COVID-19 impacted global migration trend in 2020: UN report

The number of emigrants increased to 281 million in 2020 from 272 million in 2019

By Pulaha Roy
Published: Tuesday 07 December 2021

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has radically altered the way we lead our lives, including international migration trends.

The number of emigrants increased to 281 million in 2020 from 272 million in 2019, according to the latest migration report. 

The increase, however, would have been higher by around 2 million if the pandemic had not struck, according to the World Migration Report 2022 based on data collected for 2020. 

“While it is known that the pandemic has placed huge restrictions on mobility, it is difficult to fully assess its impact on migration since the data collated for the study is only for the first year of the pandemic,” the researchers wrote in the report.  

The study also delves into other aspects of migration, including long-term trends on where people are migrating to and the impact of climate change on migration.

Migration is shaped by economic, geographic, demographic and other factors, resulting in distinct migration patterns, such as migration ‘corridors’ developed over many years, according to the report. 

In 2020, the largest number of migrants moved to United States, followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia. India topped the list of countries from where people migrated out, followed by Mexico and Russia. 

By the end of 2020, there were at least 26.4 million refugees globally, the study mentioned.

The highest number of refugees (8 million) moved from Syria — the fifth biggest source country. 

Afghanistan had the second-highest share of refugees spread across the world, followed by South Sudan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Most of the displacement happened through the Mexico-US migration axis, followed by the Syrian Arab Republic-Turkey corridor, the data showed.

With over 3.5 million people, Turkey hosted the most number of refugees in 2020, followed by Pakistan, Uganda, Germany and Sudan. 

Around 4.1 million people sought asylum status in 2020. But first-instance asylum claims dropped 45 per cent in the same year — around 1.1 million claims were made in 2020 compared to 2 million in 2019.

Natural disasters and by extension climate change played a bigger role in shaping international migration patterns, according to an analysis by Down To Earth. 

In 2020, more people were displaced by disasters caused by climate change than conflicts, thereby reversing a historic trend. 

Total internal displacement due to disaster, conflict and violence increased in comparison to 2019, despite containment due to COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The figure rose to 40.5 million in 2020 from 31.5 million in 2019. 

Most people moved out of their countries because of climate-related events — 14.6 million displacements were due to storms and 14.1 million due to floods. 

As many as 46,000 people were displaced due to extreme temperatures while some 32,000 moved out due to droughts in 2020. 

From 2008–2020, more than 2.4 million displacements were induced by droughts and over 1.1 million by extreme temperatures, the report by International Organization for Migration said.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.