The International Organization for Migration or(I.O.M) said there are more than 300 million migrants around the world today. Europe hosted the largest number of immigrants, with 70.6 million people in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available. North America, with over 45.1 million immigrants, is second, followed by Asia, which hosts nearly 25.3 million. Most of today's migrant workers come from Asia.
The United Nations found that, in 2005, there were nearly 191 million international migrants worldwide, 3 percent of the world population. This represented a rise of 26 million since 1990. Sixty percent of these immigrants were now in developed countries, an increase on 1990. Those in less developed countries stagnated, mainly because of a fall in refugees. Contrast that to the average rate of globalization (the proportion of cross-border trade in all trade), which exceeds 20 percent. The numbers of people living outside their country of birth is expected to rise in the future.
The Middle West, some parts of Europe, small areas of South West Asia, and a few spots in the East Indies have the highest percentages of immigrant population recorded by the UN Census 2005. The reliability of immigrant censuses is, however, lamentably low due to the concealed character of undocumented labor migration. The International Organization for Migration has estimated the number of foreign migrants to be over 200 million worldwide today.
One theory of immigration distinguishes between push factors and pull factors. Push factors refer primarily to the motive for emigration from the country of origin. In the case of economic migration (usually labour migration), differentials in wage rates are prominent. If the value of wages in the new country surpasses the value of wages in one’s native country, he or she may choose to migrate as long as the travel costs are not too high. Particularly in the 19th century, economic expansion of the U.S. increased immigrant flow, and in effect, nearly 20% of the population was foreign born versus today’s values of 10%, making up a significant amount of the labor force. Poor individuals from less developed countries can have far higher standards of living in developed countries than in their originating countries. The cost of emigration, which includes both the explicit costs, the ticket price, and the implicit cost, lost work time and loss of community ties, also play a major role in the pull of emigrants away from their native country. As transportation technology improved, travel time and costs decreased dramatically between the 18th and early 20th century. Travel across the Atlantic used to take up to 5 weeks in the 1700s, but around the time of the 1900s it took a mere 8 days. When the opportunity cost is lower, the immigration rates tend to be higher. Escape from poverty (personal or for relatives staying behind) is a traditional push factor, the availability of jobs is the related pull factor. Natural disasters and can amplify poverty-driven migration flows. This kind of migration may be illegal immigration in the destination country (emigration is also illegal in some countries, such as North Korea, Myanmar, and Somalia).
The main problem with push-and-pull theories is three-fold: first, they state the obvious (i.e., people from poorer places will seek to go to richer ones); second, they are unable to explain the emergence of migrant flows (if push and pull were the only things in existence, people from the poorest countries would migrate to the richest ones, when in reality such flows are well-nigh non-existent); third, they are unable to explain the stability of the emerging patterns of migration (i.e., once a flow from country A to country B is established, it will stay on for a relatively long time, even if the initial conditions that had given the push and pull to the migration are not there any more (as the case of the German case of the Gastarbeiter, or guest worker program shows.
Emigration and immigration are sometimes mandatory in a contract of employment: religious missionaries, and employees of transnational corporations, international non-governmental organizations and the diplomatic service expect, by definition, to work 'overseas'. They are often referred to as 'expatriates', and their conditions of employment are typically equal to or better than those applying in the host country (for similar work).
For some migrants, education is the primary pull factor (although most international students are not classified as immigrants). Retirement migration from rich countries to lower-cost countries with better climate, is a new type of international migration. Examples include immigration of retired British citizens to Spain or Italy and of retired Canadian citizens to the U.S. (mainly to the U.S. states of Florida and Texas).
Non-economic push factors include persecution (religious and otherwise), frequent abuse, bullying, oppression, ethnic cleansing and even genocide, and risks to civilians during war. Political motives traditionally motivate refugee flows—to escape dictatorship for instance.
Some migration is for personal reasons, based on a relationship (e.g. to be with family or a partner), such as in family reunification or transnational marriage. In a few cases, an individual may wish to emigrate to a new country in a form of transferred patriotism. Evasion of criminal justice (e.g. avoiding arrest) is a personal motivation. This type of emigration and immigration is not normally legal, if a crime is internationally recognized, although criminals may disguise their identities or find other loopholes to evade detection. There have been cases, for example, of those who might be guilty of war crimes disguising themselves as victims of war or conflict and then pursuing asylum in a different country.
Barriers to immigration come not only in legal form; natural and social barriers to immigration can also be very powerful. Immigrants when leaving their country also leave everything familiar: their family, friends, support network, and culture. They also need to liquidate their assets often at a large loss, and incur the expense of moving. When they arrive in a new country this is often with many uncertainties including finding work, where to live, new laws, new cultural norms, language or accent issues, possible racism and other exclusionary behavior towards them and their family. These barriers act to limit international migration (scenarios where populations move en masse to other continents, creating huge population surges, and their associated strain on infrastructure and services, ignore these inherent limits on migration.)
The politics of immigration have become increasingly associated with other issues, such as national security, terrorism, and in western Europe especially, with the presence of Islam as a new major religion. Those with security concerns cite the 2005 civil unrest in France that point to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy as an example of the value conflicts arising from immigration of Muslims in Western Europe while failing to recognize the fact that most participants of the 2005 civil unrest were citizens of France, not immigrants themselves, and the essence of their protest was denial of equal rights, and blatant racism, on the part of the state. Because of all these associations, immigration has become an emotional political issue in many European nations.
As a principle, citizens of one member nation of the European Union are allowed to work in other member nations with little to no restriction on movement. This is aided by the EURES network which brings together the European Commission and the public employment services of the countries belonging to the European Economic Area and Switzerland. For non-EU-citizen permanent residents in the EU, movement between EU-member states is considerably more difficult. After new waves of accession to the European Union, earlier members have often introduced measures to restrict participation in "their" labour markets by citizens of the new EU-member states. For instance, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain each restricted their labour market for up to seven years both in the 2004 and 2007 round of accession.
Due to the European Union's—in principle—single internal labour market policy, societies that have seen relatively low levels of labour immigration until recently—which have sent a significant portion of their population overseas in the past—such as Italy and the Republic of Ireland are seeing an influx of immigrants from EU countries with lower per capita annual earning rates, triggering nationwide immigration debates.
Spain, meanwhile, is seeing growing illegal immigration from Africa. As Spain is the closest EU member nation to Africa—Spain even has two autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla) on the African continent, as well as an autonomous community (the Canary Islands) west of North Africa, in the Atlantic—it is physically easiest for African emigrants to reach. This has led to debate both within Spain and between Spain and other EU members. Spain has asked for border control assistance from other EU states; the latter have responded that Spain has brought the wave of African illegals on itself by granting amnesty to hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
The United Kingdom, France and Germany have seen major immigration since the end of World War II and have been debating the issue for decades. Foreign workers were brought in to those countries to help rebuild after the war, and many stayed. Political debates about immigration typically focus on statistics, the immigration law and policy, and the implementation of existing restrictions. In some European countries the debate in the 1990s was focused on asylum seekers, but restrictive policies within the European Union, as well as a reduction in armed conflict in Europe and neighboring regions, have sharply reduced asylum seekers.
Some states, such as Japan, have opted for technological changes to increase profitability (for example, greater automation), and designed immigration laws specifically to prevent immigrants from coming to, and remaining within, the country. However, globalization, as well as low birth rates and an aging work force, has forced Japan to reconsider its immigration policy. Japan's colonial past has also created considerable number of non-Japanese in Japan. Many of these groups, especially Chinese and Koreans, have faced extreme levels of discrimination in Japan.
In the United States political debate on immigration has flared repeatedly since the US became independent. Some on the far-left of the political spectrum attribute anti-immigration rhetoric to an all-"white", under-educated and parochial minority of the population, ill-educated about the relative advantages of immigration for the US economy and society. While this mentality shows an obvious bias, it is often hard for civil discussion to occur regarding immigration due to its highly emotional underpinnings.=)
The term economic migrant refers to someone who has emigrated from one country to another country for the purposes of seeking employment or improved financial position. An economic migrant is distinct from someone who is a refugee fleeing persecution. An economic migrant can be someone from the United States immigrating to the UK or vice versa.
Many countries have immigration and visa restrictions that prohibit a person entering the country for the purposes of gaining work without a valid work visa. Persons who are declared an economic migrant can be refused entry into a country.
Although freedom of movement is often recognized as a civil right, the freedom only applies to movement within national borders: it may be guaranteed by the constitution or by human rights legislation. Additionally, this freedom is often limited to citizens and excludes others. No state currently allows full freedom of movement across its borders, and international human rights treaties do not confer a general right to enter another state. According to Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to leave or enter a country, along with movement within it (internal migration). Some argue that the freedom of movement both within and between countries is a basic human right, and that the restrictive immigration policies, typical of nation-states, violate this human right of freedom of movement. Such arguments are common among anti-state ideologies like anarchism and libertarianism. As philosopher and "Open Borders" activist Jacob Appel has written, "Treating human beings differently, simply because they were born on the opposite side of a national boundary, is hard to justify under any mainstream philosophical, religious or ethical theory."
Where immigration is permitted, it is typically selective. Ethnic selection, such as the White Australia policy, has generally disappeared, but priority is usually given to the educated, skilled, and wealthy. Less privileged individuals, including the mass of poor people in low-income countries, cannot avail themselves of the legal and protected immigration opportunities offered by wealthy states. This inequality has also been criticized as conflicting with the principle of equal opportunities, which apply (at least in theory) within democratic nation-states. The fact that the door is closed for the unskilled, while at the same time many developed countries have a huge demand for unskilled labour, is a major factor in undocumented immigration. The contradictory nature of this policy—which specifically disadvantages the unskilled immigrants while exploiting their labour—has also been criticized on ethical grounds.
Immigration polices which selectively grant freedom of movement to targeted individuals are intended to produce a net economic gain for the host country. They can also mean net loss for a poor donor country through the loss of the educated minority—the brain drain. This can exacerbate the global inequality in standards of living that provided the motivation for the individual to migrate in the first place. An example of the 'competition for skilled labour' is active recruitment of health workers by First World countries, from the Third World.
According to Eurostat, Some EU member states are currently receiving large-scale immigration: for instance Spain, where the economy has created more than half of all the new jobs in the EU over the past five years. The EU, in 2005, had an overall net gain from international migration of +1.8 million people. This accounts for almost 85% of Europe's total population growth in 2005. In 2004, total 140,033 people immigrated to France. Of them, 90,250 were from Africa and 13,710 from Europe. In 2005, immigration fell slightly to 135,890. British emigration towards Southern Europe is of special relevance. Citizens from the European Union make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Spain. They mainly come from countries like the UK and Germany, but the British case is of special interest due to its magnitude. The British authorities estimate that the British population in Spain at 700,000. Mid- and long term EU demographics indicate a shortage of skilled laborers on a scale that would endanger economic growth and the stability of numerous industries. For this reason the European Union launched an initiative called the EU Blue Card, In 2009. The EU Blue Card is initially a temporary residence and work permit. However it will offer holders the opportunity to apply for a permanent resident permit after working on a EU Blue Card for two to five years uninterrupted, depending on individual member state regulations. In the years ahead, EU member states will gradually accept applications for EU Blue Card. Crucial in the application process is a job contract with an EU-based organization. To facilitate this requirement the European Commission launched the EU Blue Card Database in January 2010. 
In recent years, immigration has accounted for more than half of Norway's population growth. In 2006, Statistics Norway's (SSB) counted a record 45,800 immigrants arriving in Norway—30% higher than 2005. At the beginning of 2007, there were 415,300 persons in Norway with an immigrant background (i.e. immigrants, or born of immigrant parents), comprising 8.3 per cent of the total population.
Italy now has an estimated 4 million to 5 million immigrants — about 7 percent of the population. Since the expansion of the European Union, the most recent wave of migration has been from surrounding European nations, particularly Eastern Europe, and increasingly Asia, replacing North Africa as the major immigration area. Some 900,000 Romanians are officially registered as living in Italy, replacing Albanians (450,000) and Moroccans (405,000) as the largest ethnic minority group, but independent estimates put the actual number of Romanians at double that figure or perhaps even more. Others immigrants from Central-Eastern Europe are Ukrainians (200,000), Polish (100,000), Moldovans (90,000-100,000), Macedonians (81,000), Serbs (75,000), Bulgarians (54,000), Bosnians (40,000), Russians (39,600), Croatians (25,000), Slovakians (9,000), Hungarians (8,600). As of 2009, the foreign born population origin of Italy was subdivided as follows: Europe (53.5%), Africa (22.3%), Asia (15.8%), the Americas (8.1%) and Oceania (0.06%). The distribution of foreign born population is largely uneven in Italy: 87.3% of immigrants live in the northern and central parts of the country (the most economically developed areas), while only 12.8% live in the southern half of the peninsula. In 2008, net immigration to Italy was 438,000.
In 2007, net immigration to the UK was 237,000, a rise of 46,000 on 2006. In 2004 the number of people who became British citizens rose to a record 140,795—a rise of 12% on the previous year. This number had risen dramatically since 2000. The overwhelming majority of new citizens come from Asia (40%) and Africa (32%), the largest three groups being people from Pakistan, India and Somalia. In 2005, an estimated 565,000 migrants arrived to live in the UK for at least a year, most of the migrants were people from Asia (particularly the Indian subcontinent) and Africa, while 380,000 people emigrated from the UK for a year or more, with Australia, Spain and France most popular destinations. Following Poland's entry into the EU in May 2004 it is estimated that by the start of 2007, 375,000 Poles have registered to work in the UK, although the total Polish population in the UK is believed to be 500,000. Many Poles work in seasonal occupations and a large number are likely to move back and forth over time. The current UK Immigration Minister is Phil Woolas.
Spain is the most favoured European destination for Britons leaving the UK. Since 2000, Spain has absorbed more than three million immigrants, growing its population by almost 10%. Immigrant population now tops over 4.5 million. According to residence permit data for 2005, about 500,000 were Moroccan, another 500,000 were Ecuadorian, more than 200,000 were Romanian, and 260,000 were Colombian. In 2005 alone, a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people.
Portugal, long a country of emigration, has now become a country of net immigration, and not just from the former colonies; by the end of 2003, legal refugees immigrants represented about 4% of the population, and the largest communities were from Cape Verde, Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, UK, Spain and Ukraine.
Canada has the highest per capita net immigration rate in the world, driven by economic policy and family reunification, and is aiming for between 240,000 and 265,000 new permanent residents in 2010. In 2001, 250,640 people immigrated to Canada. Newcomers settle mostly in the major urban areas of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Since the 1990s, the majority of Canada's immigrants have come from Asia. Accusing a person of racism in Canada is usually considered a serious slur. All political parties are now cautious about criticizing of the high level of immigration, because, as noted by the Globe and Mail, "in the early 1990s, the old Reform Party was branded 'racist' for suggesting that immigration levels be lowered from 250,000 to 150,000."
Jewish immigration to Palestine during the 19th century was promoted by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl in the late 19th century following the publication of "Der Judenstaat". His Zionist movement sought to encourage Jewish migration, or immigration, to Palestine. Its proponents regard its aim as self-determination for the Jewish people. The percentage of world Jewry living in the former Palestinian Mandate has steadily grown from 25,000 since the movement came into existence. Today about 40% of the world's Jews live in Israel, more than in any other country. The Israeli Law of Return, passed in 1950, gives those born Jews (having a Jewish mother or grandmother), those with Jewish ancestry (having a Jewish father or grandfather) and converts to Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative denominations—not secular—though Reform and Conservative conversions must take place outside the state, similar to civil marriages) the right to immigrate to Israel. A 1970 amendment, extended immigration rights to "a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew". Over a million Jews from the former Soviet Union have immigrated to Israel since the 1990s, and large numbers of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to the country in Operation Moses. Over 16,000 African asylum seekers have entered Israel in recent years.
In the early 1990s, Japan relaxed its relatively tight immigration laws to allow special entry permits for foreigners of Japanese ancestry in South America to make up for a labor shortage. According to Japanese immigration centre, the number of foreign residents in Japan has been steadily increased, and the number of foreign residents (including permanent residents, but excluding illegal immigrants and short-term visitors such as foreign nationals staying less than 90 days in Japan ) were more than 2.2 million people in 2008. The biggest groups are, Koreans (both south and north), Chinese (including People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau nationalities), and Brazilians (Many of Brazilians in Japan have some Japanese ancestry). Among the immigrants, Japan accepts steady flow of 15,000 new Japanese citizens by naturalization (帰化) per year. Indeed, the concept of the ethnic groups by the Japanese statistics is different from the ethnicity census of North American or some Western European statistics. For example, the United Kingdom Census asks ethnic or racial background which composites the population of the United Kingdom, regardless of their nationalities. The Japanese Statistics Bureau, however, does not have this question yet. Since the Japanese population census asks the people's nationality rather than their ethnic background, naturalized Japanese citizens and Japanese nationals with multi-ethnic background are considered to be ethnically Japanese in the population census of Japan.
Also, according to Japanese Association for Refugees, (or JAR for short), the number of refugees who applied to live in Japan rapidly increased since 2006, and there were more than a thousand applications from all over the world, who seek refugee status to live in Japan in the year of 2008. However, the refugee policy of Japanese government has been criticized both domestically and internationally, because the number of refugees in Japan is still small compared to the countries like Canada in North America or France in Western Europe. For example, according to the UNHCR, in 1999 Japan accepted 16 refugees for resettlement, while the United States took in 85,010, and New Zealand, which is smaller than Japan, accepted 1,140. Between 1981, when Japan ratified the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and 2002, Japan recognized only 305 persons as refugees.
The overall level of immigration to Australia has grown substantially during the last decade. Net overseas migration increased from 30,000 in 1993 to 118,000 in 2003-04. The largest components of immigration are the skilled migration and family re-union programs. In recent years the mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals by boat has generated great levels of controversy. During the 2004-05, total 123,424 people immigrated to Australia. Of them, 17,736 were from Africa, 54,804 from Asia, 21,131 from Oceania, 18,220 from United Kingdom, 1,506 from South America, and 2,369 from Eastern Europe. 131,000 people migrated to Australia in 2005-06 and migration target for 2006-07 was 144,000.
New Zealand has relatively open immigration policies. 23% of the population was born overseas, mainly in Asia, Oceania, and UK, one of the highest rates in the world. In 2009-2010, a target of 45,000±5000 immigrants was set by the Immigration New Zealand.
Historians estimate that less than 1 million immigrants – perhaps as few as 400,000 – crossed the Atlantic during the 17th and 18th centuries. Relatively few 18th-century immigrants came from England: only 80,000 between 1700 and 1775, compared to 350,000 during the 17th century. In addition, between the 17th and 19th centuries, an estimated 645,000 Africans were brought to what is now the United States. In the early years of the United States, immigration was fewer than 8,000 people a year. After 1820, immigration gradually increased. From 1850 to 1930, the foreign born population of the United States increased from 2.2 million to 14.2 million. The highest percentage of foreign born people in the United States were found in this period, with the peak in 1890 at 14.7%. During this time, the lower costs of Atlantic Ocean travel in time and fare made it more advantageous for immigrants to move to the U.S. than in years prior. From 1880 to 1924, over 25 million Europeans migrated to the United States. Following this time period, immigration fell because in 1924 Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which favored immigrant source countries that already had many immigrants in the U.S. by 1890. Immigration patterns of the 1930s were dominated by the Great Depression, and in the early 1930s, more people emigrated from the United States than immigrated to it. Immigration continued to fall throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but it increased again afterwards. but was still low by historical standards.
The Immigration and Nationality Act Amendments of 1965 (the Hart-Cellar Act) removed quotas on large segments of the immigration flow and legal immigration to the U.S. surged. In 2006, the number of immigrants totaled record 37.5 million. After 2000, immigration to the United States numbered approximately 1,000,000 per year. Despite tougher border scrutiny after 9/11, nearly 8 million immigrants came to the United States from 2000 to 2005 – more than in any other five-year period in the nation's history. Almost half entered illegally. In 2006, 1.27 million immigrants were granted legal residence. Mexico has been the leading source of new U.S. residents for over two decades; and since 1998, China, India and the Philippines have been in the top four sending countries every year. The U.S. has often been called the "melting pot" (derived from Carl N. Degler, a historian, author of Out of Our Past), a name derived from United States' rich tradition of immigrants coming to the US looking for something better and having their cultures melded and incorporated into the fabric of the country. Emma Lazarus, in a poem entitled "The New Colossus," which is inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty tells of the invitation extended to those wanting to make the US their home.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
– Emma Lazarus, Statue of Liberty
Since September 11, 2001, the politics of immigration has become an extremely hot issue. It was a central topic of the 2008 election cycle. The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg is noted for having a pro-immigration stand.
Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980 (representing less than 1% of the entire United States population). Of the top ten countries accepting resettled refugees in 2006, the United States accepted more than twice as much as the next nine countries combined. Some smaller countries, however, accept more refugees per capita.
Immigrant and emigrant do not mean the same thing. An emigrant is a person that leaves his or her own country or region and an immigrant is a person that comes from other country or region.
Also, some immigrants leave their country for a better life.