21 November 2018, The Tablet

Moving targets

Migration and perception

Moving targets

Members of the US military attach barbed wire to the San Ysidro border crossing with Mexico
Photo: Photo: PA/DPA Omar Martinez


Migration has always been a staple of humanity. For centuries people have moved and relocated to other places for different reasons. In recent years, migration has become a topic of discussion and contention that makes many in the United States and Europe say they feel “overwhelmed”. But the evidence suggests that it is misconceptions about the nature and extent of migration, rather than the number of migrants, which makes many see it as a problem.

One of the most common misconceptions is about the numbers of migrants. Those numbers are increasing – but the proportion in relation to the global population has remained remarkably stable. The United Nations, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and researchers from the Universities of Oxford and of Amsterdam all estimate that the percentage of people on the move has remained roughly the same since the 1960s – at around 3 per cent of the world’s population. We should be cautious about saying that there is an unprecedented mass movement of people throughout the world.

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