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Global Migrant Trends on the Rise

UN presents new report on migrant trends highlighting rising numbers for 2015


Migrants and refugees from several countries arrive by special train in Berlin, Germany. (Ph: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII)

The number of international migrants is actually at a faster growing rate than that of the world’s population: United Nations Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson has confirmed that there are 20 million refugees in the world and 244 million migrants, or people living outside their country of origin

For sure 2015 has been the year of migration and on January 12th, United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, held a press conference to address this critical issue. Many are familiar with the migration caused by the Syrian civil war, for over 4 million refugees have been displaced because of the Syrian civil war alone. However, this issue of displaced persons is universal and much greater than what has been covered by the media. According to the Deputy Secretary General, the United Nations has confirmed that there are 20 million refugees in the world right now and 244 million migrants, or people living outside their country of origin. The new UN dataset Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision also revealed that the number of international migrants is actually at a faster growing rate than that of the world’s population. This influx of migrants is a pressing issue for the UN because there still hasn’t been a solution as to how the international community can sustain these people.

Though the cause of migration is war driven in some cases, poverty is the largest cause of migration and therefore the largest concern. India has 16 million migrants living all over the world making it the country with the greatest diaspora on earth. Following India is Mexico with 12 million migrants. Both countries are uninvolved in war but have greatly impoverished populations. As a result of this migration all over the world and the poverty that revolves around it, drug trafficking and human trafficking has made a considerable rise. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is going to work with countries to help eradicate trafficking and protect migrants who are recognized by the Agenda as exceptionally vulnerable people.

According to the Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision, nearly two thirds of international migrants live in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million). North America has the third largest number of international migrants (54 million), and globally, women comprise half of all of them.

Meanwhile, two thirds of all international migrants were reported to be living in only 20 countries, with the largest number in the United States – about a fifth of the world’s total migrants. The next in line is Germany, followed by Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Because poverty is the largest cause of migration and all of the problems revolving around migration, poverty should be the greatest concern. The only long term solution to combatting poverty in the globalized world we live in is through education. UNICEF has made it clear that education is something that the international community needs to be prioritizing at this moment. However, according to the UN, “Education continues to be one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals. In Uganda, where UNICEF is providing services to South Sudanese refugees, education faces an 89 per cent funding gap”. If efforts by the UN to educate children do not receive necessary funding, these issues will remain unresolved. The chief of education at UNICEF, Jo Bourne, states “School equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the conflict is over, and in the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with the trauma they have experienced”.

In response to the problem of education being underfunded, UN special envoy for global education, former British premier Gordon Brown, in a press conference held by phone with the UN correspondents, has announced that the UN has raised 250 million dollars in funding for the education of Syrian refugee children in 2016 and has called upon the international community to pledge an additional 500 million dollars to fund education for refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The 250 million that has been already raised was given by the European Union and public and private sectors within the Gulf States.  La VOCE di New York raised a question to Gordon Brown about how much, if any, control these sectors would have over the content of this education. Mr. Brown reassured that all of this aid was solely humanitarian and therefore the UN will have complete autonomy over content. This achievement of $250 million is only the first stride in a plan to reach $750 million and “reach universal education for refugees by 2017”.

This new initiative to educate refugees has given hope to the dire situation at hand. Likewise, the Deputy Secretary General revealed in the press conference that though the rise of migration is concerning, there are some positive aspects. Eliason explained that Europe is in the midst of a great population decline, and the recent influx of migrants will actually slow this down. Although harboring refugees and migrants will be economically strenuous for countries, this is only a short term problem. If resources and education are given to sustain these migrants it will create an economic advantage. Germany, the country with strongest economy in Europe that has also been accepting more migrants than any other European state has made it clear that an influx of migrants should not be looked at as a problem, but rather an opportunity.

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