News / Middle East

Global Migration Slows As Economies Take a Hit

Syrian refugees shout slogans as they protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Yayladagi in Hatay province, July 1, 2011
Syrian refugees shout slogans as they protest against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Yayladagi in Hatay province, July 1, 2011
Lisa Bryant

The Arab Spring has triggered an uptick in migration but overall the numbers of migrants have dropped sharply in many parts of the world. A new report says the reason is due to the international financial crisis.

The financial crisis that sent many economies into a tailspin also had a major impact on migration flows around the world.

A new report by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds migration worldwide fell by seven percent in 2009. Recent data suggests it fell even more last year.

The OECD's Secretary General Angel Gurria outlined the findings at a press conference in Brussels.

"International migration is at a turning point. As our countries try to force through a job rich recovery and build stronger, cleaner and fairer economies, we must analyze international migration through a new lens," Gurria said.

Gurria says temporary labor migration dropped 17 percent in 2009. The flow of illegal immigrants from Latin America to the United States also fell. But the findings are mixed. Legal immigration rose for example in Canada, Australia and the US.

The report also finds that half of all international migration now takes place  among developing countries, with China and India among the top sources of immigration to OECD countries.

The recent Arab unrest has also affected immigration. "It is clear that the Arab Spring has led to an increase in migration flows - for the moment, mainly toward Italy and France but also within Africa," Gurria said.

The thousands of mainly North African immigrants who have flocked to Europe in recent months have prompted calls for tightening European borders. European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malstrom says the EU has offered help to some.

"But we also need to look beyond this and have a long-term policy," Malstrom said.

The EU also wants to find ways of helping immigrant youths, who face among the highest levels of unemployment in the region.

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