Then at last, migration would contribute to sojourn the family separation, contribute to harmonization into their own cultural activities that will add the promotional conceptuality instead of like or dislike adopting new conventional doctrine.

If it is managed well, it can be a force for prosperity that could help achieve effective migration policies.

Meanwhile, Pakistan expelled 1.7 million Afghans, around 600,000 of whom fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in 2021, who are all undocumented immigrants.

Citing internal reasons, in a report, Islamabad intended to pressure the Taliban government with immense economic and humanitarian challenges and to accommodate hundreds of thousands of returnees.