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TOP 10 MIGRATION ISSUES OF 2006
Issue #9 Regional Migration in the Limelight
Hong Kong is one of the top destinations for Asian migrants.
Not every migrant crosses a vast ocean or flies halfway around the world
to reach safety or a land of opportunity. In fact, regional migration has been
the major form of migration for centuries, and was noteworthy in North America, Europe, and
Asia in 2006.
It is well known that the Mexican foreign born dominate immigration flows to the United States, forming 4.7 percent of the total civilian workforce in 2006, according to the Current Population Survey. But that is only part of the story: 50 percent of legal migration to the United States comes from the hemisphere, and 80 percent of illegal immigration comes from Mexico and Central America.
When the UK and Ireland decided to give labor-market access to citizens of
all 10 EU accession states upon their entry in May 2004, neither country expected
the unprecedented flows that followed. British researcher John Salt told the Economist this
summer that, in absolute terms, the population movement since May 2004 is the
biggest single wave of migration in British history.
In Ireland, the estimated number of immigrants hit a record high this year
(86,900 from April 2005 to April 2006), with 43 percent coming from EU Member States
that joined in May 2004. Of the total, 26 percent were from Poland and 7 percent
were from Lithuania.
The UK also saw the number of immigrants from Eastern European EU Member States
climb over 50 percent, from 52,000 in 2004 to 80,000 in 2005 according to the
National Statistics Office. More Polish citizens — 49,000 — came
to the UK for at least a year in 2005 than citizens of any other foreign
Perhaps more startling was the Home Office's announcement in March that
345,410 people from the new EU states signed up for the special work registration
scheme between May 2004 and December 2005.
Because of the large numbers, both the UK and Ireland have said that citizens
of Romania and Bulgaria, which join the EU on January 1, 2007, will have to
apply for work permits, a decision the UK will reevaluate after 12 months.
On the other side of the world, migration within Asia has increased dramatically, a trend
the International Labor Organization reported this summer. Between
1995 and 2000, 40 percent of an estimated 2.9 million Asian migrant workers
found jobs in other Asian countries. In contrast, in the 1970s and 1980s, more than 90 percent
of the Asian migrant workforce left the region for jobs in the Gulf countries
or in Europe.
New Zealand and Australia both made migration-related announcements during
October's Pacific Islands Forum, which adopted an ambitious regional
cooperation plan at last year's forum meeting.
New Zealand will allow up to 5,000 Pacific Island workers a year to take on
temporary jobs in the country's agricultural sector, a program set to
begin in April 2007 (see Ones to Watch: Openness to Migrants). After much debate, Australia decided against a similar
plan, instead announcing that the Australia-Pacific Technical College, proposed
at the 2005 forum, will be headquartered in Fiji. Last year, Prime Minister
John Howard called the college a way to "promote more competitive workforces
and enable greater labor mobility between the Pacific and developed economies
such as Australia."
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