Simply put, migration is human movement from one place to another. It may involve a single individual or an entire community, internal resettlement within a country or a journey spanning multiple continents, forced flight from the threat of violence or a voluntary search for opportunities elsewhere. Indeed, in many cases it can involve a mixture of patterns and motivations: for instance, migrants may have to flee very real dangers to themselves and their families, while at the same time actively plan for a better life elsewhere. Migration has a variety of facets and there are plenty of reasons – some even seemingly contradictory – why people decide to leave or stay.
When a person or group leaves one place for another, that is migration – one of the most natural and long standing social processes in human history, and yet increasingly freighted with controversy and political debate.
People have always been pushed or pulled to leave their homes – and to find new ones elsewhere. This might be because something fundamental was missing to them in the place they lived before, be it money, security, opportunities, education – even love. There have also been compelling drivers of movement, such as conflict, persecution, natural disasters and other immediate threats that have uprooted people and forced them to migrate.
Migration as a process has been a constant in every single era of our history – in multiple contexts in both, time and space. It is, indeed, one of the most important forces of social change across the world and has contributed, even at times of adversity, to mutual enrichment as different cultures and communities have brought together new ideas and knowledge.
Migration can be categorized in various ways. We can, for example, migrate either within the same country or move across borders. However, when speaking about migration from a political perspective, cross-border or international migration is usually what is being referred to.
We can also look at migration from the perspective of its causes – whether it was voluntary (as in the case of ‘economic migrants’) or forced (as in the case of refugees). Even though, in reality, the distinctions are often not so straightforward. Isn’t the desire to escape extreme poverty or hunger understandable from a humanitarian perspective? And is it so illogical that those fleeing persecution or violence might also wish to access education and employment in their places of refuge?