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World map.  Countries are colored in green or red tones.  Green: More people are migrating into the country than leaving it.  Red: At least as many leave the country as migrate to the country.  To be emphasized are the dark red Syria and Venezuela, from which many people emigrate.
Annual net migration rate 2015–2020. United Nations Forecast, 2019.

As migration to a stable spatial variation of the food point of one or more persons will be understood. Migration that occurs across national borders is known as international migration . As an object of research and practical support migration is represented in a number of scientific disciplines, including the social sciences , the law and economics . This results in a multitude of special perspectives and conceptual differentiations, so that a uniform definition cannot be found in the specialist literature.

Migration is a global event that pervades human history . Widespread and historically recurring motives for permanent relocation are the prospect of better settlement and employment opportunities, places of refuge in the event of natural disasters or - more recently - in the course of global warming , are the search for security for life and limb after flight or displacement as a result of wars as well as protection against discrimination and personal persecution for racial, religious or ideological reasons or also due to other restrictions of personal freedom experienced in the milieu of origin. Further motives arise, for example, from old-age migration , educational migration , marriage migration and remigration . In international refugee research and international refugee law, however, the term migration is often differentiated from the term flight. According to this definition, a refugee is someone who is forced to leave his place of residence, a migrant is someone who does this voluntarily.

Due to the world wars of the 20th century, regional instability, globalization , digital revolution and global warming , the migration process is increasing in complexity. It poses new challenges for societies and political actors around the world when it comes to questions of influx control and the integration of immigrants .

Striking historical migration movements

About 40,000 years ago Homo sapiens opened up the temperate zones of Eurasia ; 12,000 years ago it was present in all the metropolitan areas of the continents . The emergence of the Sahara occurred between 3000 and 1000 BC. A migration from Bantu from west to south Africa . In the period between 200 and 1500, the Chinese spread from their areas of origin in all directions, especially to South Asia . Around 500 Arab tribes migrated in large numbers over long distances and reached, among other things. East Africa . The Jewish migration , which often resulted from discrimination , oppression and persecution , was shown, among other things, with the exodus from Egypt in 1250 BC. BC, in Diaspora Judaism, caused by foreign rule and the outcome of the Jewish War , as well as in the remigration to Palestine driven by the time of National Socialism and the Holocaust .

Overcrowded refugee train, Punjab, India 1947

The Greek colonization on the Mediterranean in the 1st millennium BC belong to the early migratory movements in Europe . And the migration of peoples at the transition between late antiquity and the early Middle Ages . European expansion began in the 16th century , as a result of which colonialism and the modern slave trade developed and the indigenous population of America collapsed. Mass emigration from Europe, especially to America and especially to the United States , began in the 19th century with the continually growing European population and internal migration.

The migration historian Dirk Hoerder criticizes the Euro- and US-centered descriptions of migration processes. He distinguishes five major migration systems for the 19th and early 20th centuries:

  • the “white” Atlantic system that linked Europe to its colonies in North and South America
  • the Black Atlantic System, which includes the Atlantic slave trade ,
  • the migration system of Asian people, some of whom were brought to America via the Pacific , partly voluntarily, partly as debt servants ,
  • the Russian-Siberian system, which includes the settlement of Siberia (e.g. by Russian migrant workers or Western European immigrants),
  • the North China-Manchurian system, the immigration of Han Chinese and Koreans to Manchuria in particular in the 1920s and 1930s estimated at around 30 million people.

According to Annette Treibel-Illian , the worldwide armed and war-like conflicts of the 20th century increasingly resulted in forced migrations in the form of deportations and expulsions , for example as a result of the Russian Revolution , the Asia Minor catastrophe , the Stalinism of the Soviet Union , the deportations of Jews and slave labor as well as the expulsion of Poles and ethnic minorities by the Third Reich or the displacement of Poland to the west after the Second World War or the partition of India . Towards the end of the 20th century - after the end of the East-West conflict , global migration seems to be increasing in complexity. The classic forms of migration, immigration , guest work and flight appear less in their pure form than in variants.

Differentiation between specific modes of migration and participation

Migrating people are more mobile than others, says Annette Treibel , and want this to be understood not only spatially, but also psychologically and socially: "They divert their dissatisfaction with the living conditions into the decision to migrate." an internal migration . If national borders are crossed, it is a question of emigration from the point of view of the country of origin and immigration from the point of view of the receiving country . Transit states are used for temporary residence during the transition from the country of origin to the destination country.

Swiss family who fled Russia during the Civil War, around 1921
German-Russian peasant family with the rest of their belongings in Kiel, where they are housed and fed until their onward journey to Canada, November 1929

Involuntary migrants are refugees , people displaced or displaced by natural disasters . However, the distinction between voluntary and involuntary migration is relative, because certain constraints (e.g. scarcity of resources, insecure situation) are almost always decisive for a decision to migrate. Refugees are people who have fled wars, political or religious persecution or natural disasters and environmental damage ( environmental migration ). The latter migration impetus is likely to continue to gain in importance, especially in the course of global warming , even if current estimates fluctuate widely. The rise in sea level alone threatens to directly endanger rice production and supply for around 200 million people in the lower regions of Asia. There is also an essential connection between the destruction of cultural property and flight or migration, as the President of Blue Shield International , Karl von Habsburg , explained during a cultural property protection mission in Lebanon in April 2019 with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon : “Cultural goods are a part the identity of the people who live in a particular place. If you destroy their culture, you also destroy their identity. Many people are uprooted, often no longer have any prospects and as a result flee from their homeland. ”Refugee migration also often follows personal circumstances: while the poor can only afford to flee to neighboring regions, those better off have a better chance of going to more distant regions to reach. It is controversial whether such “involuntary migrants” are to be regarded as migrants at all.

Both civilians and military personnel may flee in large numbers from armed conflict.

According to the Geneva Refugee Convention of July 28, 1951, refugee migration is the spatial movement of a person who is “outside the country of citizenship because of a well-founded fear of persecution because of their religion, nationality, belonging to a certain social group or because of their political convictions owns it, and cannot claim the protection of this land or does not want to claim it because of these fears. "

Economic reasons are not recognized for the definition of a person as a refugee in the Geneva Refugee Convention. However, migration usually takes place with the hope of an improvement in the living situation. In such cases the problem of differentiating between voluntariness and “economic coercion” arises. Individuals are able and willing to endure frustrations to varying degrees ( frustration tolerance ). And even if they are not prepared to remain in the status quo , they have different options for action: They can change their surroundings or try to escape from them.

Prosecution for desertion and conscientious objection allows many refugees to seek protection from persecution abroad. Often only a few deserters manage to escape. In many countries, desertion is not immediately recognized as a reason for protection. In the Federal Republic of Germany there is no right to asylum for deserters: “In the Federal Republican case law on the granting of asylum, there is an insistence that every state has the right to use its citizens for military service.” Also the danger of being used again in the area of ​​origin “Do not protect deserters from deportation.” One possibility of recognition in case law exists “if it can be proven that the recruitment is based on membership of a certain ethnic group, that is, that it constitutes discrimination”.

Migrant workers are people who emigrate from their homeland for the purpose of employment in a foreign country. The migration movement usually takes place from industrially underdeveloped countries into industrialized nations . This is why these migrants are sometimes colloquially disparagingly referred to as economic refugees. Economic migrants do not meet the criteria for refugee status. They therefore have no right to international protection as refugees in the sense of the right of asylum .

Educational migration is playing a growing role, although it is not a completely new phenomenon. More and more countries are trying to create attractive conditions for training, study and research in order to attract qualified people who are willing to migrate. According to an OECD study published in 2015, Germany is the industrialized country with the highest number of people moving abroad to study ; the most popular destination for German students is Austria.

Transmigration describes the commuting of migrants between places of residence in different cultures. Transmigrants stand out among other things. through high formal qualifications and spatial mobility while maintaining social ties to the society of origin. Associated with the term are questions of identity formation (keywords: “ third-culture kids ”, biculturalism). Studies show that the qualifications of migrants influence their identity and that it is particularly highly qualified people who do not (no longer) define their identity in terms of nation states. For industrialized countries, international companies or research institutions, the migration behavior of well-trained specialists is of interest. They are considered to be those who, thanks to their qualifications and experience, but also because of their global networking, create and transport innovative advantages.

The sociologist Christoph Butterwegge speaks of a polarization of migration in "misery and refugee migration" on the one hand and an "elite and expert migration" on the other, "in which highly qualified, scientific-technical, economic and political executives as well as artistic and sports celebrities are here today, settle there tomorrow, be it because their locations are rotating, career advancement is facilitated by a global presence or tax advantages invite modern nomadism. ”Misery migration is subject to much more restrictive and repressive forms of regulation than elite and expert migration.

" Age migration " or "retirement home migration " is also becoming increasingly important . In contrast, “marriage migration” in Germany is the most important reason for the immigration of third-country nationals.

German law on foreigners defines migrants as an “umbrella term for people of non-German origin” and includes not only foreigners but also “naturalized German nationals and repatriates”.

Research aspects and theory building

Migration research, which takes place in different disciplines due to the diversity of its subject, is increasingly being carried out in interdisciplinary collaboration between scientists. Migration processes and repercussions are complex, “both in terms of the various hurdles and stages on the migration itself and as a result of the diverse changes in the communities of origin, transit and target societies that arise as a result of the migration. They are therefore the subject of research in many disciplines and are discussed against the background of the respective theory formation, which is why mostly only specific segments of migration phenomena are dealt with. Since this is done from a very specific perspective that is not taken by other disciplines, it makes sense to set up migration research on an interdisciplinary basis; Issues relating to the sociology of migration should be open to a change of perspective. "

The economic and prosperity gap as a motivational factor

Migrants in California, March 15, 1935

The economically different levels of the regions of origin and arrival act as so-called push and pull factors on the individual and structural level of an economy. The repulsive (push) factors in the countries of origin contrast with attractive (pull) factors in the countries of immigration. Typical possible triggers for migration flows are constellations in which a north / south, east / west or city / country divide can be made visible in terms of economic geography. In addition to income decisions, other factors that are important for migration decisions are age, occupation and family involvement of the potential migrants, as well as the unemployment rate and immigration policy of the destination country. When recruiting skilled workers, in addition to the language and the labor market situation in the target country, the perspective of permanent residence and naturalization, family reunification and self-employment are important.

In the case of refugee migration against the background of acts of war (flight from war ) or natural disasters ( environmental migration or flight ), the push factors predominate; on the other hand, there are also “planning ahead” refugees, so that a mixture of push and pull factors has to be taken as a basis for refugees as well as for migrant workers. "The course of refugee movements depends on the one hand on the national political systems and the international refugee system and on the other hand on the resources, opportunities for action and the networks that refugees can fall back on."

Door opener qualification and level of training

The immigration of highly trained and well-off skilled workers (high skilled migration) is often desired and in demand in terms of economic policy . If, for demographic reasons, a growing shortage of well-trained skilled workers is to be expected in Germany, the domestic and east-west competition between metropolises and regions for these skilled workers is likely to intensify (despite the economic crisis) (as of 2010).

Sociopolitical problems and possible solutions

Successful integration of immigrants is a process that is tied to a variety of conditions, as Jochen Oltmer shows for the initial situation of the migrants: “Migrants act as individuals and in networks or collectives with different degrees of autonomy against the background of different horizons of experience in the structure of social expectations and preferences, self - and external images, norms, rules and laws. They pursue their own interests and goals, each have a different set of economic, cultural, social, legal and symbolic capital, with the consequence of differently shaped scope for action. "

The desired type of inclusion of immigrants differs significantly in the individual host societies, and not just conceptually. Ingrid Oswald says: “ Assimilation is understood as the process in which cultural, ethnic or religious minorities adapt to the majority society and adopt its values ​​and ways of life.” This ultimately means the gradual abandonment of the culture of origin or the fading of its elements meant under the impression of the new culture. " On the other hand, terms such as» acculturation «or» integration «refer to integration processes in which the approach to the target culture can be far more superficial or refer to a mutual rapprochement between minority and majority culture."

Wherever it occurs, problem-free integration seldom attracts the attention of the general public and academia, both of which tend to react to problems, as Franck Düvell puts it. In his view, these arise primarily when the host society behaves too negatively, when migrants for their part reject integration or when politics remains passive or sends negative signals. A lot would be gained for Treibel if the tone in which people talk about and with migrants changed. “Instead of condescending tolerance, tutelage, exclusion or the assumption that there is a lack of willingness to integrate, the assumption should be made that the majority of immigrants have good reasons for migrating and that their potential for activity is by no means exhausted upon entry. Social participation can and should be linked to this. "

Integration barriers

In addition to access to the labor market and employment, the decisive factors influencing the integration process of migrants are finding their way into the language and culture of the host society through adequate educational offers and increasingly equal participation in social life. However, the migrant status, if it allows them to take up gainful employment at all, usually results in employment in the lower ranks of the social hierarchy, often combined with the devaluation of the qualifications acquired at the place of origin.

The immigrants' cultural or ethnic differences serve as a reason for rejection for the locals for fear of losing their own status or reputation. This “subclassification” is not based on qualifications or performance, but on ethnic origin. Treibel sees underprivileged locals without opportunities for mobility or those who fear being downgraded as the driving force behind exclusion, xenophobia and racism. “The desire of the locals to place the immigrants as low as possible corresponds with the endeavors of companies and industries to secure flexible and marginal reserve workers with the immigrants . This particularly affects less respected sectors such as gastronomy or agriculture or crisis-prone sectors such as mining or the construction industry. ”However, misperceptions, stereotyping and xenophobia exist on the labor market even without competitive motives. Demarcation behavior occurs not only between immigrants and long-term residents, but also among immigrants of different origins, “who argue about interpretations of society and compete for resources that are becoming scarce”.

In Germany in particular, it can be observed that the children of immigrants are often unable to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by school and vocational training. "In many immigrant families the disadvantages accumulate: unemployment, formally unrecognized higher education or vocational training, cramped living conditions in stigmatized urban districts, traumatisation as a result of displacement, flight or migration, poor knowledge of German and contacts with locals, etc." Disadvantage and discrimination in the host societies immigrants can refer back to the ethnic and cultural ties they have brought with them, bring about a re-ethnicization that counteracts integration and encourages the formation of parallel societies.

Integration conducive

Positive course-setting for finding one's way into a culture and society other than one's usual begin with the fact that the majority of migrants initially perceive their own life situation in the new place to be better than the previous one. Those wishing to migrate receive support on the hike and in the host societies through immigrant communication networks, who pass on their experiences and provide options for accommodation and job creation. "Ethnic communities and migrant companies form nodes because they are used to organize the sale of goods, but also the recruitment of cheap labor."

However, progressive integration also takes time. Because as the length of stay increases, so Treibel, the immigrants draw their values, norms and demands more and more from the concept of the host society. However, even after several generations, there is no complete assimilation. Identification with ethnic origin continues among those born in the country of immigration. “However, this ethnicity is no longer directed towards the society of origin or the ethnic community .” Rather, the norms of the society of origin and the host society entered into a new connection.

Where host societies consider it politically desirable that immigrants identify themselves democratically with the community that is new to them and behave loyally to it, this can only be achieved, according to Oswald, if the locals grant them civic, social and cultural equality . In the context of a welfare state, this also applies to social equality and the right to subsidiary support in case of need.

International migration policy

With the process of globalization, says Düvell, the possibilities for geographical mobility of people have also increased. They are less and less sedentary and there is a likelihood that someone who has started moving will migrate again. Migration movements by experts, students and household helpers are characteristic of migration movements under the conditions of globalization. "These three types of migration have increased enormously in all OECD countries, most oil-producing countries and regional accumulation centers." Since the end of the Second World War, international migration has been dominated by Asians and Africans as well as by Central and South Americans. But a trend can be observed according to which refugees are making it increasingly difficult to gain a foothold in western industrialized nations. This was shown by measures such as the visa requirement , the safe third country regulation , the fight against illegal migration and the obligation of transport companies to transport back undocumented migrants at their own expense.

Contradictory developments

Because of the very limited power of action of those affected, a paradoxical immobilization often occurs on the flight: borders or insurmountable natural obstacles stop the migrants; (Financial) lack of resources, a lack of papers or a lack of networks paralyze progress. Associated with this are “camp urbanization” and the development of “camp cities”, some of which have a big city character, according to Oltmer.

However, restrictive regulations cannot completely prevent migration. Economically prosperous affluent regions attract immigrants and benefit from them to some extent. This is also of economic importance for the countries of origin in the global south. “In 2016, remittances that migrants sent to their relatives in 'developing countries' alone were at least $ 440 billion, according to World Bank estimates. The amounts exceeded the level of government payments in the context of development cooperation by almost three times. "

Traditional attitudes differences

With regard to the host societies, a distinction is made between formal and informal immigration countries . For the formal immigration countries, immigration is part of their self-image, which is reflected in the legislation and institutions. Informal immigration countries see themselves as receiving countries for limited immigrant groups. A classic example of a formal immigration country in Europe is France because of immigration from its former colonies. The USA , Canada and Australia enjoy this reputation worldwide . Europe now also counts as a continent of immigration. An example of an informal country of immigration is the Federal Republic of Germany , which is traditionally open to ethnic Germans and those who are politically persecuted, or Israel , which is open to all Jews for immigration ( Aliyah ). The boundaries between formal and informal are by no means fixed. Sweden developed z. B. from formal to informal country of immigration. The Netherlands is an informal country of immigration, but it is multicultural and Switzerland does not meet any of the criteria.

Harmonization approaches and problems

While classic immigration countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia followed a liberal immigration policy for a long time, each related to the self-image as a nation of immigrants - who had fled from material hardship, threats and persecution and had built up the society that offered them protection. In the course of the unification process, a common practice of stricter political and legislative regulation developed in Europe. These include the Dublin procedure , a more restrictive approach to asylum law and measures to control and seal off the EU's external borders more effectively using Eurosur and Frontex . Since there is a shortage of workers in some economic sectors, models of the classic immigration countries are also being discussed in many European countries. B. Points systems for recruiting skilled immigrants.

Nowhere in the world, Oswald states, is uncontrolled immigration permitted or borders opened for purely humanitarian reasons. "Even the most liberal immigration policy is also population and economic policy ." Düvell speaks of the "migration dilemma of globalization": "On the one hand, business considerations require unlimited mobility of workers as far as possible, on the other hand, this is politically undesirable." So far, neither politics has , nor political science or political philosophy, was able to reconcile globalized markets, the concept of the nation state, liberal principles and the freedom of movement of people.

For Treibel, the increased migration since the end of the 20th century suggests that more developed regions and societies will be confronted with the problem of how to deal with immigrants in the long term. "Italy is an example of how the relatively sudden change in a country from a country of emigration (with many regions previously considered to be underdeveloped) to a country of immigration has exacerbated internal social tensions since the mid-1980s." Developments. An increase in illegal immigration could not come as a surprise to anyone if, for example, there were fewer and fewer opportunities for legal immigration in Germany. It is also obvious that increased restrictions imposed by the government of one country are directing immigration flows to other countries.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is considered to be a contribution to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, point 10.7. This is formulated as a subordinate aspect of Goal No. 10 (“Reducing inequality between states”) and provides for orderly, safe, regulated and responsible migration and mobility to be made possible.


year world population Migrants worldwide Proportion of migrants in the world population
1990 5.3 billion 151-156 million 2.9%
2000 6.1 billion 173 million 2.8%
2015 7.3 billion 244 million 3.3%
2017 7.5 billion 258 million 3.4%

In 2017, 257.7 million people lived in states where they were not born. The state with the highest number of migrants in 2017 was the United States with 49.8 million migrants, followed by Saudi Arabia and Germany with 12.2 million migrants each, and Russia with 11.7 million migrants. The country with the highest number of emigrants in 2017 was India (16.6 million), followed by Mexico (13 million), Russia (10.6 million), China (10.0 million) and Bangladesh (7.5 million) .

The table shows the proportion of migrants (defined here as all people who live in a country where they were not born) in the world population for the years 2000 and 2015 . (For individual states see: Proportion of immigrants by country .)

According to calculations by Mathias Czaika and Hein de Haas, the proportion of migrants in the world population has been at a comparable level since 1960: 3.06% (1960), 2.86% (1970), 2.70% (1980), 2, 67% (1990), 2.73% (2000).

Museum presentation

Since the turn of the millennium, museums have been increasingly devoting themselves to the history of migration. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened in New York in 1990, the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in 1999 and the Bremerhaven Emigration Center in 2005 . Important themed exhibitions such as Good Bye Bavaria - Grüß Gott America (House of History Munich 2005/2006), Immigration Country Germany, Migrations 1500-2005 (Deutsches Historisches Museum 2005/2006) and Escape, Expulsion, Integration (House of History 2005-2007) were dedicated individual migration issues in Germany. A comprehensive presentation of the subject of "homo migrans" is still a desideratum.

See also


  • Klaus Jürgen Bade et al. (Ed.): Encyclopedia Migration in Europe: from the 17th Century to the Present , Paderborn; Munich ; Vienna ; Zurich: Schöningh; Munich: Fink, 2007
  • Franck Düvell: European and International Migration: Introduction to Historical, Sociological and Political Analysis. Hamburg et al. 2006.
  • Thomas Geisen, Tobias Studer, Erol Yildiz (Eds.): Migration, Family and Society: Contributions to Theory, Culture and Politics. Springer VS, Wiesbaden, 2014. ISBN 978-3-531-18010-6 .
  • Jochen Oltmer : Global Migration. CH Beck 2016.
  • Jochen Oltmer: Migration. History and future of the present. Darmstadt 2017.
  • Ingrid Oswald: Migration Sociology. Constance 2007.
  • Annette Treibel : Migration in Modern Societies. 5th edition. Weinheim and Munich 2011.
  • Konrad Ott : Immigration and Morality. Reclam Verlag 2016.
  • Karl-Heinz Meier-Braun : Immigration and Asylum. CH Beck 2015.
  • Karl-Heinz Meier-Braun, Reinhold Weber : Germany immigration country. Kohlhammer Verlag 2017.
  • Julian Nida-Rümelin : Thinking beyond limits. An ethic of migration. Edition Körber Foundation 2017.

Web links

Commons : Migration (human)  - collection of images, videos and audio files


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