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U.S. #1, Afghanistan #2 in Immigration


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NEW DELHI: It comes as no surprise that the US is the country with the largest inflow of migrants. But, you would never guess which country has the second largest net inflow of migrants. Believe it or not, it is Afghanistan.


According to data from the United Nations Population Division, Afghanistan has a net average annual migration of about 4.3 lakh, more than a third of the US figure of roughly 1.2 million a year. No.3 on the list is another country you’re unlikely to have guessed — Spain — with an inflow almost twice as large as that into Germany, which is next on the list.


The net migrants means simply those coming into a country minus those leaving it. On the other side of the charts, Mexico tops the list with the highest net outflow, followed by China and Pakistan. India is at a fair distance behind Pakistan at No. 4.


So why would people be moving into war-torn Afghanistan? The sudden increase in migration into Afghanistan could conceivably be due to the return of those who fled when the Taliban seized power in 1996.


With the Taliban being overthrown in December 2001, those who had fled to neighbouring countries like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, might well be coming back, accounting for a jump in migration. We presume, of course, that the roughly 20,000 US-led coalition soldiers in Afghanistan are not being counted as migrants. Other countries that record high migrant inflows are Canada and the United Arab Emirates.


In absolute numbers, the inflow to the UAE might seem relatively small, but the migrant population far outnumbers the local population.


The stock of international migrants accounted for 71.4 % of UAE’s population in 2005. In Kuwait, they accounted for 62.1%. The percentage is high in other Gulf countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia too.


However, US and Russia have the largest international migrant stock, even if this accounts for a very small percentage of the population, 12.9% and 8.4% respectively.


When it comes to outflows, going by sheer numbers India should beat most countries in Asia, the region with the highest outflow in the world. However, it has a much lower figure than even Pakistan, which has barely 15-16% of India’s population. This could well be because a large number of people coming into India from neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh significantly reduce the net migration figure for India.


In the list of countries with the largest international migrant stock, India stands eighth, just above the United Kingdom (UK) and Spain.


Those on this list above India — apart from the US and Russia — are Germany, Ukraine, France, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

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