There are almost 200 million global migrants, representing for roughly 3% of the world’s population. The figure was only 75 million forty years ago. Their personal backgrounds and motivations vary, but the majority of migrants are looking for a better quality of life. They hope to escape poverty, find education, or live in different types of societies. However harsh their living conditions may be, they are still better off than those of the world’s 33 million displaced persons or refugees, who have been forced to leave their homes or countries.
Humans have migrated throughout history, but today it is occurring on unprecedented levels, and it is on the increase.
Climate change will cause flooding in certain areas and droughts in others. Living conditions everywhere will change, and some studies have predicted that this will create 250 million refugees over the coming decades. Economic instability in less developed countries and the rapid urbanization of the planet is set to displace hundreds of millions of people.
Immigration can play an important demographic role for countries whose history is linked to the phenomenon, such as the USA, or for nations whose birth rate is in decline. But it can also upset the social equilibrium: in times of social and political tension, it can give rise to xenophobia. Emigration can also dismantle a country’s social structure by depriving it of its most skilled workers, of entrepreneurs, or simply of an entire generation of families, as in the case of the North Africans who sought work in Europe in the 1960s, or the people of the
Philippines who are leaving to find jobs in other areas of South Asia.
The obvious solution is for countries to share the burden of migration. The West has a role to play through international cooperation and aid policies, for example. But faced with the inevitable rise of human migration, we must also remember that it encourages diversity, openness, and cultural richness, and helps to create a more unified world.