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UN: International Migration Surges 41 Percent in Last 15 Years

A group of migrants move through snow towards train station to be transferred to Austria, near the border with Croatia, in Dobova, Slovenia, Jan. 3, 2016.

The number of people migrating to foreign countries surged by 41 percent in the last 15 years to reach 244 million in 2015, according to a United Nations study released this week.

Of those people, 20 million are refugees.

The U.N. is planning a series of meetings to address migration in 2016, including a March 30 gathering in Geneva where countries will be invited to pledge resettlement spots for Syrians fleeing civil war.

But while the Syrian refugee crisis has gripped the world’s attention, it is but a drop in the sea of international migration.

The vast majority go to Europe, home to 76 million international migrants in 2015, or two-thirds of the total.

“In Europe, the population would have declined during the period 2000-2015 in the absence of positive net migration,” the report said. Even if current migration levels continue, Europe’s population is still projected to decline over the next 35 years because of its surplus of deaths over births.

By individual country, however, the United States had by far the largest portion of the world’s migrants - 47 million, or a fifth of the total.

Germany and Russia shared the second spot with about 12 million each, followed by Saudi Arabia (10 million), Britain (9 million) and the United Arab Emirates (8 million.)

Canada ranks seventh on this measure, with slightly fewer than 8 million migrants.