Understanding the past, present and future of migration

By Fateh Sami
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Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

Migration has occurred on and off throughout human history for various reasons. Movements and displacements of human population from one place to another either to reside temporarily or permanently would be termed migration. Migration is divided, by and large, into two major categories—internal and international.

Usually long distance movements and mobilities from one region to another or from one country to another is considered international migration. Due to various factors and reasons people migrate individually or collectively to different regions on the earth planet.

Today, many people live in a country where they were not born. While a great number of people migrates either out of choice or out of necessity and indispensability. The number of migrants globally was estimated at 272 million in 2019, indicating an increase of 51 million or 18.75% in comparison with 2010.

The number of immigrants per year is estimated at 2 million, which is an increase of 4 million, compared to two years ago. The ebb and flow of migration has shaped the population composition across borders for a long time. Migrant figures in the past 50 years highlight the size of immigration and help recognition of the magnitude of problems which the world community are faced with. The number of immigrants in the sixties reached to about 100 million people. The International Institute at University of Oxford, as a result of a research recently conducted, found out that the reason for migration from place of origin to the location. Mainly they are related to a number of factors. The cause of movement was primarily attributed to strong labour market and employment opportunity, as well as to the migration policy, in both the origin and destination. Likewise, war and bloodshed, aggressions and devastation, military violence and economic growth are considered to be the major causes of migration and flow of refugees.

Statistics would suggest that a lot of people in the United States of America, Russia, Germany, United Arabic Emirates, Saudi Arabia, are recipients of refugees and immigrants.

Back to the beginnings…

In the last five centuries, with the development of maritime navigation and shipping, European countries were able to explore many new lands and settlements and to establish a colony. The colonialists powers, mainly Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal colonised many countries including the East Coast, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, India, African countries and some small islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. For easy exploitation of their colonies, it was needed to build up, extend and develop infrastructure such as buildings, roads, bridges and factories and to set up industrial areas. Therefore, for the achievement of full exploitation from the colonised area using their raw material and agricultural products, the availability of labourers and man power were needed.

Accordingly, the colonial countries were forcing large numbers of workers into slavery by contract or forced transfer from the colonies of the Asian African and Latin American countries. This type of human trafficking accounts for forced migration and human trafficking apparently being, now a days, considered prohibited and illegal.

The Role of Migration

Over thousands of years, migration has basically taken place due to two major factors. Operating on the bases of those two principles, the people wanted or were forced to migrate from one place to another for work and livelihood, security, health, residence and survival.

Undoubtedly migration has played a significant role in developing and in shaping the demographic structure of population, prevention of population decline and to promote growth rate through pushing upward the fertility trend in Western countries. In the advance Western nations, fertility rates are mostly low, and the duration of productivity age is less. Also marriage takes place relatively late at older ages, the ageing population is facing a problem. Due to the risk of population decline and its negative growth rate migration stands as a reliable source to hold up a stable population growth rate.

Thus young people with their children are motivated to migrate to these countries. Migration for increasing labourers and human powers makes up the major policy of some western governments. Therefore, migration policies are a major part of long term developmental plan in the advanced western industrial societies. It is a subject of importance for politicians, policy formulators, administrators, planners, and economists.

Absorption, removal and acceptance of immigrants largely depend on various factors such as climate, political, economic and security. Climate change such as floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, droughts, natural disasters, outbreaks of contagious diseases as well as epidemics, poverty, unemployment and environmental conditions are closely linked to migration process. All the above factors drive away population to migrate as a powerful pushing factor from their place of residence to the destination of immigration.

Insecurity in most countries unfortunately arises as direct consequences of injustice, persistent and repeated practice of lawlessness and lack of implementation of the rule of law. These repeated practices without exception include: authoritarianism, compulsion, chaos, intolerance, corruption, embezzlement, lack of suitable opportunity for every individual in society, lack of favourable and friendly condition for every citizen, and domination of prejudice and discrimination.

In the absence of security the flow of migration continues from the usual place of residence to the nearest destination and neighbouring nations. Migrants seek asylum toward more secure places for their long term settlements. So safety and security plays a significant role in the increase and decrease of migration. People are attracted to migrate for better opportunity to the countries where better facilities for health, education, employment opportunity, and housing are available.

International Migrants Day

On 18 December the “International Day of migrants” (includes the displaced, refugees and asylum seekers) is marked.

Migration in the present age has created opportunities for human societies. Experts accept migration as a challenging topic which has not a positive economic and developmental impact on both the places of origin and destination. The claim of mutual benefit is not true. It is a narrative being propagated to justify military aggression and occupation of countries which has taken place in the last three decades under various pretexts. Consequently, the invaded and occupied nations have been totally ruined, their population became destitute, their social fabrics smashed and their economies structure destroyed.

After the military invasions, the elite, the youth energetic and active population flee their country. The indigenous people are forced to leave their homeland for survival. Migrants flow mainly to countries which were invading their homeland. Refugees speed up the process of the brain drain. The active population and labour force leave their homeland and settle mostly in the countries from where they were invaded from. The migrants cannot often adopt in the newly settled areas due to the language problem, lack of skills needed in the country of destination. Most of migrants cannot get employed. They become depressed, isolated, confused and ultimately psychologically, socially and physically unfit.

Consequently, the country of origin suffers a severe setback due to flee of its elite and educated people. Interestingly, the reasons for the escapes of the elite educated and young generation are interpreted under the heading of humanitarian and philanthropic assistance and aid. The countries of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, for example, could be pointed out as vivid examples suffering from the fatal effects of aggression, occupation and collusion. These countries have been exposed by aggressors and occupiers to a protracted crisis. All the unrest and internal conflicts are engineered beyond close doors. The continuation of crises are artificially and deliberately created by occupiers to achieve their long term goals including plundering raw material, mineral resources and promoting narco-drug trafficking business.

Solving the migration problem seems unlikely in the absence of comprehensive and collective cooperation strategy among nations. Likewise, it will be unlikely without uniting relevant international institutions and human rights organisation in this direction. That is why the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September, 2016 unanimously adopted a series of commitments, known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and migrants due to the increased movements of refugees and asylum-seekers. The Declaration emphasises on the importance of how the protection and maintenance of the International Migration commitments should continually be monitored. It accentuates on all parties involved to promote, facilitate and consolidate procedures to support people on the move. It has paved the way for the adoption of two new global impacts in 2018—global compact on refugees, and a global impact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The International Organisation for migration (IOM), UNHCR State administrations with the cooperation of the international community tries to make efforts to come to gather and implement the resolutions, compacts and commitments of the United Nations to support and assist refugees and migrants. IOM Also commemorates those refugees who lost their lives and disappeared while attempting to flee their homeland via sea, land, deserts and air. People are invited to participate in rallies, public gatherings, distribution and circulation of leaflets or brochures to inform people about the basic rights and freedom of refugees. People are asked to be helpful and respectful to refugees and avoid of any action which may be intimidation harassment and respect their freedoms. Candles are also kindled to cherish their memories.

No matter what the cause and determinant of migration, nowadays, it stands as a global challenge. The problem facing the international community cannot be resolved without determination and commitment and international cooperation to tackle the cause of migrations. Otherwise, the massive human loss, chaos and casualties will go on forever.


The writer is a senior Demographer; Statistician, an Agri-economist & Planner. He is a former lecturer from Kabul University; Head of Planning & Coordination Department of Ministry of Statistics in Afghanistan; Editor of Kabul Times Daily; and Senior Statistician/Demographer at UNHCR/IOM. He is currently an ongoing Teacher and Coordinator at Victorian School of Languages (VSL), Persian and Dari Faculty. Assistance and Coordinator of SBS Radio Dari Program. 

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