Members' Research Service By / December 16, 2021

International Migrants’ Day – 18 December

The number of international migrants in the world has grown rapidly over the past two decades. The UN reports that the global number reached 281 million in 2020, as compared to 221 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.

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Written by Anita Orav.

Each year, 18 December is observed as International Migrants’ Day. So designated by the United Nations General Assembly on 4 December 2000, in response to increasing migration in the world, the day aims to draw attention to the human rights of migrants and highlight their contribution to our societies.


The number of international migrants in the world has grown rapidly over the past two decades. The UN reports that the global number reached 281 million in 2020, as compared to 221 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000. Nearly two thirds of all international migrants live either in Europe (87 million) or North America (59 million), followed by northern Africa and western Asia (50 million combined). This new reality creates challenges as well as opportunities for the societies in both regions of origin and of destination.

Global cooperation on migration

On 19 September 2016, all 193 UN member states adopted the New York Declaration, making a set of commitments aimed at strengthening the protection of people on the move. The declaration led to the adoption on 17 December 2018 of two new global compacts – on refugees and on migrants – which established a new international framework for support to refugees and host communities. The process also relaunched a call to improve data on migration. Because of the lack of legal identification, many migrants remain ‘invisible’, as they are not registered. While it might be too soon to say how the UN member states will implement this recommendation and, given the fact that international data are scarce, a priority should be given to international efforts to collect, analyse and share migration data.

Migration management in the EU

The EU and its Member States have shared competence as regards migration. In recent years, the priority accorded to migration has found reflection in the EU budget, with €22.7 billion allocated to migration and security over the 2021-2027 period. Acknowledging that Europe has to move away from ad hoc solutions and put in place a predictable and reliable migration management system, the EU is seeking ways to increase legal channels to the EU, be it through the EU Blue Card for labour mobility, resettlement or community sponsorship. At the same time, the national and local levels are mostly in charge of integrating migrants into the host society, by giving them access to the labour market, language training and education.

European Parliament position

The European Parliament has advocated a humane, solidarity-based and common approach to migration in its various resolutions and reports. In its resolution of 12 April 2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration, the Parliament emphasised the need for developing safe and lawful routes for asylum-seekers and refugees into the EU. In its 2017 resolution on addressing refugee and migrant movements: the role of EU external action, the Parliament recalled that international migration can contribute to socio-economic development, as it has done historically, and called on governments to address migration as a regular human phenomenon. Furthermore, taking into consideration that total labour supply in the euro area is projected to fall by 13 % (20 million people) between 2019 and 2070, the Parliament has encouraged the development of adequate legal economic migration channels, most recently in its resolution of 25 November 2021. To respond to Europe’s demographic challenges and to match migrants’ skills with labour market needs effectively, Parliament is asking for an update of EU rules on legal labour migration by the end of January 2022.

Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘International Migrants’ Day – 18 December‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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