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New Statistics Show International Migration More Than Doubled Since 1975 - 2002-10-29

New statistics from the United Nations population agency show international migration has more than doubled since 1975. The U.N. agency says the number of people who live outside the country in which they were born has now risen to 175 million.

Population Division Director Joseph Chamie says international migration is an increasingly important issue on the U.N. agenda. With governments becoming more and more concerned about the entrance and exit patterns of migrants, Mr. Chamie said his agency is stepping up its efforts in obtaining accurate, timely and comparable information.

"This is a story that will be with us for many many decades into the future, especially given its demographic impact. Many developed countries now, except for immigration, would not be growing, or if they are growing, their rates would be much lower without immigration," he said.

Mr. Chamie said countries often give mixed messages about accepting migrants. While many are in need of migrant workers, he says there is growing concern about the consequences of immigration. Mr. Chamie said 40 percent of the world's countries, both developed and developing nations, have policies aimed at lowering immigration levels, compared to 6 to 7 percent 30 years ago.

"Societies are increasingly concerned with the characteristics, the number, and the proportion of migrants: who is coming in, what are they doing, how are they affecting my job, what languages are they speaking, what faiths are they professing," he explained.

Mr. Chamie says that in thirty years, the number of foreign-born people living in the United States increased from 5 percent to 12 percent, and in the Netherlands and Austria, from 2 percent to 10 percent. The U.N. agency says 56 million of the world's migrants live in Europe, 50 million live in Asia, and another 41 million are in North America.