A newly-released U.N. study finds international migration benefits not only the migrants, but also the countries that receive them, and even the countries they have left. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the findings in a speech to the General Assembly.
At a time when many countries, including the United States, are debating what to do about the arrival of large populations of immigrants, the U.N. is arguing that migration benefits almost everyone. In releasing a new 90-page study Tuesday, Secretary-General Annan said the world is witnessing a "new migration era". "International migration is likely to be with us as long as human societies continue to develop. It has increased significantly in recent decades, as it did in previous periods of economic integration, such as the one preceding the First World War. In all probability it will continue to rise in the decades ahead," he said.
Mr. Annan says several countries that were formerly sources of migrants have now become attractive destinations for new migrants as their economies have boomed. He pointed to several examples, including Ireland, South Korea, Chile and southern European states.
He noted that at least two other countries, Malaysia and Thailand, are in the process of making the transition from countries of origin to countries of destination.
On a day when President Bush was in New Mexico calling illegal immigration a threat to national security, Secretary-General Annan was pointing to America's largest population center, New York City, as a prime example of what he called the global phenomenon of migration. "Large numbers of people migrate in search of a better life, not only between neighboring countries or within a region, but to and from the uttermost ends of the earth. If anyone harbors doubt on that point, a stroll through this city should quickly put them right," he said.
Authors of the U.N. report estimate there are currently 191 million people living outside the country where they were born. Contrary to popular belief, nearly half of them are women.
The study notes that the number of highly-educated migrants nearly doubled worldwide during the 1990s. There has also been a doubling over the past decade in the amount of money migrants have sent back to their home countries in the form of remittances.
Three-quarters of that total is going from wealthy countries to the developing world. One economist called such remittances "the most direct form of development aid".
The report says one-third of all remittances go to four countries, India, China, Mexico and France. In two countries, the Philippines and Serbia/ Montenegro, the remittances are considered a significant source of the national income.
The U.N. study also highlights the growing globalization of education. It notes the many prestigious European and American universities are opening branches in developing countries to meet the growing demand for quality education.
Already, countries such as China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Qatar, Singapore, south Africa and the United Arab Emirates are home to international campuses.
At the same time, there has been a steep increase in the number of students from wealthy countries going abroad to study, often in the developing world.
Release of the U.N. immigration report came as experts from 50 African and European countries opened a meeting in Senegal to finalize a plan to combat illegal immigration. The plan calls for a combination of strict laws and development aid as a way of trying to stem the tide of Africans flocking to Europe to escape high unemployment and poverty.