Learn more about Immigration
Although human migration has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, immigration in the modern sense refers to movement of people from one nation-state to another, where they are not citizens. Immigration implies long-term permanent residence by the immigrants: tourists and short-term visitors are not considered immigrants. However, seasonal labour migration (typically for periods of less than a year) is often treated as a form of immigration. The global volume of immigration is high in absolute terms, but low in relative terms. The UN estimated 190 million international migrants in 2005, about 3% of global population. The other 97% still live in the state in which they were born, or its successor state.
The modern idea of immigration is related to the development, especially in the 19th century, of nation-states with clear citizenship criteria, passports, permanent border controls, and nationality law. Citizenship of a nation-state confers an inalienable right of residence in that state, but residence of immigrants is subject to conditions set by immigration law. The nation-state made immigration a political issue: by definition it is the homeland of a nation defined by shared ethnicity and/or culture, and in most cases immigrants have a different ethnicity and culture. This has led to social tensions, xenophobia, and conflicts about national identity, in many developed countries.
 Global migration statistics
Migration statistics refer to people who have themselves moved from one country to another, i.e. 'first-generation' immigrants. In non-official usage, terms such as 'immigrant' or 'foreigner' are often used for ethnic minorities of immigrant descent, regardless of their place of birth or citizenship.
According to the Report of the Secretary-General on International migration and development, most international migrants are in the high-income developed countries, 91 million in 2005. <ref>United Nations General Assembly. International migration and development, Report of the Secretary-General, 18 May 2006.</ref> Low and lower-middle income countries have 51 million international migrants. Migration flows are not solely from poor to rich countries, however: about a third of international migrants move from one developing country to another. The absolute number of international migrants is highest in the United States, 39 million. The highest percentages of migrants in the labour force are found in the Gulf States, 90 percent in the United Arab Emirates, 86 percent in Qatar, 82 percent in Kuwait, 64 percent in Oman. In Europe, only Luxembourg approaches this level, with 45 percent of the labour force foreign.
The European Union allows labour migration between member states (with restrictions on new member states), but inter-EU migration is relatively low. According to Eurostat, Luxembourg, seat of many European institutions, has the highest percentage of non-nationals (39%). Non-national does not always correspond to 'immigrant': Latvia (22% non-national) and Estonia (20%) have large non-citizen minorities of ex-Soviet citizens. Including these minorities, 5.5% of the total population of the EU was non-national. <ref>Eurostat news release 64/2006, 19 May 2006: Around 25 million non-nationals living in EU25 Member States in 2004, online at </ref>
 Causes of migration
Theories of migration traditionally distinguish between push factors and pull factors. Push factors refer primarily to the motive for emigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labour migration), differentials in wage rates are prominent. Poor individuals from less developed countries can have far higher standards of living in developed countries than in their originating countries. Escape from poverty is a traditional push factor, the availability of jobs is the related pull factor. The migrants may wish to send remittances to their family. Natural disasters can amplify poverty-driven migration flows. This kind of migration may be illegal immigration in the destination country (emigration is also illegal in some countries, such as North Korea).
Emigration and immigration are sometimes mandatory in a contract of employment: religious missionaries, and employees of multinational corporations, international non-governmental organisations and the diplomatic service can expect to work 'overseas'. They are often referred to as 'expatriates', and their conditions of employment are typically equal to or better than those applying in the host country (for similar work).
For some migrants, education is the primary pull factor (note that students on limited visas are often not defined as immigrants). Retirement migration from rich countries to lower-cost countries with better climate, is a new type of international migration. An example is immigration of retired British citizens to Spain. Some immigrants justify their drive to be in a different country for cultural or health related reasons, while young people from developed countries choose to migrate as a form of self expression towards the establishment or to satisfy their need to perceive directly other cultural environments.
Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing and even genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows - to escape dictatorship for instance.
Some migration is for personal reasons, based on a relationship (e.g. to be with family or a loved one). In a few cases, an individual may wish to emigrate to a new country, in a form of transferred patriotism. Evasion of criminal justice (e.g. avoiding arrest) is a (mostly negative) personal motivation. This type of emigration and immigration is not normally legal, if a crime is internationally recognized, although criminals may diguise their identities or find other loopholes to evade detection.
 Barriers to migration
Barriers to immigration come not only in legal form; natural barriers to immigration can also be very powerful. Immigrants when leaving their country also leave everything familiar: their family, friends, support network, and culture. They also need to liquidate their assets often at a large cost, and incur the expense of moving. When they arrive in a new country this is often with many uncertainties including finding work, where to live, new laws, new cultural norms, language or accent issues, possible racism and other exclusionary behaviour towards them and their family. These barriers act to limit international migration: scenarios where populations move en masse to other continents, creating huge population surges, and their associated strain on infrastructure and services, ignore these inherent limits on migration.
 Differing perspectives on immigration
Immigration is a politicized issue, and in some countries it is a major political issue. Opposition to immigration is generally far more prominent than support for it, but that is to some extent countered by economic interests.
The two main arguments cited in support of immigration are economic arguments, usually related to labour supply, and cultural arguments appealing to the value of cultural diversity. The four main anti-immigration themes are simple xenophobia, economic issues (costs of immigration, and competition in the labour market), environmental issues (impact of population growth), and (especially in Europe) the impact on the national identity and the nature of the nation-state itself.
Support for 100 percent open borders is limited to a minority. Some free-market libertarians believe that a free global labor market with no restrictions on immigration would, in the long run, boost global prosperity. There are also groups which oppose border controls on idealistic and humanitarian grounds - believing that people from poor countries should be allowed to enter rich countries, to benefit from their higher standards of living.
More limited support for increased labour migration comes from economists and some business interests in the developed world. Although multinational corporations require free movement of senior staff, they are not necessarily the main users of immigrant labour. Medium and small businesses (restaurants, farms) may be the most dependent on low-wage labour. In specific sectors, there is a business lobby for immigration, usually in the form of green card systems, intended to facilitate specific and limited labour flows.
This kind of immigration is opposed by labour-market protectionists, often arguing from economic nationalism. The core of their arguments is that a nations jobs are the ‘property’ of that nation, and that allowing foreigners to take them is equivalent to a loss of that property. They may also criticise immigration of this type as a form of corporate welfare, where business is indirectly subsidised by government expenditure to promote the immigration.  A more common criticism is that the immigrant employees are almost always paid less than a non-immigrant worker in the same job, and that the immigration depresses wages - typically, immigrants are not unionised. For some that is a reason to limit immigration. Other groups feel that the focus should be not on immigration control, but on equal rights for the immigrants, to avoid their exploitation.
Arguments against the cost of immigration - for instance the provision of schools for the additional population - are prominent in the United States and Canada: see Economic impact of immigration to Canada.
Non-economic opposition to immigration is closely associated with nationalism, in Europe ‘nationalist party’ is almost a synonym for ‘anti-immigration party’. Although traditionally, economic arguments dominated the United States immigration debate, it has become more polarized in recent years, as evidenced by nationalist demands for the militarisation of the US borders. The emergence of private border militias in the United States has attracted much media attention. Nevertheless, the southern border of the European Union in the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla is at least as militarised as the US-Mexico border.
The primary argument of the nationalist opponents in Europe is that immigrants simply do not belong in a nation-state which is by definition intended for another ethnic group. Britain, in this view, is for the British, Germany is for the Germans, and so on. Immigration is seen as altering the composition of the national population, and consequently the national identity. From the nationalist perspective, high-volume immigration simply ‘destroys their country’. Some of the support for this nationalist opposition comes from xenophobes who instinctively fear the presence of foreigners, but it is also consistent with the nationalist ideology. Germany was indeed intended as a state for Germans: mass immigration was not foreseen by the 19th-century nationalist movements. Immigration has forced Germany and other western European states to re-examine their national identity: part of the population is not prepared to redefine it to include immigrants. It is this type of opposition to immigration which generated support for anti-immigration parties such as Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the British National Party in Britain, the Lega Nord in Italy, the Front National in France, and the Lijst Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands.
One of the responses of nation-states to mass immigration is to promote the cultural assimilation of immigrants into the national community, and their integration into the political, social, and economic structures. In the United States, cultural assimilation is traditionally seen as a process taking place among minorities themselves, the ‘melting pot’. In Europe, where nation-states have a tradition of national unification by cultural and linguistic policies, variants of these policies have been proposed to accelerate the assimilation of immigrants. The introduction of citizenship tests for immigrants is the most visible form of state-enforced assimilation. The test usually include some form of language exam, and some countries have reintroduced forms of language prohibition. The Netherlands immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, suggested a nationwide ban on the speaking of non-Dutch languages in public, but withdrew the proposal after protests.
Environmentalist opposition to immigration is prominent in the United States, which has the largest absolute numbers of immigrants. Responses to immigration are a controversial topic among environmental activists, especially within the Sierra Club. Some oppose the immigration-driven population growth in the United States as unsustainable, and advocate immigration reduction. Other environmentalists see overpopulation and environmental degradation as global problems, that should be addressed by other methods. Most European countries do not have the high population growth of the United States, and some experience population decline. In such circumstances, the effect of immigration is to reduce decline, or delay its onset, rather than substantially increase the population. The Republic of Ireland is one of the only EU countries comparable to the United States in this respect, since large-scale immigration contributed to substantial population growth.<ref>2006 Censuis, </ref> Spain has also witnessed a recent boost in population due to high immigration.<ref>Huddled against the masses The Economist, Retrieved November 16, 2006</ref>
The political debate about immigration is now a feature of most developed countries. Some, such as Japan, traditionally had very little immigration, and it was not a major political issue. Some countries such as Italy, and especially the Republic of Ireland and Spain, have shifted within a generation, from traditional labour emigration, to mass immigration, and this has become a political issue. Some European countries, such as the United Kingdom and Germany, have seen major immigration since the 1950’s, and immigration has already been a political issue, for decades. Political debates about immigration typically focus on statistics, immigration law and policy, and the implementation of existing restrictions. In some European countries the debate in the 1990’s was focussed on asylum seekers, but restrictive policies within the European Union have sharply reduced asylum seekers. In western Europe, the debate now focuses on immigration from the new member states of the EU, especially from Poland.
The politics of immigration have become increasingly associated with others issues, such as national security, terrorism, and in western Europe especially, with the presence of Islam as a new major religion. Some right-wing parties see an unassimilated, economically deprived, and generally hostile immigrant population as a threat to national stability. They fear new events such as the 2005 civil unrest in France. They point to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy as an example of the value conflicts arising from immigration of Muslims in Western Europe. Because of all these associations, immigration has become an emotional political issue in many European countries.
 Ethics of migration
Although freedom of movement is often recognised as a civil right, the freedom applies to movement within national borders: it may be guaranteed by the constitution, or by human rights legislation. Additionally, this freedom is often limited to citizens and excludes others. No state currently allows full freedom of movement across its borders, and international human rights treaties do not confer a general right to enter another state. According to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, citizens may not be forbidden to leave their country. There is no similar provision regarding entry of non-citizens. Those who reject this distinction on ethical grounds, argue that the freedom of movement both within and between countries is a basic human right, and that the restrictive immigration policies, typical of nation-states, violate this human right of freedom of movement. Note that a right to freedom of entry would not, in itself, guarantee immigrants a job, housing, health care, or citizenship.
Where immigration is permitted, it is typically selective. Ethnic selection, such as the White Australia policy, has generally disappeared, but priority is usually given to the educated, skilled, and wealthy. Less privileged individuals, including the mass of poor people in low-income countries, can not avail of these immigration opportunities. This inequality has also been criticised as conflicting with the principle of equal opportunities, which apply (at least in theory) within democratic nation-states. The fact that the door is closed for the unskilled, while at the same many developed countries have a huge demand for unskilled labour, is a major factor in illegal immigration. The contradictory nature of this policy - which specifically disadvantages the unskilled immigrants while exploiting their labour - has also been criticised on ethical grounds.
Immigration polices, which selectively grant freedom of movement, to targeted individuals, are intended to produce a net economic gain for the host country. They can also mean net loss for a poor donor country through the loss of the educated minority -the brain drain. This can exacerbate the global inequality in standards of living, that provided the motivation for the individual to migrate in the first place. An example of the ‘competition for skilled labour’ is active recruitment of health workers by First World countries, from the Third World.
 External links
- See individual "Immigration to..." articles for country-specific links.
- Social, Economic, Political and Humanitarian Immigration Issues: US Bipartisan Analysis of the Most Controversial immigration issues in the United States today, with all viewpoints documented and examined}
- Stalker's Guide to International Migration - Comprehensive interactive website on migration
- Casahistoria - European emigration since 1800 - links to 19th & 20th century global European emigration
- Eurasylum Many relevant documents on immigration, asylum and refugee policy, and human trafficking/smuggling internationally
- Forced Migration Review
- International Organisation for Migration
- UNESCO Programme on International Migration and Multicultural Policies
- BBC News Factfile: Global migration
- Not Giving Up, Just Seeking New Tactics - Commentary on how some immigration is beneficial to society, while other immigration is not; looks to provide a fairly equal view of things.
- The Foreigner and the Right to Justice in the Aftermath of September 11th François Crépeau, Canada Research Chair in International Migration Law University of Montreal
- Immigration Newspaper Archive A collection of more than 50,000 searchable newspaper articles on Immigration.
- Diplomacy Monitor - Migration
- A world map with territory sizes adjusted to the number of immigrants living in those countriesar:هجرة
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