Introduction Introduction Chapter 5 Chapter 5
Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Notes for Indicators Notes
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Chapter 1 The Good, The Bad, The Promising:
Migration in the 21st Century

A World on the Move

Unequal Opportunities in a Globalizing World

Between a Rock and a Hard Place:Irregular Migration

Forced Migration: Refugees and Asylum-seekers

Harnessing Hope: International Migration, Remittances and Developent

Burden or Boon? Impact on Receiving Countries

Migrant Health

Beyond Difference: Living with Diversity

Forced Migration: Refugees and Asylum-seekers

Forced migration is that which results from coercion, violence, compelling political or environmental reasons, or other forms of duress, rather than from a voluntary action.(55) It often puts migrants in considerable jeopardy. Although the population of forced migrants is small in comparison to labour migrants, it is made up of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

The best-known and most-measured group within the forced migration category is that of "refugees": people who flee countries hit by war, violence, and chaos, and who are unable or unwilling to return to their home countries because they lack effective protection. In 2005, there were 12.7 million refugees: 8.4 million under the responsibility of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and an additional 4.3 million under the charge of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).(56) Overall, refugees now make up 7 per cent of all migrants(57)–down from 11 per cent in the early 1990s.(58)

Unlike labour migrants, who tend to gravitate towards developed regions, an estimated 90 per cent of all refugees currently live in developing countries.(59) Most refugees seek safe havens in countries bordering their own. During the 1994 Rwanda genocide, for example, more than a million refugees crossed into Goma in only three days while, since 2004, an estimated 730,600 Sudanese refugees have fled to Chad, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.(60) Refugees represent some 18 per cent of international migrants in Africa, 15 per cent in Asia and 3 per cent in Europe.(61)

Asylum-seekers are individuals who apply for recognition of their refugee status in another country or through an embassy, and who usually must wait pending a decision from an appropriate body. In 2005, UNHCR reported that 336,000 people applied for asylum in 50 industrialized nations–mostly in North America and Europe–down by nearly 50 per cent since 2001. Levels were the lowest in nearly 20 years with the biggest decreases in Canada and the US. The precipitous drop is attributed to tightening regulations in receiving countries as well as the resolution of a number of longstanding conflicts.(62) Asylum-seekers are facing increased scrutiny owing to concerns that non-refugee migrants are misusing the asylum system in order to gain regular admission. Some critics charge that legitimate asylum-seekers–many of whom migrate through irregular channels in search of protection-are unfairly paying the price for country efforts to crack down on illegal immigration and smuggling. A number of countries automatically detain individual asylum-seekers pending the decision as to whether they qualify for asylum. If not, they face deportation to their country of origin.

Asylum-seekers can remain in limbo for months or years on end.(63) Asylum-seekers whose applications are rejected often cannot be deported because the country of origin will not take them back, or they lack passports. Because laws frequently bar them from seeking jobs in the formal sector, they often end up labouring in the more insecure and unregulated informal economy.(64)

Figure 4: Remittances to Developing Countries

Click here to enlarge image

Source: World Bank. 2006. Global Econoic Prospects.