Latin America is ‘more attractive’ to migrants, research shows

Studies show that the number of migrants to Europe has fallen by more than half. However, all four regions of the continent are experiencing faster or faster increases The number of migrants heading to…

Latin America is 'more attractive' to migrants, research shows

Studies show that the number of migrants to Europe has fallen by more than half. However, all four regions of the continent are experiencing faster or faster increases

The number of migrants heading to Europe has fallen by more than half in the past 15 years, but it is all part of a two-and-a-half decade long shift in the scale of migration affecting Latin America, according to new research.

Even if the decline in EU migration stopped today, the size of the migrant population of Latin America would be roughly double its size in the mid-1990s. Currently, there are 141 million Latin Americans living in the region – most of them in Brazil, Mexico and the Caribbean – but in the mid-1990s there were 69 million. In contrast, the EU’s migrant population is 58 million.

The latest study, published in Frontiers in Human Sciences, estimates migration to be spread across the four regional continents of the north-south divide and north-east-west divide.

“As Europe becomes an increasingly less important destination for migrants the north-south divide becomes less significant, especially after 2011. This period, the study explains, coincides with the gradual decrease in migration to the south of the Americas, when Latin America itself became more attractive as a destination. And, in time, Africa became even less attractive.

The largest impact was in the north-east-west divide: migration to and from Latin America rose by almost 50% between 2007 and 2017, in line with the growing prosperity of countries in the region, including Brazil and Mexico. Migration from Europe fell slightly.

The study’s authors say the picture from the mid-1990s is particularly striking because of its account of large numbers of immigrants from the third world living within national borders without documentation. “In the mid-1990s the number of newly naturalised citizens in Latin America exceeded that in Europe, and therefore contrasts with migration trends observed in the eurozone,” they write. “By the early 2000s, the numbers of immigrants from the third world living in their home countries exceeded those in Europe.”

A separate study in Nature shows that urban migration to the US is rising and is becoming harder to control.

Forty-four% of Mexico’s eight million urban migrants went to the US, compared with 31% of the country’s 7.8 million rural migrants. Turkey – historically one of the largest migrant countries to Europe – saw a negative migration outflow to the US for the first time, while in El Salvador it almost halved.

The research, based on population and migration data from 2004 to 2014, is considered particularly timely given ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to cut down on Central American migrants crossing into the US in a bid to ease a “humanitarian crisis” they claim is unfolding at the border.

“This is the biggest reduction of refugees in the history of the world,” Steve Swerdlow, professor of migration studies at Oxford University told the Guardian. “By 1930 the US had 15 million refugees – the EU has now halved it. The numbers will rise again, and will be above the number of WWII refugees and this suggests that migration will not have any significant effect on the US in the next 100 years.”

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