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Latest migration trends worldwide


  • In 2019, the number of international migrants reached an estimated 272 million persons representing 3.5 per cent of the global population (compared to 2.8 per cent in 2000 and 2.3 per cent in 1980).
  • International migrants are not distributed evenly around the world, about half reside in just 10 countries. The three countries with the highest number of foreign-born residents, regardless of when they entered the country, were the United States (50.7 million), Germany (13.1 million) and Saudi Arabia (13.1 million).
  • In 2019, Europe ranked first as a host of international migrants (82 million), it was followed by Northern America (59 million) and Northern Africa and Western Asia (49 million).
  • Forced migration has grown significantly faster than voluntary migration in the past years. By the end of 2019, 79.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, violence, conflict or human rights violations.  Although many are actually descendants of displaced persons rather than displaced during their lifetime, it is the highest number on record according to UNHCR data.
  • This number if composed of 26 million refugees, 45.7 million internally displaced and 4.2 million asylum-seekers and represents an increase of 8.7 million people compared to 2018. On top of the 45.7 million people internally displaced by conflicts are 5.1 million internally displaced as a result of disasters.
  • For the sixth consecutive year, in 2019, Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees with 3.6 million people. Colombia was second with 1.8 million.
  • Most international migrants move between countries in the same region. In 2019, this was especially true for Latin America (largely due to the Venezuelan crisis) and the Caribbean, Central and Southern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.
  • Most international migrants are in working age or younger. In 2019, 74 per cent of the global migrant population were 20-64 years-old and 14 per cent were below 20 years of age.
  • 47.9 per cent of the global migrant population were women. North America had the highest share of female migrants  with 51.8 per cent in 2019.
  • The regions where the estimated number of immigrants was larger than the number of emigrants (net receivers) during 2010-2020 were: North-Western Europe and Russia, Northern America, Western Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
  • The regions where the estimated number of emigrants exceeded the number of immigrants (net senders) were: Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the remaining parts of Oceania.


  • Predicting future migration flows is difficult. Even the most sophisticated forecasting models are unable to capture all the drivers that underpin and shape migration processes in an interconnected way.
  • Human and economic development as well as urbanisation, geopolitical instability, demographic imbalances and climate change will affect international migration. However, the precise extent and direction of these impacts is unknown.
  • Scenarios offer a convenient framework to think about potential longer-term migration developments. Although a relatively recent approach to migration issues, they are gaining on popularity, especially among policymakers. A 2020 study led by the International Organisation for Migration reviewed 21 studies that produced migration scenarios. 20 were published after 2008 and six were published in 2018 alone.
  • Narrative scenarios and those using computer-based simulation methods will not be able to predict how many migrants there will be in the future. However, they can outline how many there could be under different scenario assumptions and with a certain probability.

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