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File:Net migration rate world.PNG

Net migration rates for 2008: positive (blue), negative (orange), stable (green), and no data (grey).

Immigration is a social process in which individuals or groups come to permanently live in a country other than their country of origin. This can have important consequences for themselves as individuals, for the social group, if any, in which they moves as well as having an impact on the soiety into which they settle.


Where immigration is forced through circumstances such as famine and war people may be referred to as refugees. If it is partly forced by economic conditions they are termed as economic migrants. Seasonal labor migration, while generally non-permanent in nature (typically for periods of less than a year), is often treated as a form of immigration.

While the movement of people has thought throughout history at various levels, modern immigration tourists are considered non-immigrants (see expatriate).

Immigration that violates the immigration laws of the destination country is termed illegal immigration. The modern concept of immigration is related to the development of Nationals and nationality law.

Citizenship in a nation-state confers an inalienable right of residence in that state, but residency of non-citizens is subject to conditions set by immigration law. The emergence of nation-states made immigration a political issue: by definition it is the homeland of a nation defined by shared ethnicity and/or culture. Between arrival and that attainment of citizenship people are classed as foregn nationals


The global volume of immigration is high in absolute terms, but low in relative terms. The International Integration and Refugee Association estimated 175 million international migrants in 2005, about 2 percent of the global population.[How to reference and link to summary or text] The Middle East, some parts of Europe, small areas of South East Asia, and a few spots in the West Indies have the highest percentages of immigration population recorded by the UN Census 2005. The International Organization for Migration said there are more than 200 million migrants around the world today. Europe hosted the largest number of immigrants, with 70.6 million people in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available. North America, with over 45.1 million immigrants, is second, followed by Asia, which hosts nearly 25.3 million. Most of today's migrant workers come from Asia.[1]


Theories of immigration traditionally distinguish between push factors and pull factors.[2] Push factors refer primarily to the motive for emigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labour migration), differentials in wage rates are prominent. Poor individuals from less developed countries can have far higher standards of living in developed countries than in their originating countries. The cost of emigration, which includes both the explicit costs, the ticket price, and the implicit cost, lost work time and loss of community ties, also play a major role in the pull of emigrants away from their native country. When the opportunity cost is lower, the immigration rates tend to be higher.[3]Escape from poverty (personal or for relatives staying behind) is a traditional push factor, the availability of jobs is the related pull factor. Natural disasters and can amplify poverty-driven migration flows. This kind of migration may be illegal immigration in the destination country (emigration is also illegal in some countries, such as North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Somalia).

Emigration and immigration are sometimes mandatory in a contract of employment: religious missionaries, and employees of transnational corporations, international non-governmental organisations and the diplomatic service can expect to work 'overseas'. They are often referred to as 'expatriates', and their conditions of employment are typically equal to or better than those applying in the host country (for similar work).

For some migrants, education is the primary pull factor (although most international students are not classified as immigrants, but may choose to become immigrants if they refuse to return). Retirement migration from rich countries to lower-cost countries with better climate, is a new type of international migration. Examples include immigration of retired British citizens to Spain or Italy and of retired Canadian citizens to the U.S. (mainly to the U.S. states of Florida and Texas).

Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing and even genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows - to escape dictatorship for instance.

Some migration is for personal reasons, based on a relationship (e.g. to be with family or a partner), such as in family reunification or transnational marriage. In a few cases, an individual may wish to emigrate to a new country in a form of transferred patriotism. Evasion of criminal justice (e.g. avoiding arrest) is a personal motivation. This type of emigration and immigration is not normally legal, if a crime is internationally recognized, although criminals may disguise their identities or find other loopholes to evade detection. There have been cases, for example, of those who might be guilty of war crimes disguising themselves as victims of war or conflict and then pursuing asylum in a different country.

Barriers to immigration come not only in legal form; natural barriers to immigration can also be very powerful. Immigrants when leaving their country also leave everything familiar: their family, friends, support network, and culture. They also need to liquidate their assets often at a large loss, and incur the expense of moving. When they arrive in a new country this is often with many uncertainties including finding work, where to live, new laws, new cultural norms, language or accent issues, possible racism and other exclusionary behaviour towards them and their family. These barriers act to limit international migration (scenarios where populations move en masse to other continents, creating huge population surges, and their associated strain on infrastructure and services, ignore these inherent limits on migration.)

As political issue

The political debate about immigration is now a feature of most developed countries.

Some, such as Japan, traditionally found alternate ways of filling the role normally filled by immigrants (for example, greater automation to compensate for labor shortages), and designed immigration laws specifically to prevent immigrants from remaining within the country. However, globalization, as well as low birth rates and an aging work force, has forced even Japan to reconsider its immigration policy.[4]

Residents of one member nation of the European Union are allowed to work in other member nations with little to no restriction on movement.[5] Due to this policy, traditionally homogenous countries which usually sent a significant portion of their population overseas, such as Italy and the Republic of Ireland are seeing an influx of immigrants from EU countries with lower per capita annual earning rates, triggering nationwide immigration debates.[6][7]

Spain, meanwhile, is seeing growing illegal immigration from Africa. As Spain is the closest EU member nation to Africa, it is physically easiest for African emigrants to reach. This has led to debate both within Spain and between Spain and other EU members. Spain has asked for border control assistance from other EU nations; those nations have responded that Spain has brought the wave of African illegals on itself by granting amnesty to hundreds of thousands of immigrants.[8]

The United Kingdom and Germany have seen major immigration since the end of World War II and have been debating the issue for decades. Foreign workers were brought in to those countries to help rebuild after the war, and many stayed. Political debates about immigration typically focus on statistics, the immigration law and policy, and the implementation of existing restrictions.[9][10] In some European countries the debate in the 1990s was focused on asylum seekers, but restrictive policies within the European Union, as well as a reduction in armed conflict in Europe and neighboring regions, have sharply reduced asylum seekers.[11]

In the United States political debate on immigration has flared repeatedly since the US became a nation, generally at times when an ethnically distinct group is moving in large numbers to the US.[12] Since Since September 11, 2001, it has become an extremely hot issue due to perceived security and economic threats from outsiders on one side and a push for more opportunity for legal immigration on the other. It is a central topic of the 2008 election cycle.[13]

The politics of immigration have become increasingly associated with others issues, such as national security, terrorism, and in western Europe especially, with the presence of Islam as a new major religion. Some components of conservative movements see an unassimilated, economically deprived, and generally hostile immigrant population as a threat to national stability[14]; other elements of conservative movements welcome immigrant labor. Those with security concerns cite the 2005 civil unrest in France that point to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy as an example of the value conflicts arising from immigration of Muslims in Western Europe. Because of all these associations, immigration has become an emotional political issue in many European nations.


Although freedom of movement is often recognized as a civil right, the freedom only applies to movement within national borders: it may be guaranteed by the constitution or by human rights legislation. Additionally, this freedom is often limited to citizens and excludes others. No state currently allows full freedom of movement across its borders, and international human rights treaties do not confer a general right to enter another state. According to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, citizens may not be forbidden to leave their country. There is no similar provision regarding entry of non-citizens. Those who reject this distinction on ethical grounds, argue that the freedom of movement both within and between countries is a basic human right, and that the restrictive immigration policies, typical of nation-states, violate this human right of freedom of movement.[15] Such arguments are common among anti-state ideologies like anarchism and libertarianism.

Where immigration is permitted, it is typically selective. Ethnic selection, such as the White Australia policy, has generally disappeared, but priority is usually given to the educated, skilled, and wealthy. Less privileged individuals, including the mass of poor people in low-income countries, cannot avail of these immigration opportunities. This inequality has also been criticised as conflicting with the principle of equal opportunities, which apply (at least in theory) within democratic nation-states. The fact that the door is closed for the unskilled, while at the same time many developed countries have a huge demand for unskilled labour, is a major factor in illegal immigration. The contradictory nature of this policy - which specifically disadvantages the unskilled immigrants while exploiting their labour - has also been criticised on ethical grounds.

Immigration polices which selectively grant freedom of movement to targeted individuals are intended to produce a net economic gain for the host country. They can also mean net loss for a poor donor country through the loss of the educated minority - the brain drain. This can exacerbate the global inequality in standards of living that provided the motivation for the individual to migrate in the first place. An example of the 'competition for skilled labour' is active recruitment of health workers by First World countries, from the Third World.

Immigration by continent

Template:Africa topic Template:South America topic Template:North America topic Template:Asia topic Template:Oceania topic Template:Immigration to Europe

Immigration by country

Following Poland's entry into the EU in May 2004 it is estimated that by the start of 2007 375,000 Poles have registered to work in the UK, although the total Polish population in the UK is believed to be 750,000. Many Poles work in seasonal occupations and a large number are likely to move back and forth including between Ireland and other EU Western nations.[16]

According to Eurostat,[17] Some EU member states are currently receiving large-scale immigration: for instance Spain, where the economy has created more than half of all the new jobs in the EU over the past five years.[18] The EU, in 2005, had an overall net gain from international migration of +1.8 million people. This accounts for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth in 2005.[19] In 2004, total 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe.[20] In 2005, immigration fell slightly to 135,890.[21] In recent years, immigration has accounted for more than half of Norway's population growth. In 2006, Statistics Norway's (SSB) counted a record 45,800 immigrants arriving in Norway — 30% higher than 2005.[22] At the beginning of 2007, there were 415,300 persons in Norway with an immigrant background (i.e. immigrants, or born of immigrant parents), comprising 8.3 per cent of the total population.[23]

Canada has the highest per capita net immigration rate in the world,[24] driven by economic policy and family reunification. In 2001, 250,640 people immigrated to Canada. Newcomers settle mostly in the major urban areas of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. By the 1990s and 2000s, a majority of Canada's immigrants came from Asia.[25] Canadian society is often depicted as being a very progressive, diverse, and multicultural. Accusing a person of racism in Canada is usually considered a serious slur.[26] All political parties are now cautious about criticising of the high level of immigration, because, as noted by the Globe and Mail, "in the early 1990s, the old Reform Party was branded 'racist' for suggesting that immigration levels be lowered from 250,000 to 150,000."[27]

Japan accepted just 16 refugees in 1999, while the United States took in 85,010 for resettlement, according to the UNHCR. New Zealand, which is smaller than Japan, accepted 1,140 refugees in 1999. Just 305 persons were recognized as refugees by Japan from 1981, when Japan ratified the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to 2002.[28][29] Japanese Minister Taro Aso has called Japan a "one race" nation.[30] This comment was heavily criticized by both Japanese and foreign media.

In 2004 the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795 - a rise of 12% on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Africa (32%) and Asia (40%), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia.[31] In 2005, an estimated 565,000 migrants arrived to live in the UK for at least a year, most of the migrants were people from Asia, the Indian sub-continent and Africa,[32] while 380,000 people emigrated from the UK for a year or more, with Australia, Spain and France most popular destinations.[33]

British emigration towards Southern Europe is of special relevance. Citizens from the European Union make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Spain. They mainly come from countries like the UK and Germany, but the British case is of special interest due to its magnitude. The British authorities estimate that the British population in Spain at 700,000.[34] Spain is the most favoured European destination for Britons leaving the UK.[35] Since 2000, Spain has absorbed more than three million immigrants, growing its population by almost 10%. Immigrant population now tops over 4.5 million. According to residence permit data for 2005, about 500,000 were Moroccan, another 500,000 were Ecuadorian,[36] more than 200,000 were Romanian, and 260,000 were Colombian.[37][38] In 2005 alone, a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people.[39]

Portugal, long a country of emigration,[40] has now become a country of net immigration, and not just from the former colonies; by the end of 2003, legal immigrants represented about 4% of the population, and the largest communities were from Cape Verde, Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, UK, Spain and Ukraine.[41]

The overall level of immigration to Australia has grown substantially during the last decade. Net overseas migration increased from 30,000 in 1993[42] to 118,000 in 2003-04.[43] The largest components of immigration are the skilled migration and family re-union programs. In recent years the mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals by boat has generated great levels of controversy. During the 2004-05, total 123,424 people immigrated to Australia. Of them, 17,736 were from Africa, 54,804 from Asia, 21,131 from Oceania, 18,220 from United Kingdom, 1,506 from South America, and 2,369 from Eastern Europe.[25] 131,000 people migrated to Australia in 2005-06[44] and migration target for 2006-07 was 144,000.[45]

New Zealand has relatively open immigration policies. 23% of the population was born overseas, mainly in Asia, Oceania, and UK, one of the highest rates in the world. In 2004-2005, a target of 45,000 immigrants was set by the New Zealand immigration Service and represented 1.5% of the total population. According to the 2001 census projections, by 2050 57% of all New Zealand children will have Maori or Pacific ancestry, while 68% will be non-European.

From 1850 to 1930, the foreign born population of the United States increased from 2.2 million to 14.2 million. The highest percentage of foreign born people in the United States were found in this period, with the peak in 1890 at 14.7%. Immigration fell in the 1940s and 1950's, but increased again afterwards. but was still low by historical standards.[46] After 2000, immigration to the United States numbered approximately 1,000,000 per year. In 2006, 1.27 million immigrants were granted legal residence. Mexico has been the leading source of new U.S. residents for over two decades; and since 1998, China, India and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year.[47] The U.S. has often been called the "melting pot", a name derived from United States' rich tradition of immigrants coming to the US looking for something better and having their cultures melded and incorporated into the fabric of the country. Emma Lazarus, in a poem entitled "The New Colossus," which is inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty tells of the invitation extended to those wanting to make the US their home. "… Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…" (Encyclopedia Americana, 1998, Vol. 25, 637) Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Of the top ten countries accepting resettled refugees in 2006, the United States accepted more than twice as much as the next nine countries combined, although some smaller countries accept more refugees per capita.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

See also


  1. Rich world needs more foreign workers: report,, December 02, 2008
  2. See the NIDI/Eurostat push and pull study for details and examples: [1]
  3. Boustan, Leah. "Fertility and Immigration." UCLA. 15 Jan. 2009.
  4. Japanese Immigration Policy: Responding to Conflicting Pressures. Migration Information Source. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  5. European Union - Free Movement. European Union. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  6. Independent: "Realism is not racism in the immigration debate". URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  7. "Italy's Recent Change From An Emigration Country to An Immigration Country and Its Impact on Italy's Refugee and Migration Policy" by Andrea Bertozzi. Cicero Foundation. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  8. BBC: EU nations clash over immigration. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  9. Deutsche Welle: Germans Consider U.S. Experience in Immigration Debate. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  10. BBC: Short History of Immigration. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  11. BBC: Analysis: Europe's asylum trends. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  12. Washington Post: U.S. Immigration Debate Is a Road Well Traveled. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  13. BBC: Q&A: US immigration debate. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  14. Brussels Journal: Why Muslim Immigration is a Threat to Western Democracy. URL accessed on 2008-03-23.
  15. Theresa Hayter, Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls, London: Pluto Press, 2000.
  16. 750,000 and rising: how Polish workers have built a home in Britain.
  17. Eurostat News Release on Immigration in EU
  18. Guardian Article on Spanish Immigration
  19. Europe: Population and Migration in 2005
  20. Inflow of third-country nationals by country of nationality
  21. Immigration and the 2007 French Presidential Elections
  22. Immigration to Norway increasing
  23. Immigrant population
  24. Benjamin Dolin and Margaret Young, Law and Government Division. Canada's Immigration Program. Library of Parliament. URL accessed on 2006-11-29.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Inflow of foreign-born population by country of birth, by year
  26. Fontaine, Phil (April 24, 1998), Modern Racism in Canada by Phil Fontaine, Queen's University, 
  27. Is the current model of immigration the best one for Canada?, Globe and Mail, 12 December 2005, URL accessed 16 August 2006
  28. Japan's refugee policy
  29. Questioning Japan's 'Closed Country' Policy on Refugees
  30. Aso says Japan is nation of 'one race'
  31. BBC Thousands in UK citizenship queue
  32. 1,500 immigrants arrive in Britain daily, report says
  33. Indians largest group among new immigrants to UK
  34. Bye Bye Blighty article: British Immigrants Swamping Spanish Villages?
  35. BBC article: Btits Abroad Country by Country
  36. Immigration Shift: Many Latin Americans Choosing Spain Over U.S.
  37. Spain: Immigrants Welcome
  38. Instituto Nacional de Estadística: Avance del Padrón Municipal a 1 de enero de 2006. Datos provisionales
  39. Spain grants amnesty to 700,000 migrants
  40. Portugal - Emigration
  41. Charis Dunn-Chan ,Portugal sees integration progress, BBC
  42. Australian Bureau of Statistics, International migration
  43. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3101.0 Australian Demographic Statistics
  44. Settler numbers on the rise
  45. Australian Immigration Fact Sheet 20. Migration Program Planning Levels
  46. [2] Jenson, Campbell, and Emily Lennon. "Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign born population."
  47. (2007). United States: Top Ten Sending Countries, By Country of Birth, 1986 to 2006 (table available by menu selection). Migration Policy Institute. URL accessed on 2007-07-05.

Further reading

External links

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