The main facts of contemporary migration
One characteristic which overshadows all others is the fact that the world is growing interdependent. It is rare today for a country to be able to manage without engaging in some way with the currents of globalisation, and the multitude of exchanges combined with environmental changes has an impact on migratory patterns. Moreover, immigrants have become extremely vulnerable with little protection and an increasingly hostile locally born workforce. As a consequence, policies have become restrictive, generating more South-South migration. As migration keeps gaining importance, many developing countries have become highly dependent on the benefits of migration for their economies.
Global interdependence increases migration pressures
Political and economic tensions in one part of the planet generate migration pressures in another. In this respect, political transition contributes to increasing the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) and international refugees.
This is because political transition is often accompanied by violence, or because it is suppressed and ends up generating intense backlashes.1
Somewhat paradoxically, the transition process to democracy is also a factor of emigration. Elections, for instance, trigger violence in one in four cases.2 The prospects of freedom abroad are often more tempting than those at home, at least in the initial stages of the transition process. The fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe was thus followed by a dramatic increase in emigration during the 1990s. In the same way, the Arab Spring produced migratory pressures from various categories of people: from settled immigrants leaving the Arab countries to the locally born fleeing conflict.
Economic interlinkages also constitute an important factor in migration pressures. The process of trade and financial globalisation has undoubtedly given rise to strong economic interdependence between nations. In particular, domestic economic shocks are not constrained by national borders, but rather produce knock-on effects, mainly through trade (Benassy-Quere et al., 2009). Although it did not begin in developing countries, the global financial crisis showed how fast interlinkages spread its negative effects through the developing world (Mold et al., 2009).
Adverse economic shocks in developing countries tend to increase international migration flows. Crises in Latin America during the 1990s spurred migration to the US. During the Asian crisis in 1997 and 1998, many workers attempted to find work elsewhere, mostly in the region - even when many of the recipient countries were also affected by the crisis. The continuing crisis in Zimbabwe largely explains the growing exodus to South Africa.