There are more than 250 million migrants today, representing the highest number since World War II, and possibly ever. Migrants leave their homes for diverse reasons. They may be 

  • seeking better jobs and access to better health care; 
  • running from famine, war, or natural disasters; or
  • fleeing persecution and looking for political and religious freedoms they do not enjoy at home. 

Often, a combination of these factors pushes people to leave and pulls them toward their new homes.

The United Nations’ landmark 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees defined refugees and outlined the rights accorded them, setting one international standard for migration policy. While migration today shows no sign of ceasing, many countries are either unable or unwilling to meet this standard. The world needs to not only consider how to welcome migrants but also address the factors pushing them to migrate in the first place.

Why migration matters

Though migration is not a new phenomenon, it takes on a new significance in an increasingly interconnected world. Understanding what migration is—who migrates, where they come from, and where they settle—and what causes migration—both the crises and the opportunities—can affect our understanding of critical issues such as national security, economics, climate change, global health, and more.

As the number of migrants continues to grow for various reasons, it is important to understand how migration shapes the world socially, economically, and politically—and, in turn, how countries shape immigration policy in response.

In this module, we will

  • learn about the different classifications of migrants, and why these distinctions matter;
  • see where migrants come from, where they go, and what makes current migration patterns unique;
  • understand migration’s effects on a country that sends a significant portion of its population abroad;
  • examine the ways in which governments justify their migration policies; and
  • take a tour of the largest groups of internally displaced persons, those who do not cross an international border and face unique challenges.
Referenced Module