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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People


Flows of Human Mobility Worldwide:

Consequences and Expectations*


Archbishop Agostino MARCHETTO

Secretary, Pontifical Council 

Attempting to discuss human mobility flows worldwide and identify their consequences and our expectations in about half an hour is a very, very difficult task. I shall, however, try my best, to come up with a few sensible observations in the end.

First of all, however, I wish to point out that we have to accept the information that researchers offer us in this regard and the limitations that they recognize in the available data at their disposal. This also means that the definition of migrants in one country may not be exactly the same as in another one. In fact, “when we use the term ‘migration’, it is not immediately clear what is meant. Traditionally, it has been associated with some notion of permanent settlement, or at least long term sojourn. In reality, it is a sub-category of a more general concept of ‘movement’, embracing a wide variety of types and forms of human mobility…”[1]

Voluntary migration has been closely associated with labor migration, which is often temporary by nature.This type of migration includes seasonal and frontier workers but also highly skilled corporate staff. There are also cross-border commuters, “tourists” for labor purposes and petty traders. Then, there are forced migrants, including asylum seekers, refugees and those in need of temporary protection. There are also students and working holiday-makers. Still another group that belongs to the mobility continuum are tourists and business travelers who have the characteristics of temporary migrants and also facilitate migration since they sustain a global network of travel infrastructures.

Thus, migration data, or, more properly, mobility data, examined by scholars in their analysis of international trends today, may include any one or combination of the aforementioned players of human mobility. Migration streams, seen as dynamic and pliant mobility streams, involve different types of people and motivations, have different roles and methods of insertion into host societies, and are influenced and managed by different agencies and institutions.[2] In this context, allow me to say that long before academics posed this question, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People had already taken all these categories – and other mobile groups - as recipients of its pastoral care. The Council divides them into two groups: Migrants (migrants, refugees, international students) and Itinerant People (nomads, gypsies, circus and fair people, seafarers, air travelers and airport workers, road travelers and workers, people living on the streets, tourists and pilgrims).

Having said this, we can now attempt to examine mobility flows in the world.

The United Nations Population Division[3] reports 175 million people currently residing in a country different from their country of birth. They constitute about 3% of the world’s population (ca. 5.8 billion). Sixty percent of these “migrants” (104 million) are found in developed regions and only 40% (71 million) in less developed regions. Europe hosts 56 million, Asia 50 million, and North America 41 million. On their part, Africa hosts 16 million migrants, Central and South America 6 million, and Oceania another 6 million. We could say that approximately one of every 10 persons living in the more developed regions is a migrant, while they are one out of every 70 in developing countries. Some 2.3 million migrants move from less developed to developed regions annually, or nearly 12 million individuals during the 5-year period from 1995 to 2000. However, the total migration picture shows that south-south movements are more than those going south-north.  

Extrapolating the refugees from these figures, we can observe that under the mandate of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), there are 16 million refugees in the world today.[4]

UNHCR’s[5] 12 million refugees and nine hundred thousand asylum-seekers have remained more or less the same in numbers over the last five years. Most of them (72%) are received by low-income countries. About half of them are women. The geographical distribution is as follows: Asia: 5.8 million refugees; Africa: 3.3 million; Europe:2.3 million and North America 650,000.

In 2001, 915 thousand individuals applied for asylum in 144 countries. The largest number of applications in Europe were submitted in Great Britain (92,000) and in Germany (88,300). The U.S.A. had 83,200 applicants. [6]

In addition to refugees, the UNHCR also assists, under special arrangements, some 5 million persons who are internally displaced.[7] These are people who flee their homes because of conflicts but have not crossed any international border. They could have claimed asylum if they did so. This number is probably only about a fifth of all those persons in the world who fall under this category.

A very much smaller, but significant quality-wise, component of “migration” is the movement of international students. They are estimated to be some 1.6 million in the world, concentrated mostly in the U.S.A. and Western Europe.[8]

Still in the mobility continuum, but under the umbrella of “Itinerant People”, we could include international tourists and pilgrims, maritime workers and travelers by sea, air and land.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 and other violent facts, coupled with economic crisis in some parts of the world, had a negative impact on tourism. International tourists, in fact, decreased from 696 million in 2000 to 692 million in 2001, although they increased again to 715 million in 2002.[9] Of these, only 120 million were in the Americas. The continent, in fact, suffered a strong decrease (-5.7%) of tourism between 2000 and 2001, and went down some more, although much less, (-0.6%) between 2001 and 2002.

Considering another category, in 2000, there were more than 2 million seafarers and fishers working on the high seas, while coastal fishers numbered 30 millions.[10]  

It is necessary to add to all these figures those who are travelers by culture, for example, the Gypsies. Although there are no official figures, observers are inclined to believe in the existence of some 34,000,000 Gypsies throughout the world today. Of these, some 17,000,000 should be found in India, where their movement originated, and another 5,000,000 are supposed to be in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, there are also circus artists and workers that are estimated to be about 50,000.[11]

With these global figures, let us try to examine more closely the trends by regions and see what we find.

Migration in Africa[12]

Human mobility is a complex process in Africa.There are all kinds of population movements from and between African countries and, here, too, it is not always easy to distinguish one type from another. Labor migrants are induced by factors including attraction to Western Europe and the oil producing countries of the Middle East or lack of employment opportunities in their own countries. They are of all kinds: unskilled, semi-skilled, professional, but also unauthorized. Moreover, there are movements of nomads, refugees and internally displaced people generated by historical, political, ecological and ethnic factors.

Migrants from North Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) usually go to work or study in Europe, mostly to France, although European destination countries have somewhat diversified lately. [13] West Africa is characterized by labor migration, including a significant component of irregular migration. Countries that attract migrants are Ivory Coast (until recently), Gambia and Nigeria.[14] In Southern Africa, characterized by contract labor migration, the immigration core countries are South Africa and Botswana.[15] Eastern Africa, on the contrary, is characterized by persistent refugee flows, especially in the Horn of Africa, because of adverse political, economic and environmental conditions. However, conflicts in Burundi, Rwanda and Congo Kinshasa have also generated refugees from the area of the Great Lakes. At the same time, there is undocumented migration between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which is taking advantage of the common colonial background, a common language and cultural affinity. However, its volume and direction change from time to time, depending on the current relationship between these countries.[16]

It is worthwhile to note that Africa is made up of countries of varying levels of economic development, but most of them are significantly affected by international human mobility, which somehow points to the relevance of political instability in the phenomenon. However, there is also an important interplay between individual motivations and the external macro-level conditions.

Womenare also observed to play an increasingly active role as independent migrants, but also form a large part of refugee flows, together with children. The impact of this phenomenon on the family structure and situation needs to be closely examined.

Immigration in Africa has also caused an intensifying of ethnic conflicts and a growth of xenophobia, with immigrants blamed for increasing population growth, an increase in ‘shanty towns’, unemployment and high crime rates.

Another characteristic of African migration is its “brain circulation”, meaning that highly skilled persons leave their country but remain in the region. There is, therefore, not so much loss of highly-skilled labour resources from the regional point of view, but individual countries still suffer from “brain drain”. Related to this issue is the presence of 30 thousand African students in the U.S.A., only 6% of all foreign students in that country, but quite a good number for Africa.[17] If they return, they would be a resource for their home countries. If they stay, they are “brains” that are “drained” from Africa. However, their decision will not be influenced only by their good will…

Migration in Europe  [18]

The period since 1945 has been one of continuous international migration in Europe,with its high and low tides, but always there. There is no doubt that the nineties has been the decade with the highest incidence of migration in the continent since the Second World War. It is a period characterized by new migrations, particularly in the Central and Eastern European region and in the CIS (Community of Independent States). Recorded movements in Europe seem to have reached its peak in 1992-93. Now Europe remains a zone of immigration, but generally inflows are decreasing in numbers. Three distinct but interrelated migration zones have been developed: Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe including the CIS countries, and the CIS by itself.[19]

Taking the number of foreign residents in the country as an indicator of immigration, we can see that, in Western Europe, on the whole, the total number of foreign residents continued to grow, although rates of increase have slowed down.[20]

The origin of the foreign population in Western Europe is a reflection of successive waves of post-war migration associated, first, with labor shortage and, more recently, with family reunion and formation, as well as the flight of refugees from war-torn areas both within and outside Europe. Thus the largest national groups residing in Western European countries are still from Southern Europe (Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece), despite their recent status as immigration countries, plus Turkey and former Yugoslavia and more recently North Africa. Other national groups vary in importance according to the various destination countries.[21]

Western Europe also received 392,200 asylum seekers in 2000, of which 23.4% were in the UK. Germany accounted for another 18.9%. Other countries mainly chosen by asylum seekers in the year 2000 were France, Belgium and The Netherlands. In contrast, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland experienced declines in applications for asylum.

In Central and Eastern Europe, there has been a growing amount of short-term, short-distance movement across State boundaries. Although the mass emigrations from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the communist regime did not materialize, large numbers nevertheless crossed borders that had been tightly controlled in the past. Most of this movement exists for the purposes of gaining a livelihood, and is associated with the thriving of informal economies, involving petty trading, “tourism” for labor purposes and other novel forms of migration. The informal sector provides seasonal and temporary jobs which do not offer a stable source of income and which are regarded by many workers as a supplement to what can be earned in their home country .

Sudden and massive forced movements on a very high scale took place in the former Yugoslavia as a result of the war in the area.[22] 

It is believed that many asylum seekers in Central and Eastern Europe are really transit migrants wishing eventually to enter Western Europe, although there is some recent evidence that asylum seekers are now targeting the area for settlement because of growing political freedom and economic development.

Data indicate a general increase in the officially recognized foreign population of the region in the 1990-2000 period, although the tendency at the end of the period was a decrease.[23]

 Migration in the former Soviet Union (fundamentally CIS) is currently characterized by internal circulation, with some international spillover[24]. The causes of this movement are multiple, including falling living standards, socio-political instability and a series of armed conflicts. The result is a complex typology of movement. Some of its elements may be characterized as ‘normal’, like labor migrations, while others are products of a series of emergencies.[25]

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, there is evidence of large scale illegal migration. In 1994 about half a million immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East were reported to have entered in violation of passport and visa procedures. Reports in Belarus’ counted between one and four hundred thousand undocumented entrants over a two-year period (1994 and 1995).

 In general, in Europe, much of the immigrant flow is into highly skilled jobs since the work permit systems of most countries select those with high levels of expertise. However, there is increasing evidence of polarization with large numbers of jobs, especially in labor intensive occupations such as catering and cleaning, being filled by relatively low-skilled workers, many of whom are in an irregular situation.

Migration of the highly-skilled is a child of economic globalization and the activities of transnational corporations, however their numbers in relation to the bulk of migration is relatively small.[26] 

Concerning foreign students, Europe accounts for 78.5 thousand in the United States. On the other hand, there are 197 thousand in Great Britain, 160 thousand in Germany and 130 thousand in France.[27]

Regarding unauthorized migration, this, by definition, is difficult to calculate. The International Labor Office (ILO) estimated 2.6 million non nationals in Europe in an irregular or undocumented situation, including seasonal workers and asylum seekers whose applications were not approved but who have stayed. For most countries in Central and Eastern Europe, it is likely that most foreign workers are in some way undocumented. On the whole, the trend in unauthorized migration seems to be upward. There is also evidence to suggest that traffickers and smugglers are behind a substantial proportion of irregular migration.

Migration in Asia [28]

ILO estimates some 5 to 7 million migrant workers and their dependents outside their countries of origin across Asia and another 8 to 9 million migrants, mostly Asian, in the Middle East. Five main “migration systems” have been identified in the Asian continent. (A migration system is defined as a group of countries where one or more is a core or destination country while the rest are periphery or countries of origin.) They are:

(1) the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) system with Saudi Arabia as core nation, and to a lesser degree, also Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Although 37% of migrants into the area come from other Arab states, South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan, contributes a larger share (44%) to the inflow in the region. Southeast Asia adds a minor percentage (11%), mainly from the Philippines with increasing numbers from Indonesia.

(2) the Indian Subcontinent system is traditionally considered an emigration region to the Middle East, which claims more than 90% of migrant workers from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and over 60% from Bangladesh.[29]

(3) the Indo-Chinese (or Southeast Asian) system, with Malaysia and Singapore as core and Thailand as another core country. Migrants in Singapore are mostly employed in the construction and domestic service sectors.[30] Malaysia, at present, has some 770,000 foreign workers with regular permits and maybe 450,000 unauthorized migrants.[31] 

Immigration to Thailand is mostly from neighboring Burma, Laos and Cambodia, into jobs in the construction, agricultural and fishery sectors. [32]

(4) the Hong Kong–Taiwan system, with Hong Kong and Taiwan as core countries.[33] 

(5) the Northeast Asia system, with Japan and Korea as core. Neither country has a labor migration policy, but they both utilize unskilled labor. Japan has a foreign population of 1.7 million, including 635,269 Koreans. The need for unskilled workers is filled through the entry of foreign labor, trainees and unauthorized migrants.[34] On its part, Korea is a recent immigration country and also uses trainees to get a supply of migrant workers.[35]

Trends of Asian migration to non-Asian destinations are not quite considered in these typologies. It is in fact difficult to classify, for instance, the endemic emigration of Filipinos who are directed to practically all continents in the globe. Also, Asians (280 thousands) comprise more than 54% of all international students in the USA.[36]

 There are indications that migration has acquired a structural role in Asia.[37] It is also important to note that the lucrative business of recruitment and employment agencies has an important role in the continuation and expansion of labor migration within and from Asia. Another characteristic of migration of Asia is the high proportion of women among labor migrants. They increasingly “substitute”, in domestic work, growing numbers of working women in destination countries.

The long borders in common between countries in Asia facilitate unauthorized migration. Furthermore, criminal organizations have taken advantage of strict migration laws in receiving countries to make human smuggling thrive, and trafficking in human beings, particularly women and children, a trade.

Asia, in general, would not be affected as much as Europe in terms of maintaining the levels of its working age population. However Japan would badly need replacement migration to maintain its total population and labor force levels. An estimated 343,000 immigrants per year from now up to 2050 would be necessary.

Migration in the Pacific[38]

At the heart of Australian identity is its being a ‘nation of immigrants’.[39] The country is experiencing all kinds of mobility. There are permanent and temporary entries. Those who enter for permanent settlement come through the migration programme and the humanitarian programme.[40]

Refugeeshave been an important part of the immigration history of Australia, with two major refugee waves: Eastern Europeans in the late 1940s and the Indo-Chinese in the second half of the 1970s.[41] The entry of Indo-Chinese refugees, generally boat people, was the first large-scale entry of non Europeans in Australia, and played a significant part in changing the ethnic composition of the population.

In 1994-95, Australian immigration was truly global, coming from more than 160 countries.[42] There is a growing temporary population movement in Australia. In 1994-95 there were 3.5 million short-term entrants,[43] mainly tourists,[44] but also business visitors. There are also increasing numbers of foreign students.[45] Nevertheless, there is permanent emigration from Australia[46] which is part of trends towards economic internationalization.

In any case, multiculturalism has become a key element of Australian identity and a decisive break with Australia’s colonialist and racist past. This is an important asset in attempts to improve links with the rest of the world, particularly the Asia-Pacific region.[47] However, the more recent actions and policies of the government, particularly concerning refugees and asylum seekers, seem to signal the end of this openness. 

 New Zealand (NZ) is referred to as a ‘country of immigration’, being one of the four countries surrounding the Pacific Ocean that has actively welcomed immigrants, especially from Europe.[48] With the introduction of the ‘points system’, there was a massive increase in migration from countries in East Asia. However, now that English proficiency for all members of the migrant family is a prerequisite for residence, migrants from Taiwan, China and South Korea are expected to decrease.[49]

To promote tourism, the NZ government gives a waiver of the visa requirement for short–term visitors from most countries in the region.[50] 

Migration in America[51]

Although North Americans today consider their countries as examples of richly multicultural and multi-ethnic societies, up to the middle of the 20th century voluntary immigrants to North America (Canada and the United States) were essentially Europeans, considered as the most desirable group. Although earlier than New Zealand, it was, nevertheless, only in the 1960s that immigration policies based on ethnicity or country of origin were eliminated.[52] 

Therefore, migration from Asian nations to Canada and the United States became significant only after the 1960s, when restrictive immigration legislation was liberalized.[53] In the United States, approximately 1.3 million Asians arrived during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, numbering less than 4% of all immigration to America. After 1965, over four million immigrants have arrived in the country, comprising 25% of all legal immigration. Similar increases were observed in Canada. Throughout the 1970s and 80s the arrival of refugees, including numerous ‘boat people’, were increasing in numbers as they fled war, civil unrest and various oppressive regimes.[54]

 Migration from Africa to North America in the period following the Second World War has been shaped for the most part by economic imbalance, refugee movements and international ties.[55] The United States limited their entry to 7,000 per annum in the 1990s, although there was quite a big number of refugees in Africa in 1993.

Africans living in North America are important in their home countries’ economies because of their remittances. Even small amounts are significant for African countries.

The proximity of Central and South America and the Caribbean has made migration from these areas into the United States and Canada notable.[56] On the whole, most migration from this area to Canada originates in the Caribbean, while those to the United States come mostly from Mexico, Chile, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as from the Caribbean.[57]

Although the demographic effect of international emigration today is not on the same scale as that experienced by the European countries in the nineteenth century, we can nevertheless say that emigration from Mexico to the United States is one of the largest migratory movements in the world and the phenomenal growth of Hispanics in that country is becoming an important political as well as religious issue. The high degree of unauthorized migration across the Mexican-US border is well-known, encouraged by the presence of “coyotes” who are willing to guide people across unofficial border crossings, putting their lives at high risk in the process. The recent Pastoral Letter, “Juntos en el Camino de la Esperanza” is a witness of all these concerns.

Until the 1960s, international movement in Latin America were seasonal rural-rural or rural-urban migration between bordering countries, which could practically be considered an extension of internal migration beyond national borders. In other cases, different levels of population density and availability of land and labor for production triggered migration. At any rate, border crossing was relatively easy.

Argentina, which was a major receiving country for European migration in the nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth, became a country of increased emigration, together with Chile and Uruguay, after a political and economic crisis in the 1970s that led to military dictatorships. Destinations included Europe, Australia, United States and Canada, but also other Latin American countries, mainly Mexico, Venezuela and Costa Rica. These countries are, in fact, traditional cross-border migrant-receiving countries (Colombians in Venezuela, Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, and Guatemalans in Mexico).

In the 1970s, together with United States and Canada, Venezuela, an oil-producing country, was a favorite destination because the pay offered there equaled or even exceeded that offered in developed countries. As far as rural-rural cross-border movements were concerned, Costa Rica was the main receiving country because it enjoyed the greatest relative development and political stability.

Other significant emigration trends in the region were the following: Brazil started becoming an emigration country in 1980. The immigrant population in Paraguay increased with 100,000 Brazilians included in its 1990 census. The movement of ‘Braziguayans’, which began in the 1970s, had major social and geo-political consequences for the region. Aside from the cross-border movement to Paraguay, Brazilian emigration to the United States and other countries increased. Portugal and Japan witnessed the return of their Brazilian-born descendants. Descendants of former immigrants to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile were also increasingly going back to their ancestor’s home countries. The same can be said of people of Japanese origin living in Peru. Simultaneously, there was also an increase in the number of Peruvians in all countries which were still open to immigration. They were the fastest-growing national group in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Their numbers also increased in the United States.

Violence and instability in Central America since the mid-1970s not only triggered international migration but also produced internally displaced people and refugees. UNHCR information, supplied by refugee-receiving countries, counts the displaced population in Central America to be over 1,163,000 in early 1990. The refugees were located, in descending order of numbers, in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. In 1993, however, these numbers decreased for most countries, especially Costa Rica, but in Mexico and Guatemala the numbers remained stable.

On the whole, for large sectors of the Latin-American population, the United States has become the centre of gravity and attracts those who look for personal advancement. It, in fact, hosts also 62 thousand Latin American students, of which 11 thousand come from Mexico.

For Latin America, therefore, we have identified the following causes of population mobility:

  • population growth coupled with urbanization and industrial development;
  • the proximity of inviting borders;
  • free market policies, which replaced policies of industrial development and import substitution, coupled with policies designed to reduce the role of the State (This led to a rise in unemployment and cuts in welfare spending, bringing about worsened living standards for major sectors of the population. A response to the employment crisis was the emergence of self-employment activities, ranging from highly specialized to unskilled functions. This helped generate mobility since people move to where opportunities are offered.);
  • political instability, undemocratic forms of governments and violence;
  • globalization, which has rapidly universalized expectations and disseminated lifestyles and consumption patterns of developed countries. Although cultural and ethnic identities are being revitalized, large sectors of the population expect to live in the same way as those in the developed world. If opportunities for its realization is not available in the native country, then migration becomes a realistic alternative, for many.

 Conclusion (Consequences and Expectations)

As stated in the Final Report of the Regional Meeting of Experts on “International Migration and Africa” (Gaborone, Botswana, 2-5 June 1998), “International migration is generally viewed negatively, and there is a pressing need to re-conceptualize it as making a significant positive contribution to social and economic transformation and change…” This was referred to Africa, but we would not hesitate extending its application to the rest of our planet.

So, after having examined rapidly, but not superficially, the trends of international migration in the various regions of the world (and the reader will be helped more by the notes, in my written text, for a wider vision) we can observe the following:

  • Labor migration is generally caused by the worker’s need to find employment that is not met by the country of origin. This varies greatly from case to case. In some countries, it would mean massive unemployment and even the impossibility for the worker to secure the basic necessities for himself and for his family. In other cases, it signifies the incapacity of the country to provide employment corresponding to the qualifications and skills acquired by the individual. Between these two extremes, there is a whole range of degrees of need. However, labor migration also responds to a need in the destination country: for professionals and highly-skilled workers that its own population cannot adequately supply, for workers in labor-intensive occupations that its local population is not willing to supply, or for workers in general, of which its ageing population has insufficient or no supply.
  • While migration in the past century very often involved single males, it is more usual for contemporary migration to be family migration, either by the whole family migrating together or through the family reunification scheme.
  • The need for high skills in technologically advanced countries has led to “brain exchange” among them, to “brain circulation” in some regions, and, unfortunately, to “brain drain” in developing or poorly-developed countries that are badly in need of good human resources, but, alas, cannot provide them with adequate instruments or pay. There is also the “brain hunt” by industrialized nations, to recruit and even keep highly-skilled people from developing countries.

    In this regard, there are organisms that are doing valuable work among international students, like the KAAD (the German Catholic Academic Exchange Service). They have programs to sensitize students regarding their countries’ need for leaders who are willing to work for their people and their country’s welfare despite minimum financial returns. Thus, they try to encourage them to return home in the spirit of positive nationalism. 

  • Poor countries of origin count on the remittances of migrant workers to be able to sustain their economies, but rich countries of destination count on cheap foreign labor to be able to continue producing and maintain their industries, as well as substitute the domestic work of women who have entered their labor force.
  • Women have increasingly joined the ranks of international migrants, to the advantage of the families where they work and to the disadvantage of the families that they leave behind. Often hired as unskilled workers or in domestic services, women are more vulnerable to violence and violation of their human and labor rights, which are often not recognized. They also comprise a large component in refugee flows. Together with children, they are the more frequent victims of human trafficking for illicit trade.
  • Fearing massive entry of migrants, worsened by the September 11th syndrome, rich industrialized countries have tightened security controls on their borders and made immigration laws more severe. This has resulted in the thriving of employment agencies that make lucrative gains on the hopes of “poor” migrants. Even worse, it has triggered unauthorized migration for those who have no way of fulfilling legal pre-requisites. The result is an increase in the gains of smugglers and traffickers of human persons. Attempts have been made to combat this social plague on the part of the European Union by moves to introduce laws that punish not only traffickers and smugglers but also those who “purchase” their goods.
  • Severe economic crisis, natural disaster, violence, ethnic conflicts, political instability, wars have led to forced migration and generated refugees, internally displaced people and economic migrants. They, too, have contributed to the formation of multicultural and multi-ethnic societies that have enriched the cultural patrimony of the host countries. They have transformed even small and formerly isolated communities into pluralist and inter-cultural realities.

    However, they are often victims of racial discrimination, xenophobia or other forms of intolerance. This has added ulterior suffering to their already miserable lives. It is necessary to recognizein people of other cultures the handiwork of God, which is not an easy task, and to pass from mere tolerance of others to real respect for their differences. Nonetheless, respect must be reciprocal and immigrants are called to respect the laws of the country that welcomes them.

  • International migration affects differently countries of origin, transit and destination countries, but their causes and effects bind them all closely together. It is necessary to combat the negative side of migration and encourage its positive aspects. Human mobility is, in fact, a right because it enables all men and women to venture into an unknown world and be enriched by new discoveries. At the same time, it allows them to move away from painful or frightful circumstances, even if the future will not always be sunny and bright. Wherever they go, they take with them their patrimony of culture and human endowments, capable of transforming and developing the places where they choose to stop and settle.
  • In many countries, legal migration is encouraged, especially when it is a question of supplying lacking labor or skills, whereas irregular migration is combated. In reality, regular and irregular migration are two components of the same phenomenon, in the same way that it is often difficult to draw a distinct dividing line between economic migrants and refugees. It is enough to point out that many unauthorized migrants are relatives and friends of legal migrants who encourage the former to join them and provide them with logistic support. Facts demonstrate that tight border control, security checks and rigid immigration laws are not sufficient to keep under control migration, in general, and irregular migration, in particular.
  • While migration is a right of every human person, it is also a right to remain in one’s own country and cultural ambience. Migration, particularly forced migration, takes place especially when an individual finds it difficult, if not impossible, to survive according to local norms of safety, dignity and well-being. To a high degree then, migration would not take place if local conditions could guarantee the dignified life of a person and his/her family. Thus, rich industralized countries, that are afraid of irregular migration in their territories, have to contribute to the development (and not only economic) and security of migrant sending countries so they can offer their citizens a better life.
  • People will therefore always move, perhaps less permanently and more temporarily, for migration is a natural human process, as history attests from ancient times. Whatever may be the case, societies are bound more and more to host people of different cultures and nationalities. Multiculturality, including a plurality of creed and nationalities, is destined to be a characteristic of our societies. A regulated presence of “foreigners” has always been a sort of enrichment for the people of a given country. The human race being one, we all belong to one family, so that if we are to be worthy of our identity, it is necessary treat everyone else, without distinction of nationality, race, creed or social standing, as our brothers and sisters. As a matter of fact, a necessary norm to guide all our programs and activities is the upholding of the common good.
  • Consequently, we have to consider mankind a family of peoples, that are not barricaded within the fortress of their borders but are welcome in a free and reasonable circulation within and through national territories, making the earth a truly global home for all. An example? A UN study[58] forecasts the entry of about 160 million immigrants in the countries of the EU in the next 50 years if Europe wishes to preserve its present economic dynamics. For that to happen peacefully and justly, the attitude of many has to change. The Church’s role is that process is indispensable.

If I have to state an expectation, without wanting to be futurologist, it is this: one day, the ideal of universal brotherhood would be realized, also with the contribution of the migration phenomenon. We, Christians, ought to remember that already today, as the Holy Father states in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (no. 49-50), “no one can be excluded from our love, since ‘through his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every person’. Yet, as the unequivocal words of the Gospel remind us, there is a special presence of Christ in the poor, and this requires the Church to make a preferential option for them…. In our own time, there are so many needs which demand a compassionate response from Christians. Our world is entering the new millennium burdened by the contradictions of an economic, cultural and technological progress which offers immense possibilities to a fortunate few, while leaving millions of others not only on the margins of progress but in living conditions far below the minimum demanded by human dignity…. The scenario of poverty can extend indefinitely… Now is the time for a new ‘creativity’ in charity[59] not only by ensuring that help is effective, but also by ‘getting close’ to those who suffer, so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating handout but as a sharing between brothers and sisters.”

In this scenario of poverty, the Church is present and embraces with Christ’s arms the loneliness of all hearts, making sure that his love reaches everyone, but most especially the poor, and the many migrant and itinerant people among them. In this, may Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Magnificat, Mother of God and Mother of all mankind, be our model and guide in our attitude of compassion, assistance for human promotion and evangelization.

* Congreso Nacional sobre la Pastoral de la Movilidad Humana, (2003, March 10-14), Veracruz, Messico.
[1]As John Salt, Council of Europe Migration Consultant, stated in the introduction to his study on the “Current Trends in International Migration in Europe” (Council of Europe, November, 2001), p. 3.
[2]Salt observes: "It does not … make sense to think in terms of rigid categories, nor to place ‘migration’ at some defined point on the mobility continuum” (op. cit., p. 4).
[3]UN Population Division International Migration 2002 Wall Chart.
[4]UN Press Release (POP/844), New York, 28 October 2002.
[5]UNHCR Statistical Yearbook 2001 (October, 2002).
[8]UNESCO 1996 data.
[9]Figures provided by the World Tourism Organization (January, 2003).
[10]Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, “The Solidarity of the Church with Migrants and Itinerant People” (Vatican City, 2000), p. 57.
[11]Ibidem, p. 82.
[12]This section is largely based on the “Final Report” of the UNESCO Regional Meeting of Experts on International Migration and Africa: Trends and Prospects for the 21st Century (Gaborone, Botswana, 2-5 June 1998), (henceforth, UNESCO Report), which is the source of all statistical information furnished in this section, unless otherwise stated.
[13]Cf. Marta Roig Vila, International Migrations and Globalization: International and Regional Migration Trends, 1965-2000 (United Nations, New York, 2002), p. 6.  
[14]Ivory Coast (until the recent civil war broke out) attracted immigrants, generally with little education and few skills, from Burkina Faso, Mali or Guinea. Gambia attracts migrants from Senegal and Sierra Leone, but growing number of Gambians emigrate to study, since there is no university in Gambia. Nigeria is also a major centre of attraction in the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) region although it is also an emigration country.  
[15]Botswana, being a prosperous and politically stable country, attracts highly skilled professionals from other parts of the region who do not find similar employment opportunities in their own countries. Following the fall of the apartheid regime and the democratization of South Africa, the Republic attracted migrants from Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Zaire, Kenya and Uganda. They were few in numbers and were mostly skilled professionals. These set them apart from the traditional immigrants from Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Mozambique, mostly unskilled mine workers and farm laborers. Zairian traders and students also came in after the collapse of their country’s economy, politics and society. As can be expected, South Africa is strongly beset by irregular immigration. However, through emigration, it is also losing skilled labor in critical economic sectors, which is causing great concern in the country. 
[16]See Aderanti Adepoju, “Reporting from Lagos” in the Global Issues Observatory of The World Paper on Line (The World Times), 1 March 2002. 
[17]Johan Van der Meulen, SDB, “Pastoral Care of International Students in the USA” in People on the Move , No. 88-89, April-August 2002, p. 319.
[18]This section is largely based on John Salt’s study on International Migration in Europe (op. cit.), which is the source of all statistical information, unless otherwise stated.
[19]Each zone has a significant degree of self-containment, although all are enmeshed in a global pattern of migration. In all, the political-military conflicts have affected the flow of human beings in the area and created human rights difficulties. It is commonly held that unrecorded and irregular migration is increasing in the region.
[20]There are, however, differences in the experiences of the various European countries. Although between 1980 and 1993, foreign residents in all these countries increased in number, in 1994, Belgium, Greece, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden experienced a decrease in numbers. The UK, on its part, had a decrease up to 1995 and then a strong rise in 1996. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg and Portugal, instead, experienced consistent increases in foreign population, while Germany and Switzerland witnessed a decrease in 1999, after an initial increase at the beginning of the decade.
[21]Africa is an important source for France and Portugal, and, to a lesser extent, for Italy and Belgium. America is important for Portugal and Spain (mainly South America), and also for Greece and Italy. The UK receives Asian immigrants mainly from the Indian sub-continent, while Italy hosts Southeast Asians, particularly Filipinos, and Greece is chosen by migrants from the nearby Middle East region. 
[22]By the end of December 1993, movements were estimated to be 4.24 million, including 819,000 refugees, 1.6 million internally displaced persons and 1.79 million assisted war victims. In 1996, there were 837,000 Bosnia-Herzegovina citizens receiving Temporary Protected status elsewhere in Europe, though the majority have now returned. In 1999 over a million people were estimated to have been forced to leave their homes in Kosovo, although most returned within a few months.
[23]If politically-related moves, like what took place in the former Yugoslavia, are not taken into consideration, the largest numbers of migrants are in the Czech Republic (with a peak of 228,900 before declining to 201,000 in the 1990-1999 period), Hungary (153,000 in 1999, and decreased to 110,000 in 2000) and Russia (which recorded 138,300 permanent resident foreigners in 1997). Following are geographically selective patterns that have been identified: temporary labor migration westwards, like Albanians going to work in Italy and Greece, Estonians and Russians to Finland, Romanians to Israel, Czechs, Bulgarians, Poles and Hungarians to Austria and Germany; intra-regional flows of workers, including Ukrainians, Belarussians, Romanians and Russians to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; inflows of workers from some developing countries such as Chinese and Vietnamese to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; inflows of mainly highly-skilled workers from Western Europe, especially to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland; return migration, for example, to Poland, Bulgaria and Romania; ethnic migrations from Poland, Romania and the former USSR, especially to Germany, Israel and the former USSR.  
[24]Emigration from Russia to non-CIS countries is estimated to be 83,500 in 1997, well above the 47,600 mark of 1989, but rather far below the 113,900 peak of 1993. The emigrants were distributed as follows: 58% to Germany; 15% to Israel and 11 % to the USA. Emigration from Ukraine totaled 190,000 in 1997, of which 52,000 went to non-CIS countries, namely Israel, USA and Germany. From Belarus’, permanent emigration to CIS countries numbered 9,700 in 1997, while some 8,900 went to non CIS countries, again mainly to Israel, USA and Germany. 

[25]The Russian Federation is still the main migration partner of all CIS countries. The overall decrease in migration in the region during the 1989-97 period can be attributed primarily to the fall in Russian out-migration. There has also been a decline in the significance of ethnic movements in the recent years. There is, instead, a long list of emergency migrations including those resulting from conflicts in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Moldova and Chechnya. An estimated 2.4 million individuals have been refugees or in refugee-like situations since 1989. Another 2.9 million have been internally displaced. Among these are Armenians (72,000), Azerbaijanis (600,000), Georgians (274,000), Russians (194,000) and Chechnyans (153,000). Of the around three-fourths of a million migrants that have been forced to resettle due to environmental degradation, the great majority are victims of the Chernobyl disaster (unfortunately, some 3 million are still living in contaminated areas). 

Another large-scale migration in the area is repatriation within the former Soviet Union, most of whom are Russians returning to Russia. Between 1991 and 1996 an estimated 155,000 Kazaks repatriated from the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Iran. Related to this trend is the return of ethnic groups that were deported by force from their historic homelands (Crimean Tatars, Volga Germans and Meskhetians), which involved around a million individuals.

The poor available statistics indicate that most labor migrants go, in large numbers and for a short period, to Russia. In the mid-1990s Russia is estimated to have hosted some 100,000 migrant workers, although this is believed to be a big underestimate. Recently, migrants within the CIS have increased due to changing economic conditions. In 1997, of the 241,000 labor immigrants hired in the CIS, 186,000 originated from other CIS countries. Ukraine contributed 32% of imported labor, followed by Turkey (14%) and China (9%). More than half of legal labor migrants are in the field of construction while 10% are in agriculture and manufacturing. 

[26]While “brain exchange” is taking place among western European countries, the feared “brain drain” from east to west is not supported by available data, except in the former Soviet Union. The level of education and professional qualification of migrants to and from Russia is higher than that of Russia’s population. The same can be said of Ukraine. However, there has also been an inflow of highly skilled personnel (corporate staff, consultants, education specialists, etc.) into Eastern Europe. 

[27]UNESCO 1996 data.
 [28]This section is largely based on Graziano Battistella’s paper entitled Migration in Asia: Established Paths and Emerging Trends (presented at the ASEM Asia-Europe Dialogue on Globalization and International Migration, Paris, 12-13 March 2002), which is the source of all statistical information in this section, unless otherwise stated.
[29]The complex history of this subcontinent has given rise to a high degree of unauthorized migration movements. Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis are in India and Pakistan, very often in irregular situations. India is a favorite destination also of Nepalese workers. Pakistan, on its part, is an important country of asylum, especially for Afghan refugees. UNHCR estimates two million Afghans in the country compared to 1.5 million in Iran. About a million Afghans are internally displaced, a phenomenon experienced also by Sri Lanka. 
[30]Originally migration into Singapore came from Malaysia, mostly frontier workers. Since 1978, employers could hire migrants from Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia. In 1984, Hong Kong, China, Macao, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea were added in the list of authorized countries from which migrant workers could be hired. Malaysia is experiencing a huge flow of migrant workers from Indonesia (74% of its migrant population), who were originally employed mostly in plantations and construction work. Now, manufacturing is getting the largest share of foreign workers and those in domestic services are increasing.
[31]There is also a large number of unauthorized migrants from the Philippines, mostly found in Sabah. Recent implementation of migration laws resulted in mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, mostly Filipinos and Indonesians, with a considerable component of women and children. 
[32]Thailand itself, however, sent 340,000 workers abroad, the largest number of whom are in Taiwan, followed by Singapore and Malaysia. Thailand also played an important role as country of first resettlement during the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis and still has refugee camps for some 100,000 ethnic Karen people from Burma. 
[33]Although Hong Kong is trying to control the influx of persons from mainland China, it has at the same time absorbed a great number (230,476) of domestic workers (154,744 from the Philippines and 65,027 from Indonesia) as of December 2001. Taiwan tried to control migration by limiting source countries to Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. The relocation of factories from Taiwan and Hong Kong to mainland China has encouraged economic integration within the system in spite of political differences. However, the expected inflow of domestic workers from mainland China did not take place and the number of foreign workers has increased.
[34]Japan received unskilled workers of Japanese descent from Brazil and Peru, trainees and some 270,000 unauthorized migrants. Of the skilled and professional migrants in the country (about 221,879), almost half are in the entertainment industry. Among foreigners, the most numerous are Chinese (335,575), Brazilians (254,384) and Filipinos (144,871).  
[35]However, Korea has a large number of unauthorized migrants (243,734), mostly runaways from the trainee system or Chinese of Korean descent. Aside from the Chinese (30,900), the Indonesian (9,700), Vietnamese (8,100), Filipino (8,000) and Bangladeshi (5,700) migrants comprise the largest foreign national groups in the country.
[36]Johan Van der Meulen, op. cit., p. 319.
[37]This is evident from the following facts: in the countries of destination, there is a dependence on foreign labor in the total labor force, particularly in some specific occupations (construction, manufacturing, agricultural sector and domestic services); and in the countries of origin, there is a noteworthy dependence on remittances of migrant workers.
[38]This section is largely based on two “Issues Papers” (from Australia and from New Zealand) of the Asia Pacific Migration Research Network (APMRN) on Migration Issues in the Asia Pacific Region,UNESCO, which are the sources of all statistical information, unless otherwise stated.
[39]The Australian population increased from about 7.5 million in 1947 to some 17.8 million in 1994, with immigration accounting for at least half of the growth. Immigrants make up 23% of the population, while Australian-born people with at least one overseas-born parent account for another 20%. In metropolitan areas like Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, over half of the population are first or second generation immigrants. Most immigrants until 1947 came from Great Britain, but since then, the majority of immigrants have come from different cultural backgrounds. Over half of the immigrants in the last ten years come from Asia. In this island-nation it is customary to distinguish between English-speaking immigrants and those with a non-English-speaking background. The policy of multiculturalism is concerned both with the position of the latter in Australian society and with the question of Australian identity in a changing international context. 
[40]Migration includes family migration (the entry of spouses, fiances, dependent children and other siblings and close relatives) and skill migration (the entry of people with special or high-level skills, including granting permanent residence to highly-skilled asylum seekers and humanitarian cases already in Australia). The humanitarian programme includes the refugee programme (using the UNHCR criteria), the special humanitarian programme (for people who do not fall under the UNHCR criteria, but who have suffered gross violation of their human rights, like political prisoners or members of ethnic minorities in some Central American countries) and the special assistance category (for people in vulnerable situations who have the support of relative or community groups in Australia).  
[41]There were also refugees from the Soviet invasion in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), Lebanese refugees (1976-78) and Poles (1980s). Smaller flows arrived following the political turmoil in Chile, El Salvador, East-Timor, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia. Australia has constantly admitted some 12,000 refugees per year since the mid-1980s. 
[42]United Kingdom was, as it has always been, the largest source country (10,689 entrants comprising 12.2% of the total inflow), followed by New Zealand (10,498 entrants at 12%), the Republics of former Yugoslavia (6,665 at 7.6%), Vietnam (5,097 at 5.8%) and Hong Kong (4,135 at 4.7%). It is important to note that there is a strong trend towards feminization of migration in Australia (In 1994-95, women made up 53% of the total permanent settlers in the country) and that immigrants are more highly-skilled than the local population and are of potential economic benefit to the nation. Moreover, being an island continent, it is fairly easy to prevent illegal entries into the country, so most illegals are temporary visitors who overstay their visas. They were reported to be 69,000 in June 1994. 
[43]Most short-term visitors are aged between 25 and 34, coming from Japan, New Zealand, UK, Ireland and the USA.
[44]Tourism is, in fact, one of Australia’s fastest growing industries, although the whole Pacific suffered some decline in tourism after the September 11, 2001 events (cf. OMT figures for January 2003).
[45]They were 87,000 in 1993-94 compared to 65,500 in 1991-92. Asians comprise more than half of Australia’s long-term overseas visitors and 38% of short-term visitor or tourist arrivals. Overseas students in the island-continent come mainly from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.  
[46]Emigrants are around 27,000 per year for the last few years, of which 35-37% are Australian-born. Residents from New Zealand making up another 22%.
[47]However, an official inquiry into racism in 1991 revealed that most immigrants have had some experience of racial discrimination harassment or even violence, particularly those with non-European appearance, notably Asians, but the worst expression is directed to the aboriginal people.
[48]Compared with Australia, Canada and the United States, however, New Zealand was the last to move away from an immigration policy which favored some migrants and discriminated against others. It was only in 1986 that the notion of ‘traditional source areas’ began to disappear from its immigration policy. 
[49]They came particularly from Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea (from a net gain of 17,281 in the 1987-1991 period to 34,879 in 1991-1995). The same system, coupled with a tight labor market for semi-skilled and unskilled workers, discouraged migration from the Pacific Islands (from 18,575 in 1987-1991 to 2,810 in 1991-1995). Although the impact of international migration on the ‘ageing’ of the NZ population is quite complex, the recent contribution of immigration from Asian countries to the younger population of New Zealand has had significant repercussions on ethnic diversification. If trends continue, the working age population of New Zealand in the 21st century will be much more diverse ethnically than in the mid-1990s. 
[50]However, four major sources of immigrants from the Asia-Pacific Region are excluded from these provisions: Taiwan, Fiji, Western Samoa and Tonga.
[51]This section is largely based on “Recent Migrations to Canada and the United Sates” in University of Calgary Applied History Research Group, Peopling North America: Population Movements and Migration (Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2001) for North America and on Adela Pellegrino, Trends in International Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean (Blackwell, Oxford, 2000) for Central and South America. These two papers are the sources of all statistical information in this section, unless otherwise stated.
[52]This is partly because of a more liberal political climate within North America and partly because of the desire to embarrass communist countries by accepting streams of refugees from the USSR, Asia and the Caribbean. At the same time, developing third-world countries, with their booming populations, dramatic economic cycles and political instability, were sending more and more immigrants, temporary workers and refugees to the continent. 
[53]Among the factors causing this was dramatic labor shortages in the continent, allowing Asians to move into new sectors and increase their social and economic condition without being considered an economic threat. Another factor was the desire of the North American nations to prevent fledgling nations in the third world from becoming Soviet footholds abroad, at the time of the Cold War. In 1962, with the introduction of the ‘points system’, although the largest numbers of immigrants continued to come from Britain and Italy, Asian immigration began to rise immediately. 
[54]Immigrant and refugee source countries were mainly the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Korea and India. More recently, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand have also contributed significant numbers of newcomers. The majority of these have settled in urban centers, forming concentrated communities in major cities. Unlike earlier migrations which were mostly single men, more recent migrations have a large family component. From Asia, more and more professionals and skilled workers are arriving and no longer predominantly laborers or farmers. They tend to live well above (the professionals or highly-skilled) or well below (the unskilled or those who entered under the family reunification scheme) the poverty line once in North America. Like other immigrant groups, Asian immigrants faced the barriers of linguistic, ethnic and religious differences with the North Americans. Aside from this, refugees were often extremely poor and had lived prolonged periods of traumatic experiences. 
[55]High levels of poverty within Africa have prevented many of the poorest from leaving, but those who can accumulate sufficient funds to migrate often do so in search of the much greater economic opportunities in North America. Ties with the United States also play an important role in African populations movements to the Federal Republic, as are the cases of those coming from Liberia and Cape Verde. The largest numbers of Africans migrating to the United States in the 1990s came from Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa, all of them relatively industrialized and using English as an official language. 
[56]More, of course, go to the United States because the U.S. border is closer than the Canadian one. Also, there is a longer history of migration from Latin America to the United States.
[57]Caribbean migrants to North America come from the English-speaking nations, like Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. However, Quebec hosts migrants from French-speaking Haiti. It is worth noting that migration to the United States has a much higher illegal component than that to Canada. 
[58]United Nations Population Division, Replacement Migration: Is it a Solution to Declining and Ageing Populations? (UN ESA, 21 March 2000).
[59]Italics mine.