According to the latest UN migration report, the growth of global numbers of migrants in 2020 was "slowed by about 27% or two million migrants due to COVID-19."
The number of international migrants worldwide has reached 281 million, the United Nations said in a report released on January 15. Despite the high numbers of those on the move around the world, the actual growth of international migration was "slowed" by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much of the slowdown in expected growth was due to the closure of borders and a "halt to travel worldwide" imposed by most countries because of the pandemic, reports the news agency Associated Press (AP).
The report, entitled "International Migration 2020", was written by authors of the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). It states that in 2020, there had been 27% less growth than was expected in mid-2019, before the pandemic struck. That equates to about two million less migrants than could have been expected.
Trend expected to continue in second half of year
Clare Menozzi, one of the principle authors on the report, told AP that the figures they had were up to the middle of 2020 but that the authors had "a sense that it will be probably comparable, if not more so," for the second half of the year.
By August 2020, "there had been more than 80,000 travel restrictions imposed by 219 countries or territories across the world," the The Population Division Director at the UN DESA, John Wilmoth, told reporters.
International migrants "represent about 3.6% of the global population," the report points out. Two thirds of these migrants live in just 20 countries in the world.
51 million migrants in the US
In 2020, the USA remained the country hosting the most number of international migrants with "51 million" according to the report; that is equal to 18% of the world’s total. Germany hosted the second greatest number of migrants worldwide with around 16 million. Saudi Arabia was registered as having 13 million migrants, the Russian Federation 12 million and the United Kingdom 9 million.
The countries which had offered the greatest number of migrants were also listed, with India topping the list, having 18 million Indian born nationals living outside their country of birth. Mexico and the Russian Federation "accounted for 11 million each." China for 10 million migrants around the world and Syria for eight million.
Many of those who had migrated had done so legally with all the correct papers and were often contributing to their country of origin via remittances sent home.
Remittances also reduced
However, the report found that the COVID-19 pandemic might also reduce the volume of those remittances from around €454 billion sent home in 2019 to around €389 billion in 2020. This reduction in funds has "affected the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, stalling progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals," noted the report.
Europe hosted the largest number of international migrants in 2020 with a total of 87 million according to the report. Over 70% of these migrants were already born in Europe and just working in another European country. North America hosted the second largest population with "almost 59 million."
In fact, said the report, "in 2020, nearly half of all international migrants resided in the region from which they originated." 63% of migrants in sub-Saharan Africa also stayed within their region. However, migrants in Central and South Asia, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean tended to have the greatest shares of migrants living outside their own region of birth.
80% of refugees in low and middle-income countries
Although nearly "two-thirds of all international migrants live in high-income countries," it was "low and middle-income countries" which hosted "80% of the world’s refugees in 2020." In high-income countries, refugees were found to comprise "around 3% of all international migrants." In middle-income countries they accounted for about 25% of all migrants and in low-income countries for about 50%.
Recognized refugees accounted for "12% of all international migrants," in 2020, which is a 9.5% increase on figures 20 years previously in 2000. In fact, the report found that in that time period, the numbers of those who were fleeing conflict, crises, persecution, violence or human rights violations increased from 17 to 34 million.
Nearly half of all international migrants are women or girls, the report found.
Liu Zhenmin, the UN Undersecretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, told a press conference that the report "affirms that migration is a part of today’s globalized world."