Friday, September 30, 2011

Regional migration

The Migration Policy Institute's newly updated World Migration Map (based on World Bank bilateral migration stock data for 2010) is fascinating for many reasons, but the statistic that caught my eye is that the majority of the world's 200 some million migrants move intra-regionally. Whether this phenomenon is caused by simple geography or political opportunities or constraints, it bears notice for those of us interested in international migration law.
Broken down by region, the data offer interesting trends to explore.
Africa for Africans. More than half of Africa's migrants remain within Africa while just over a quarter move to Europe. As it happens, more Africans migrate to Asia than to the Americas. Broken down within the region, most West and East African migrants move within Africa while Europe is the most popular destination for North Africans. Of the nearly 20 million migrants who live in Africa, over three quarters come from Africa.
Americans stay in the Americas. Over 80% of migrants from the Americas stay in the Americas, a rate higher than that seen in any other world region (perhaps unsurprisingly). To cut the data another way, over half of the nearly 60 million migrants who live in the Americas come from the Americas, just under a quarter come from Asia, and about 15% come from Europe.
Asians on the move. Asia as a region produces nearly 80 million migrants, the highest absolute number of any region. Over half remain in Asia while nearly a quarter move to Europe and nearly a fifth move to the Americas. As we see in the other regions, over half of Asia's migrants come from Asia, while less than 10% come from Europe.
European unity. While a mere 15% of Europeans migrate to the Americas, nearly two-thirds remain within Europe. Of the 70-some million migrants within Europe, over half are Europeans, with the the remainder coming largely from Asia (25%) and Africa (10%).
Exceptional Oceania. Oceania is the smallest region, sending fewer than 2 million international migrants. Over half migrate within the region, but surprisingly less than 4% move to nearby Asia, preferring the Americas and Europe. Alone among the regions, most of the nearly 7 million migrants in Oceania are from other regions, primarily Europe and Asia.
The overall trend suggests that regional agreements may be an effective route to rights protection not only for the reasons of cultural and political commonality often proffered, but also because they will cover the bulk of the world's migrants. The power balances vary by region, however, which may necessitate quite different governance models. Africa also reminds us that differences within regions must be taken into account.
In Asia, migrant-sending states might have more power than they think given the sheer number of their nationals who are migrants, presumably often workers, in the region. The same may or may not hold true in Africa, where the migrants may be seeking but not finding jobs and government functionality may be a more significant obstacle. In the Americas, intraregional destination states are a major draw, so may not be as willing to negotiate around migrants rights. Europe, of course, already has a robust legal regime in place to govern intraregional migration, while Oceania has such low numbers of intraregional migrants in absolute and percentage terms that a regional agreement may be less effective than in other areas. Whether or not these particular projections hold true, the new data offer a rich source of information that may enable us to craft a more effective legal regime to protect international migrants.

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