Part of: Migrants return home
Back to package

Number of international migrants jumps to 258 million people - UN

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 18 December 2017 19:02 GMT

Migrants wait to disembark from the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, after it arrived in Pozzallo on the island of Sicily, Italy, December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Image Caption and Rights Information

3.4 percent of the population consists of international migrants

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An estimated 258 million people are international migrants, a figure that has surged by a half since the turn of the century, the United Nations said on Monday.

One in ten of those people is a refugee or asylum seeker, the U.N. said in a report on migration trends and developments released to coincide with International Migrants Day.

Globally, 3.4 percent of the population consists of international migrants, meaning someone who lives in a country other than the country where they were born, it said.

"Reliable data and evidence are critical to combat misperceptions about migration and to inform migration policies," Liu Zhenmin, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said in a statement.

The rights of migrants and the need for safe, well-managed migration policies are included in the set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted unanimously by the U.N. member nations in 2015, and the U.N is planning an international conference on migration late next year.

Other figures showed that migration contributed 42 percent of the population growth in Northern America between 2000 and 2015, and that the population in Europe would have declined during that time period without migration.

The biggest number of international migrants, nearly 50 million, live in the United States. Saudi Arabia, Germany and Russia have about 12 million international migrants each, followed by the UK with almost nine million, it said.

The greatest number of migrants, 106 million, came from Asia, it said.

India has the most native-born people living elsewhere, at 17 million, followed by Mexico with 13 million, it said.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.