Migration goes in all directions, though focus in the West tends to be only on immigrants moving there.
In reality, more than half the top 20 migration routes worldwide are movements of people from one country in the developing world to another.
Migration from developed to developing regions also tends to be overlooked. Currently this accounts for only 3–6 per cent of total migration, but there is evidence that this flow is increasing.
The main “reverse flow” routes are the US to Mexico and South Africa, Germany to Turkey, Portugal to Brazil, and Italy to Argentina.
Some of these new movements of people are previous migrants returning to their country of origin, either because they want to keep in touch with their countries of origin, or because economic opportunities in these countries are rosier than they used to be.
For decades, Mexicans have been migrating northwards to the United States – about 3 million between 1995 and 2000. But the times they are a changin’: the number reportedly fell by half to 1.4 million in 2005-10, with an equal number returning to Mexico.
The US State Department estimates around one million US citizens now live in Mexico. The last Mexican census put the number of US-born citizens there at 750,000.
Mexican cities such as Monterrey and Queretaro are also big draws for Canadian and European retirees.
Spain, which over the centuries has seen shifts in migration to and from Latin America, is currently seeing another change.
Between 1996 and 2010, the number of Latin Americans taking Spanish citizenship grew from 263,190 to 2.5 million. Now Europe’s economic crisis, which has hit Spain badly, is causing the flow to change again.
In 2011, emigration from Spain rose 26 per cent from the previous year, with an estimated 500,000-plus emigrants, including 445,000 foreign-born individuals. Many were presumably Latin Americans returning home. Nevertheless, the rate of increase in emigration of Spanish-born individuals outpaced the emigration rate of foreign-born individuals.
A report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) points to several interesting trends.
Although small in absolute terms, migration from Ireland to Africa more than doubled between 2008 and 2009, reaching 4,020 in 2010, with the majority going to Nigeria or South Africa.
The number of Portuguese migrants in Africa has increased 42 per cent over the past decade.
Britons are inveterate migrants, and Australia remains the most popular home for the estimated 4.7 million UK citizens living abroad. But new destinations are increasingly entering the statistics. The New Statesman reported recently how one expatriate “has seen a rise in expats in his adopted home of Shanghai, in young plucky Brits who’ve made the journey to the East, to pursue careers and entrepreneurial ambitions.
"You feel the buzz here, there’s an energy in the air. England is dreary and slow, and you need a lot of money [to start a business]. Everything’s been done. But where there’s change, there’s opportunity."
Migrants from Hong Kong, India and Pakistan, typically the main non-EU migrants to UK, no longer view Britain as their destination of choice. Indians and Pakistanis are turning to the Gulf for work.