Migration in the world

Migration is defined as a process in which individuals and groups of people leave their homes for various reasons. The current mobility of people is higher than ever before in modern history1 and continues to increase sharply, becoming one of the determining global issues of 21st century. Almost all of the approximately 200 world states are countries of origin, transit or destination for the migrants.


244 million: The estimated number of international migrants in the world2

  • The overall number of international migrants has increased in the last few years from the estimated 152 million in 1990 to 173 million in 2000 and to 244 million in the present.3
  • The number of persons migrated to foreign countries surged by 41% in the last 15 years (2000-2015).

5.: The migrants would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world

  • If international migrants lived in one state, they would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world, after China, India, USA and Indonesia.

3.3%: The percentage of migrants in the global population4

  • In other words, one out of 30 persons in the world is currently a migrant who lives abroad; in 1990, one out of every 35 persons was considered a migrant.
  • The percentage of migrants in the global population increased from 2.9% in 1990 to 3.3% in 2015.
  • The percentage of migrants in each country varies considerably. The countries with the highest percentage are, for example, United Arab Emirates (88%), Qatar (75%), Kuwait (74%) or Singapore (45%), of the European countries Liechtenstein (63%) and Luxembourg (44%).
  • Countries with the lowest percentage of migrants are represented by India and Haiti (0.4%), Eritrea and Peru (0.3%), Philippines and Somalia (0.2%), China, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam (0.1%), from the European Union Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland.5

1/7: Every seventh person in the world is a migrant

  • The estimated number of internal migrants (migrants inside of their country of origin) is 763 million.6 Together with the international migrants there is a billion of migrants in the world – every seventh person in the world is a migrant.

10: More than one half of the international migrants live in ten countries of the world7

  • In 2015, two-thirds (67%) of all international migrants were living in just 20 countries.
  • The majority of all international migrants live in the United States of America (46.6 million, or 19.1% of all migrants), followed by Germany with 12 million of migrants and the Russian Federation with 11.6 million of migrants, Saudi Arabia (10.1 million), the United Kingdom (8.5 million), United Arab Emirates (8.1 million), Canada (7.8 million), France (7.7 million), Australia (6.7 million) and Spain with 5.8 million of migrants (including those born outside of the country of their citizenship).8

76 million: Europe is the most attractive destination for migrants

  • In 2015, almost one third of the total number of international migrants lived here.
  • Europe is followed by Asia (75 million) and North America (54 million).9 The region of Asia represents a destination with the highest increase of international migrants since 2000. Their number has increased by 26 million until 2015. This increase might be caused by the demand for foreign workforce in the oil industry countries in Western Asia and in fast growing economies of countries of South-eastern Asia, such as Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand.10

33.57 million: The number of migrants in the countries of the EU in 201411

  • Migrants constitute 7% of the total population of the EU member states.
  • From the overall number of migrants, 14 million migrants were residents of another EU country and the remaining 19.57 million were third-country nationals.  
  • Nearly three-quarters of migrants live in five member states: in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy.
  • Among the migrants from third countries living in an EU country the most numerous are Turks (1.63 million), Moroccans (1.37 million), Chinese (0.74 million), Indians (0.65 million) and Ukrainians (0.61 million).

48%: Percentage of women in the world migration12

  • In 2015, women accounted for more than one half of the international migrants in 101 countries of the world. Among the countries with the highest representation of women was Nepal,  Moldova, Latvia, Estonia, Poland or Montenegro.

39: The median age of all international migrants – compared with 29.6 years in the general world population13

  • One out of every six international migrants (15% of the global migrant stock) is under the age of 20.
  • Almost three-quarters of the total population of migrants (177 million) are of working-age between 20 and 64 years.14

583 billion $: Estimated volume of remittances sent by migrants in 201415

  • The remittances have increased exponentially – from 132 billion USD in 2000 to 440 billion USD in 2010 and 583 billion USD in the present – in spite of their slight decrease due to the economic crisis.
  • Until 2017, the estimated volume of remittances is supposed to increase to 636 billion USD.
  • It is estimated that the real volume of remittances, including undocumented formal and informal remittance flows is significantly higher.
  • In 2014, the recipient countries with the highest volume of documented remittances were India, China, Philippines, Mexico and Nigeria.
  • Rich countries are the main source of remittances. The United States of America has a leading position with 53.5 billion USD in documented remittance flows in 2013. It is followed by the Russian Federation (37.2 billion USD), Saudi Arabia (34.9 billion USD), Switzerland (23.1 billion USD) and Germany (19.6 billion USD).16

436 billion $: The estimated volume of remittances, which were sent by migrants to developing countries in 201417

38.2 million:  The number of internally displaced persons in the world in 201418

  • The number of internally displaced persons that had been forced to flee their homes by armed conflict and generalised violence, and were living in displacement within the borders of their own country, increased from 21 million in 2000 to 38.2 million at the end of 2014.
  • 77% of the world’s internally displaced people live in just 10 countries which suffer from various conflicts: Syria (7,6 million), Colombia (6 m), Iraq (3,3 m), Sudan (3,1 m), Democratic Republic of Congo (2,7 m), Pakistan (1,9 m), South Sudan (1,5 m), Somalia (1,1 m), Nigeria (1 m) and Turkey (0,95 m).
  • In 2014, 11 million people were newly displaced, the highest figure on record – that is 1 person forced to flee every 3 seconds or the equivalent of 30,000 people fleeing a day.
  • Up to 60% newly displaced people come from only five countries: Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.19

19.5 million: Estimated number of refugees in the world20

  • Together with 38.2 million internally displaced persons there are 59.5 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.
  • More than half (53%) of all refugees worldwide come from Syria (3.88 million), Afghanistan (2.59 million) and Somalia (1.11 million).
  • Most of the refugees were accepted by Turkey which became the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide in 2014 with 1.59 million refugees – and a small number of countries – Pakistan (1.51 m), Lebanon (1.15 m), Iran (0.98 m), Ethiopia (0.66 m), and Jordan (0.65 m).
  • The largest number of refugees in proportion to the national population is in Lebanon, with 232 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants.
  • More than 625,000 people applied for asylum in the EU states in 2014, which is 191,000 people (44%) more than in the year before. The largest group (1 out of 5) of applicants came from Syria (122,790 applications for asylum – one of five asylum seekers comes from Syria), followed by the citizens of Afghanistan (41,305 applications), Kosovo (37,875 applications) and Eritrea (36,990 applications).21
  • One third of the refugees who apply for asylum in Europe submit their application in Germany (more than 200,000 applications in 2014). Relative to population size, Sweden received the greatest share (per-capita number) of the EU’s asylum seekers.22


1 Divinský, B., Migration Trends in the Slovak Republic after Its Accession to the EU (2004-2008), International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2009, p. 12 (http://www.iom.sk/sk/publikacie?download=106:migracne-trendy-v-slovenskej-republike-po-vstupe-krajiny-do-eu-2004-2008).
2 United Nations, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) – Trends in International Migrants Stock: The 2015 Revision (POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2015, Table 1) (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/data/UN_MigrantStockTotal_2015.xlsx)
3 Look at [2], Table 1.
4 Look at [2], Table 3.
5 Look at [2], Table 3.
6 UN DESA – Technical Paper No. 2013/1 – Cross-national comparisons of internal migration: An update on global patterns and trends (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/technical/TP2013-1.pdf)
7 Look at [2], Table 1, and International Migration Wallchart 2015 (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/wallchart/docs/MigrationWallChart2015.pdf)
8 Look at [2], Table 1.
9 Look at [2], Table 1.
10 UN DESA – Population Facts No. 2013/2 (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/popfacts/popfacts_2013-2.pdf)
11 Eurostat – Immigration in the EU (2015) (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/e-library/docs/infographics/immigration/migration-in-eu-infographic_en.pdf).
12 Look at [2], Table 4.
13 UN DESA – World Population Prospects, The 2015 Revision, and International Migration Wallchart 2015 (http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/publications/files/key_findings_wpp_2015.pdf and http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/wallchart/docs/MigrationWallChart2015.pdf)
14 UN DESA – Trends in International Migrants Stock: The 2015 Revision (POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2015, Table 6) (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/data/UN_MigrantStockByAge_2015.xlsx)
15 The World Bank – Migration and Development Brief No. 24 and Press Release of 13 April 2015 (http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1288990760745/MigrationandDevelopmentBrief24.pdf and http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2015/04/13/remittances-growth-to-slow-sharply-in-2015-as-europe-and-russia-stay-weak-pick-up-expected-next-year)
16 The World Bank – Migrant Remittance Inflows and Outflows (http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1288990760745/RemittanceData_Inflows_Apr2015.xls and http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1288990760745/RemittanceData_Outflows_Apr2015.xls)
17 Look at [15].
18 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Global IDP Figures (http://www.internal-displacement.org/global-figures)
19 IDMC – At a glance – Global Overview 2015: People Internally Displaced by Conflict And violence and Blog Post of 6 May 2015 (http://www.internal-displacement.org/assets/library/Media/201505-Global-Overview-2015/20150506-global-overview-2015-en.pdf and http://www.internal-displacement.org/assets/library/Media/201505-Global-Overview-2015/201505-GO2015-press-release-en.pdf)
20 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – Global Trends 2014 (http://unhcr.org/556725e69.html). The number includes also 5.1 million Palestinian refugees registered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
21 Eurostat – Data in Focus 3/2015 (http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/4168041/6742650/KS-QA-15-003-EN-N.pdf).
22 Look at [21].