Reasons for migration
Never before have there been so many people living far away from their native countries. Poor living conditions, violence and armed conflicts, environmental problems, a lack of economic perspectives and the growing gap between rich and poor countries: all these factors play their part. Global mobility and the new media likewise have a great influence on current migration trends.
Since man has been on earth, ethnic groups have again and again travelled to other regions in the world hoping to find a better basis for existence there. In recent centuries wars have repeatedly triggered mass displacements of refugees.
In recent decades global migration has reached a hitherto unknown level. Surveys conducted by international organizations have concluded that currently over 175 million people are living far away from their native countries. 19,2 million people are considered to be "refugees" or "displaced persons".
Poor living conditions generate the urge to migrate
The term "migrant" denotes a person living outside his or her native country. Many leave their homes because there are not enough fertile pastures and arable land, food, water, work or other fundamental requirements. The consequences of environmental catastrophes, such as drought or floods, can also force thousands to leave their native countries. Today roughly two thirds of the world’s population live in economically poor countries.
The growing gap between rich and poor is the most significant driving force for global migration. In 1960 the income of the richest fifth of the world’s population was on average 30 times higher than the poorest fifth. By the year 1990 it was already 60 times higher.
The population grows while economic development stagnates
The enormous rate of population growth and the poor perspectives for economic development in some regions give rise to a tremendous migratory pressure.
Third World and former Soviet Union countries lack capital and know-how. In some countries, debts absorb a major part of the economic power. Falling raw material prices as well as the customs barriers and import restrictions imposed by the industrialized countries prevent the development of viable export industries. Unstable economic policy, a lack of legal stability and widespread corruption discourage investors and concerns from locating their long-term industrial projects in such countries.
Voilence and the abuse of power force people to flee
The term "refugee" is used to describe people who are persecuted on account of their race, religion, ethnic group or political conviction. Persons whose freedom or lives are threatened in this sense have a right to protection by foreign countries on the basis of international conventions.
"Displaced persons" are not fleeing from individual persecution but from escalating violence threatening large parts of the population in a certain region or country. Those affected by such conflicts mostly flee in large numbers to safe regions in their native land or in a neighbouring country. In order to prevent unrest, hunger, disease and other problems, they are frequently accommodated in refugee camps. The reception and care of large influxes of refugees severely undermine the resources of the states concerned. Refugee camps with tens of thousands of strangers often arouse feelings of insecurity in the host country’s population. This can lead to political instability in the country concerned, provoking new conflicts.
In such situations, nations living at peace and in stable economic conditions are called upon to show their solidarity and share the burden (e.g. with measures such as the temporary admission of displaced persons, peace missions, material and reconstruction aid).
The rich industrialized states are becoming more accessible
Tourism, television and the Internet all enhance the attractiveness of migration. They make the poorest aware of the wealth of the rich. The growth of air travel facilitates journeys to far-away industrialized countries. So far only a fraction of those willing to consider migration have actually been able to travel to their preferred destination on other continents. But this could soon change since successful emigrants transfer a considerable share of their income to their relatives at home. As a result, more and more people can afford to travel to distant countries.
Asylum seekers prefer countries where many of their fellow-countrymen already live. In simple terms this means: Migration begets further migration.
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