Our latest report illustrates why the refugee crisis is the humanitarian challenge of our time
We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record, as individuals seek to create their own pathways from poverty to prosperity. For far too many, these are journeys not of opportunity but of necessity.
We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record, as individuals seek to create their own pathways from poverty to prosperity. For far too many, these are journeys not of opportunity but of necessity. People undertaking these so-called ‘irregular’ journeys are remarkably vulnerable. They are likely to face exploitation at the hands of human traffickers, who generate more than $150 billion in illegal profits each year. Worse still, they may find themselves trapped in a world of modern slavery and sexual exploitation from which they are unable to escape. They are unprotected, accumulate debt, and have no legal recourse.
This phenomenon requires an urgent response. To date, we lack the data to form an accurate appraisal of the motivations behind these extraordinary journeys, and the risks faced by those undertaking them. The purpose of this initial report, the first of three to be published this year, is to produce a data-driven overview of the current landscape of global migration, which will, in turn, support the Legatum Institute’s commitment to identifying solutions that would assist necessity-driven migrants, refugees and victims of trafficking.
The number of people globally living outside of their country of birth shows an upward trend, from 173 million in 2000 to 258 million in 2017. Its proportion of the global population remains low: rising from 2.8% to 3.4%.
The number of registered refugees, however, has reached a record high. By mid-2017 there were an estimated 25.9 million refugees and asylum seekers (including 5.3 million Palestinian refugees).
Registered refugees represent only a fraction of all migrants who are vulnerable or driven by necessity. The number of individuals forcibly displaced (internally and cross-border) has reached a record high. In total, at least 66 million people globally are experiencing forced displacement.
Most migrant journeys are to neighbouring low – to middle-income countries within the region of origin. The lowest income countries host about 30% of the global total of refugees. Of the 66 million people globally who have been forcibly displaced, approximately 40.3 million are displaced within their own countries.
Although migration has been a feature of political debate in West European states, their share of immigrants as a percent of their native-born population is smaller than that of other states.
Exposure to slow onset emergencies and significant socioeconomic vulnerability are consolidating factors of migration. While conflict is a well-recognised cause of migration, many more migrants are exposed to high levels of socioeconomic vulnerability, a climate of insecurity and natural hazards. Their number is unknown but the conditions they face can be equally desperate as those who are recognised as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees. These are the individuals who are not accounted for in refugee statistics and their conditions not necessarily reflected in international migrant data.
Most migrants are likely to take on different statuses at various points, as they move on multi-stage journeys. A new but common feature of migration today is the evolving nature of an individual migrant’s status. A single term can no longer define individuals on the move, including those that are forcibly displaced. With journeys spanning a greater time period and less linear than in the past, most migrants are likely to take on different statuses at various points as they move. At times, these statuses may even overlap, making the categorisation of migrants a complex undertaking that can diminish, or overstate, a person’s vulnerability.
Migrants are frequently exposed to intolerable levels of risk in transit. Irregular migrants face dangerous journeys. They are unprotected, accumulate debt, and have no legal recourse. The limited opportunities for legal migration forces individuals to use people smugglers, where there is a risk of being trafficked. Migrants who fall prey to human traffickers can be exploited in both transit and destination countries.
The number of identified victims of human trafficking could represent less than 1% of the true number. During the migrant journey, the fine line with human trafficking – the acquisition of people by force, fraud or deception with the aim of exploiting them – can be easily crossed.