Where do people migrate?

Where do people migrate?

Chapter 3 of the World Migration Report 2022 reveals some interesting and clear geographic aspects to migration and displacement. Studying the tables and charts in the chapter shows the significant variation in migration patterns between regions and provides an important perspective to understanding migration.

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International migrants by major region of residence

Key terms

  • Origin Country
  • Destination Country
  • Regional Migration
  • Migration Corridor

Research and analysis on the topic


Regional overview: Asia

Asia – home to around 4.6 billion people – was the origin of over 40 per cent of the world’s international migrants in 2020 (around 115 million). In the same year, more than half (69 million) were residing in other countries in Asia, a significant increase from 2015, when around 61 million were estimated to be living within the continent. Intraregional migration within Asia has increased significantly over time, rising from 35 million in 1990. The number of non-Asian-born migrants in Asia has remained at relatively low levels since 1990.

Regional overview: Europe

Nearly 87 million international migrants lived in Europe in 2020, an increase of nearly 16 per cent since 2015, when around 75 million international migrants resided in the region. A little over half of these (44 million) were born in Europe, but were living elsewhere in the region; this number has increased since 2015, rising from 38 million. In 2020, the population of non-European migrants in Europe reached over 40 million.

Regional overview: Latin America and the Caribbean

Migration to Northern America is a key feature in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. In 2019, over 26 million migrants had made the journey north and were residing in Northern America. The Latin American and the Caribbean population living in Northern America has increased considerably over time. The total number of migrants from other regions living in Latin America and the Caribbean has remained relatively stable, at around 3 million over the last 30 years. These were comprised mostly of Europeans (whose numbers have declined slightly over the period) and Northern Americans, whose numbers have increased.

Regional overview: Northern America

Migration in Northern America is dominated by migration into the region. Over 58.6 million migrants were residing in Northern America from a variety of regions in 2019. During the last 30 years, the number of migrants in Northern America has more than doubled in size. The number of Northern American migrants living within the region or elsewhere was very small compared with the foreign-born population in the region. In contrast to regions such as Asia and Africa where intraregional migration is dominant, more Northern American-born migrants lived outside the region.

Regional overview: Oceania

In 2019, around 7.7 million international migrants from outside Oceania were living in the region. Out of all of the six world regions, Oceania had the lowest number of migrants outside its region in 2019, partly a reflection of the low total population size of the region, although there was an increase in their number during the previous 30-year period. Most of those born in Oceania living outside the region resided in Europe and Northern America.

Regional overview: Africa

Migration in Africa involves large numbers of international migrants moving both within and from the region. In 2020 around 21 million Africans were living in another African country, a significant increase from 2015, when around 18 million Africans were estimated to be living within the region. The number of Africans living in different regions also grew during the same period, from around 17 million in 2015 to over 19.5 million in 2020. One of the most striking aspects to note about international migrants in Africa is the small number of migrants who were born outside of the region and have since moved there.

Reflection questions

  1. Briefly explain what is meant by the term “migration corridor”.

  2. In 2020, how many migrants from the Latin America and the Caribbean region were residing in North America?

  3. Has this number been increasing or decreasing over time?

  4. Examine the top migration corridors on the World Migration data visualization webpage.

  5. What are the top 3 migration corridors involving European countries that do not involve the Russian Federation?