Human migration involves the movement of people from one place to another with intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily, at a new location (geographic region). The movement often occurs over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration (within a single country) is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form of human migration globally. Migration is often associated with better human capital at both individual and household level, and with better access to migration networks, facilitating a possible second move. Age is also important for both work and non-work migration. People may migrate as individuals, in family units or in large groups. There are four major forms of migration: invasion, conquest, colonization and emigration/immigration.
Persons moving from their home due to forced displacement (such as a natural disaster or civil disturbance) may be described as displaced persons or, if remaining in the home country, internally-displaced persons. A person who seeks refuge in another country can, if the reason for leaving the home country is political, religious, or another form of persecution, make a formal application to that country where refuge is sought and is then usually described as an asylum seeker. If this application is successful, this person’s legal status becomes refugee.
In contemporary times, migration governance has become closely associated with state sovereignty. States retain the power of deciding on the entry and stay of non-nationals because migration directly affects some of the defining elements of a State.
As such, migrants are traditionally described as persons who change the country of their residence for general reasons and purposes. These purposes may include the search for better job opportunities or healthcare needs. This term is the most generally defined one as anyone changing their geographic location permanently can be considered a migrant.
Contrastly, refugees are not defined and described as persons who do not willingly relocate. The reasons for the refugees’ migration usually involve war actions within the country or other forms of oppression, coming either from the government or non-governmental sources. Refugees are usually associated with people who must unwillingly relocate as fast as possible; hence, such migrants will likely relocate undocumented.
Asylum seekers are associated with persons who also leave their country unwillingly, yet, who also do not do so under oppressing circumstances such as war or death threats. The motivation to leave the country for asylum seekers might involve an unstable economic or political situation or high rates of crime. Thus, asylum seekers relocate predominantly to escape the degradation of the quality of their lives.
Nomadic movements usually are not regarded as migrations, as the movement is generally seasonal, there is no intention to settle in the new place, and only a few people have retained this form of lifestyle in modern times. Temporary movement for travel, tourism, pilgrimages, or the commute is also not regarded as migration, in the absence of an intention to live and settle in the visited places.
Political scientists have put forth a number of theoretical frameworks relating to migration, offering different perspectives on processes of security, citizenship, and international relations. The political importance of diasporas has also become a growing field of interest, as scholars examine questions of diaspora activism, state-diaspora relations, out-of-country voting processes, and states’ soft power strategies. In this field, the majority of work has focused on immigration politics, viewing migration from the perspective of the country of destination. With regard to emigration processes, political scientists have expanded on Albert Hirschman’s framework on ‘”voice” vs. “exit” to discuss how emigration affects the politics within countries of origin.
Economic impacts of human migration
The impacts of human migration on the world economy has been largely positive. In 2015, migrants, who constituted 3.3% of the world population, contributed 9.4% of global GDP.
According to the Centre for Global Development, opening all borders could add $78 trillion to the world GDP.
Remittances (funds transferred by migrant workers to their home country) form a substantial part of the economy of some countries. The top ten remittance recipients in 2018.
In addition to economic impacts, migrants also make substantial contributions in sociocultural and civic-political life. Sociocultural contributions occur in the following areas of societies: food/cuisine, sport, music, art/culture, ideas and beliefs; civic-political contributions relate to participation in civic duties in the context of accepted authority of the State. It is in recognition of the importance of these remittances that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 10 targets to substantially reduce the transaction costs of migrants remittances to less than 3% by 2030.
The Migrant crisis in the EU
The 2015 European migrant crisis was a period of significantly increased movement of refugees and migrants into Europe in 2015, when 1.3 million people came to the continent to request asylum, the most in a single year since World War II. Those requesting asylum in Europe in 2015 were mostly Syrians, but also included significant numbers of Afghans, Nigerians, Pakistanis, Iraqis and Eritreans.
Europe had already begun registering increased numbers of refugee arrivals in 2010 due to a confluence of conflicts in parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa, particularly the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, but also terrorist insurgencies in Nigeria and Pakistan, and long-running human rights abuses in Eritrea, all contributing to refugee flows. Many millions initially sought refuge in comparatively stable countries near their origin, but while these countries were largely free of war, living conditions for refugees were often very poor. In Turkey, many were not permitted to work; in Jordan and Lebanon which hosted millions of Syrian refugees, large numbers were confined to squalid refugee camps. As it became clear that the wars in their home countries would not end in the foreseeable future, many increasingly wished to settle permanently elsewhere. In addition, starting in 2014, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt stopped accepting Syrian asylum seekers. Together these events caused a surge in people fleeing to Europe in 2015.
The vast majority of refugees coming to Europe did so by crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece and subsequently making their way by land through the Balkans towards the European Union. This was a significant change to previous years: before 2015, most refugees had reached Europe by crossing Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy, largely due to the collapse of border controls during the Second Libyan Civil War. The southeastern and central European countries through which refugees traveled to reach Western Europe were unaccustomed to and unprepared for the sudden movement of tens of thousands of refugees through them. Many reacted by closing their borders to neighboring countries. While intended to regain some measure of control, these measures often contributed to chaos as huge numbers of people repeatedly became trapped in one country or were shunted back and forth to another. Most countries refused to take in the arriving refugees; Germany ultimately accepted most of them after the government decided to temporarily suspend its enforcement of an EU rule requiring asylum seekers to remain in the first EU country they set foot in. Refugee arrivals began decreasing rapidly in autumn 2015 as winter set in and the cold made the journey more dangerous. In March 2016, Turkey agreed to close its border to the EU in exchange for money and diplomatic favors, which effectively stopped the passage of refugees through Eastern Europe.
The crisis had considerable short-term and long-term effects on the politics of both the affected EU countries and the EU as a whole. Populist right-wing political parties in the affected countries capitalized on anti-immigrant sentiment, in many cases making it the centerpiece of their platform. Although they generally did not win enough votes to enter government, their presence often influenced politics by complicating the formation of governing coalitions and making opposition to immigration part of the political mainstream. A strong push for reforms to EU asylum law was made during and immediately after the crisis, but largely fizzled out after refugee arrival numbers receded.