9 Oct 2010

Sharp drop in migration due to economic downturn

10:21 am on 9 October 2010

A new study shows a sharp drop in migration from poorer to richer countries because of the downturn in the global economy.

Research, commissioned by the BBC World Service, shows rapid growth in foreign-born communities during the past three decades has stopped.

The study found that immigrants tend to have lower-skilled jobs in industries such as construction, which shrink during recession.

At the same time, immigration to developed countries slowed sharply.

But despite the job losses among migrant workers, the overall amount sent in remittances to their families back home fell less than expected last year and is expected to bounce back.

"Overall immigration to developed countries has slowed sharply as a result of the economic crisis, bringing to a virtual halt the rapid growth in foreign-born populations over the past three decades," the report says.

The BBC reports this has caused a notable decline in illegal immigration.

The number of foreign workers caught trying to enter the EU illegally by sea fell by more than 40% from 2008 to 2009 and is still falling.

At the same time, the number of illegal migrants from Mexico stopped at the US border went down by roughly the same amount.

Legal migrant numbers down

However, legal migration was also hard hit. Immigration to the Irish Republic from new EU member states in Eastern and Central Europe fell by 60% from 2008 to 2009.

Over the same period, there was a drop of 50% in the number of visas issued by the United States to low-skilled seasonal workers, such as fruit and vegetable pickers.

The research was done by the Migration Policy Institute, an independent agency in Washington.