Migration Trends in the Middle East and North Africa Region

A Research Report

Migration encompasses a variety of different types of. It includes economic migrants, internal displacement, asylum seeking, refugees, and smuggled and trafficked persons. Migrants can also be grouped in terms of direction/destination, whereby migrating within one’s countries is internal migration and migrating out of one’s country is external migration, or emigration.

In this brief report, MENAACTION studied migration trends in the Middle East and North Africa(MENA), whereby we analyzed the “Migration Stock Database” produced by United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Population Division, which monitors global population trends periodically. For that, we studied inward migration (immigration) and outward migration (emigration) for 21 states in the MENA region.

According to the Dictionary of Human Geography, emigration is a form of migration that occurs when a person leaves a place. Emigration is also a basic human right under Article 12 of the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Immigration, on the other hand, is entering a new place and is considered one of the most significant causes of social change in the world (Clark, 1986; Sassen, 1996).

Looking at the overall trend in the MENA region, we find that there are more immigrants than there are emigrants. In fact, there is a total of 34.5m emigrants incoming into the 21 countries in the region, and there is a total of 48.7m immigrants, leaving their individual countries in the region.

Migration Trends 1

North Africa Region

Looking more specifically at the states in North Africa, we find that Sudan has seen the most incoming immigrants with over 1.2m immigrants, 63% of whom immigrated from South Sudan. Secondly, Libya has about 818,216 immigrants, with 37% of whom came from Palestine. Egypt has about 504,053 total immigrants, 27% of whom immigrated from Palestine. Moreover, Algeria came in fourth with approximately 249,075 total immigrants, 13% of whom also came from Palestine, a heavily featured state in this report. Mauritania welcomed about 172,967 immigrants with the vast majority immigrated from Mali (63%). As for Morocco, 103,958 immigrated into the North African state, with 36% came from France. Tunisia was the country that welcomed the least immigrants, with 57,455 in total, 18% of whom came from Algeria.

For youth specifically, we find that 43% of immigrants into Egypt are youth, followed by 38% incoming into Mauritania, 37% for Libya, 33% for Morocco, 32% into Algeria, 30% into Tunisia, and 26% incoming into Sudan.

Moreover, for emigration, we find that the numbers are much higher than they are for immigration, as residents of the region are leaving more. Egypt produced the most emigrants with 3.5m, 27% of whom emigrated to Saudi Arabia, a place where many Egyptians go to for work opportunities. Secondly, Morocco exported about 3.3m in emigrants, with France being a popular destination. Sudan exported over 2m emigrants, with 28% of whom emigrated to South Sudan. The transfer of population between Sudan and South Sudan is evident in these figures amid the partition. Algeria exported 1.9m in emigrants with a staggering 81% emigrated to France. Similarly, 52% of Tunisia’s 831,634 emigrants left to France, a popular destination among North Africans. As for Libya, 180,611 emigrated outwards with about 20% to Italy, as 36% of Mauritania’s 126,509 left to Senegal.

Migration Trends 2

The Gulf Region

For the Gulf region, immigration is a far more prevalent trend than emigration. Given the attractive economic opportunities present in this region, a large number of economic migrants turn to these states for opportunities, many of whom come from neighboring states as well as from Southeast Asian states, primarily India. With that, Saudi welcomed the highest number of immigrants, not just among the gulf region, but among the entire MENA region with 13.1m immigrants, 19% of whom immigrated from India. The UAE came in second with 8.5m immigrants, 40% from India as well. Kuwait came in third with about 3m immigrants, 37% also came from India. Qatar welcomed 2.29m immigrants, 31% of whom immigrated from India, as Oman’s 2.28m immigrants featured 58% from India. Bahrain welcomed 741,161 immigrants, 40% of whom immigrated from India too. Yemen came in last with 385,628 immigrants, 73% of whom immigrated from Somalia, migrating from one conflict impacted nation to another.

48% of Oman’s immigrants are youth, followed by 46% incoming into the UAE, 45% for Qatar, 40% for Bahrain, 31% into Yemen, 30% for Kuwait, and Saudi came in last with 29% of its immigrants are youth.

As for emigration, with the exception of 1.2m Yemeni emigrants (60% of whom emigrated to Saudi), this region features moderate numbers of outward migration. Saudi Arabia exported 303,904 emigrants, with 31% leaving to the United States, a popular destination for education and work opportunities. For Kuwait, 205,411 migrated out of the nation, 32% of whom went to the UAE, which in turn exported 162,747 emigrants, 16% of whom went to Kuwait. Bahrain produced 60,163 emigrants, 51% of whom went to Bangladesh. Qatar exported about 26,312 emigrants, 38% of whom went to Palestine, a similar destination to which 41% of Oman’s 22,461 emigrants left.

Migration Trends 4

West Asia Region

For West Asia, a region where conflicts are more prevalent, we find large numbers of migration. Looking at incoming migration, immigration, Turkey welcomed the highest number of immigrants with 5.8m, 64% immigrated into Turkey from Syria. Jordan came in second with 3.3m immigrants, 63% of whom migrated from neighboring state Palestine. Iran came in third with 2.6m immigrants, with a staggering 86% of whom coming from war torn Afghanistan. Lebanon welcomed 1.8m immigrants, 62% of whom migrated from Syria, which in turn welcomed 867,848 immigrants, 69% of whom came from Palestine. Iraq welcomed 368,062 immigrants, 70% of whom also came from Syria. Palestine ranked last with 253,735, 25% of whom came from Israel.

Youth immigration is also a featured trend in this region. For that, Palestine immigrants featured 48% youth, followed by 42% into Iraq, 41% into Iran, 40% into Turkey, 38% into Syria, 37% into Lebanon, and 29% into Jordan.

As for emigration, Syria’s ongoing civil war resulted in 8.2m emigrants, 45% of whom emigrated into Turkey. Palestine came in second with 3.8m emigrants, 55% of whom migrated to Jordan. Turkey came in third with 3.4m emigrants, 44% of whom moved to neighboring Germany. Additionally, there are also about 2m immigrants from Iraq, 11% of whom migrated to the United States. Similarly, of Iran’s 1.3m immigrants, 31% migrated to the United States. As for Lebanon, 844,503 immigrated outwards, with 18% of whom moved to Saudi Arabia, a popular destination for Jordanians, as 30% of the nation’s 784,428 immigrants moved to their southern neighbors.

Migration Trends 3



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