Migration is 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.


258 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 258 million in the present.3
  • The number of persons migrated to foreign countries surged by 49% (85 million) in the last 17 years (2000-2017).

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, the United States and Indonesia.

3.4%: The percentage of migrants in the global population4

  • In other words, one out of 29 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 3.4% in 2017.
  • The percentage of migrants in each country varies considerably. The countries with the highest percentage are the United Arab Emirates (88.4%), Kuwait (75.5%), Qatar (65.2%), Liechtenstein (65%), Monaco (54.9%), Bahrain 46%) and Luxembourg (45.3%).
  • Countries with the lowest percentage of migrants are represented by India, Afghanistan, Brazil and Haiti (0.4% each), Eritrea, Somalia and Peru (0.3% each), the Philippines, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka (0.2% each), Madagascar and Viet Nam (0.1%each), from the European Union Slovakia (3.4%), Bulgaria (2.2%), Romania (1.9%) and Poland (1.7%).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 more than 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 2017, 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 (49.8 million, or 19% of the world’s total), followed by Saudi Arabia and Germany with 12.2 million of migrants (each), the Russian Federation (11.7 million), the United Kingdom (8.8 million), the United Arab Emirates (8.3 million), France and Canada (7.9 million each), Australia (7 million), and Spain with 5.9 million of migrants.8

79.5 million: Asia is the most attractive destination for migrants

  • In 2017, almost one third of the total number of international migrants lived here.
  • Asia is followed by Europe (77.8 million) and North America (57.6 million, of which 49.8 million resides in the United States of America).9
  • The region of Asia represents a destination with the highest increase of international migrants since 2000. Their number has increased by 30 million until 2017. This increase in Asia has been fuelled in part by the strong demand for migrant workers in the oil-producing countries in Southwestern Asia.10

38.5 million: The number of migrants in the countries of the EU in 201611

  • Migrants made up 7.5% of persons living in the EU Member States.
  • From the overall number of migrants, 16.9 million migrants were residents of another EU country and the remaining 21.6 million were people with citizenship of a non-member country.  
  • Three-quarters (76%) of non-nationals living in the EU Member States were found in 5 EU Member States: Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Spain.

48.4%: Percentage of women in the world migration12

  • In total, 124.6 million female migrants were in the world in 2017.
  • 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, Montenegro, Latvia and Hong Kong, SAR of China.

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

  • One out of every seven international migrants (14% or 36 million of the global migrant stock) was under the age of 20.
  • Three-quarters of the total population of migrants (191 million) were of working age between 20 and 64 years.
  • The world hosted 11.7 percent (30 million) of international migrants of the global migrant stock aged 65 or over.14

613 billion $: Estimated volume of remittances (financial resources) sent to home countries by migrants in 201715

  • The remittances have increased from 132 billion USD in 2000 to 440 billion USD in 2010 and 613 billion USD in the present.
  • In 2017, the recipient countries with the highest volume of documented remittances were India, China, the Philippines, Mexico, France and Nigeria.16
  • It is estimated that the real volume of remittances, including undocumented formal and informal remittance flows is significantly higher.
  • Until 2019, the estimated volume of remittances is supposed to increase to 667 billion USD.

466 billion $: The estimated volume of remittances, which were sent by migrants to developing countries in 201717

40 million: The number of internally displaced persons in the world in 201718

  • 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 40 million at the end of 2017.
  • 76% of the world’s internally displaced people as a result of conflict and violence live in just 10 countries: Syria (6.78 million), Colombia (6.5 m), Democratic Republic of Congo (4.48 m), Iraq (2.6 m), Sudan (2 m), Yemen (2 m) South Sudan (1.9 m), Nigeria (1.7 m), Afghanistan (1.28 m) and Turkey (1.11 m).
  • In 2017, 30.6 million new displacements associated with conflict and disasters were recorded across 143 countries and territories – that is 1 person forced to flee every 1 second.
  • Of all new displacement in 2017, 11.8 million was triggered by conflict and violence, and 18.8 million was affected by natural disasters.
  • Nearly half of newly displaced people come from only five countries: China, the Philippines, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cuba.19

25.4 million: Estimated number of refugees in the world in 201720

  • Together with 40 million internally displaced persons and 3.1 million asylum seekers there are 68.5 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria (6.3 million), Afghanistan (2.6 m), South Sudan (2.4 m), Myanmar (1.2 m), and Somalia (0.98 m).
  • For several consecutive years Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees and with 3.5 million refugees it became the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide. It was followed by Pakistan (1.4 m), Uganda (1.4 m), Lebanon (998,900), the Islamic Republic of Iran (979,400), Germany (970,400), Bangladesh (932,200) and Sudan (906,600).
  • The largest number of refugees in proportion to the national population is in Lebanon, where 1 in 6 people was a refugee under the responsibility of UNHCR.21
  • Developing regions hosted 85% (16.9 m) of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate.
  • In 2017, 650 thousand first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the EU. The EU Member States granted protection status to 538 000 asylum seekers.
  • The largest group (1 out of 7) of applicants came from Syria (102,000 or 15.8%). Iraqis and Afghanis accounted for 7% of the total number of first-time asylum applicants, while Nigerians and Pakistanis accounted for 6% and 5% respectively.
  • One third of the refugees who apply for asylum in Europe submit their application in Germany (31% or 198,000 first-time applicants in 2017). It was followed by Italy (127 thousand), France (91 thousand), Greece (57 thousand), the United Kingdom (33 thousand) and Spain (30 thousand).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 (https://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 Migrant Stock: The 2017 revision (United Nations database, POP/DB/MIG/Stock/Rev.2017) (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/data/UN_MigrantStockTotal_2017.xlsx), UN DESA – International Migration Report 2017. Highlights (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/migrationreport/docs/MigrationReport2017_Highlights.pdf), UN DESA – International Migration Wallchart 2017 (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/wallchart/docs/MigrationWallChart2017.pdf).
3 Look at [2].
4 Look at [2].
5 Look at [2].
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].
8 Look at [2].
9 Look at [2].
10 UN DESA – International Migration Wallchart 2017 (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/wallchart/docs/MigrationWallChart2017.pdf).
11 Eurostat – Migration and migrant population statistics (2018) (http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Migration_and_migrant_population_statistics).
12 Look at [2].
13 Look at [2] and UN DESA – World Population Prospects, The 2017 Revision (https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/WPP2017_KeyFindings.pdf).
14 Look at [2] and UN DESA – Trends in International Migrants Stock: The 2017 Revision, Stock by Age (http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/data/UN_MigrantStockByAge_2017.xlsx)
15 The World Bank – Migration and Development Brief 29, April 2018 (http://www.knomad.org/sites/default/files/2018-04/Migration%20and%20Development%20Brief%2029.pdf), Migration and Development Brief 2, November 2006 (http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/372901444756856754/MigrationDevelopmentBriefingNov2006.pdf).
16 The World Bank – Migration and Remittances Data. Annual Remittances Data as of April 2018 (http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/migrationremittancesdiasporaissues/brief/migration-remittances-data).
17 Look at [15].
18 Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) – Global Picture, 2017 Global Figures (http://www.internal-displacement.org).
19 IDMC – Global Report on Internal Displacement 2018 (http://www.internal-displacement.org/global-report/grid2018).
20 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – Global Trends. Forced displacement in 2017 (http://www.unhcr.org/globaltrends2017/). The number includes also 5.4 million Palestinian refugees registered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
21 When Palestine refugees under UNRWA’s mandate are included, the figures rise as follows: 1 in 4 people was a refugee in Lebanon and 1 in 3 people was a refugee in Jordan.
22 Eurostat – Asylum Statistics (http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics).

Last updated on 21 June 2018.