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UN Migration Agency: COVID has 'Radically Altered' Mobility


FILE - A migrants makeshift camp is set up in Calais, northern France, on Nov. 27, 2021.

The U.N. migration agency says the coronavirus pandemic has “radically altered” mobility around the world, projecting in a new report that the growth in the number of international migrants is likely to remain weaker as long as travel and other restrictions remain.

The International Organization for Migration released Wednesday its World Migration Report 2022, a vast compendium of the latest trends in human movement of all types — from people fleeing war and conflict to workers seeking jobs abroad — and a recap of the last two years of mobility.

IOM points to a “dramatic increase” in internal displacement — movement within countries — caused by natural disasters, conflict and violence just as COVID-19 restrictions have sporadically shut borders across the globe since the pandemic emerged and spread over the last two years.

“We are witnessing a paradox not seen before in human history,” IOM Director-General Antonio Vitorino said. “While billions of people have been effectively grounded by COVID-19, tens of millions of others have been displaced within their own countries.”

The report tallied about 281 million international migrants around the world by its latest complete count in 2020, amounting to just 3.6% of the global population. That was up from 272 million in 2019. About 60% of those migrants last year were migrant workers, it said.

International remittances — people sending money back home — dropped to $702 billion in 2020, compared to $719 billion a year earlier. About 3,900 people died while on the move last year, down from 5,400 in 2019, IOM said.

The report highlighted “major migration and displacement events,” including conflicts in places like Syria, Yemen, Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan, as well as political and economic instability like Venezuela and Afghanistan in the period. It also cited climate and weather related displacement in places like China, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Haiti and the United States over the last two years.

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