Understanding Human Migration

Immigration is an ancient phenomenon that repeats itself throughout history. An immigrant can be someone seeking a better shot at life in another country. They move abroad temporarily or permanently. The early humans migrated due to many factors such as food supply, climate, and search of new lands for exploration, settlement or minerals.

The Pre-modern migration begins with the migration of the Homos erectus out of Africa across Eurasia about 1.75 million years ago.  About 150,000 years ago the Homo sapiens seems to have occupied Africa, then moved out of Africa about 70,000 years ago and spread across Australia, Asia, and Europe by 40,000 years ago. America took place only 20,000 years ago.

Rise of imperialism and industrialization

Since the 18th century, the migration has accelerated, including involuntary migration like the slave trade, in the 19th century, increasing a lot with labour migration, refugee migrations, and urbanization.  Many agricultural workers left the countryside to the cities causing an uncommon level of urbanization.

The massive arrival of the Irish people in the USA, for example, occurred after the great famine of 1845-1852. This was a period of famine, disease, and emigration which the population of Ireland was reduced between 20-25 percent. During the hunger, about one million people died and another million were forced to emigrate out of the island. The cause of the famine was a disease caused by the oomiceto Phytophthora infestans, which contaminated potatoes across Europe during the 1840s. Although the whole of Europe was affected, it had more impact in Ireland because one-third of the population depended solely on potatoes to survive.

Migration after First and Second World War

From the mid-18th century to the 1960s, the continent that now attracts refugees was once the starting point for millions of people in search of a new life. Their reasons were often similar to those of today’s migrants and in most cases it reflects the economic and social transformations of the countries of origin. The first large influx of migration from Europe occurred after the First World War. The situation, however, intensified during World War II.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950 to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes on the Second World War.

Different historians estimate that between 50 and 60 million Europeans left their countries to as far away as Brazil, the United States, Siberia and Australia only between 1815 and 1930. Some of them even came back to Europe, but the majority settled down in the new home, having a decisive influence on the construction of these countries. The U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, estimates that about 50 million US residents have German ancestry, nearly 16% of the total population. They are the descendants of about 4.5 million ethnic Germans who have moved to the country. In Brazil, about 370,000 Germans arrived between 1824 and 1960, and estimates indicate that they left about 5 million descendants.

Nowadays, the globalization has influenced on migration, but what does globalization means? Globalization is not internationalization, but it is the worldwide movement toward economic, financial, trade, and communications integration. Globalization implies the opening of local and national boundaries, not only to free mobility of capital and goods but also, in effect, to free movement (or uncontrolled migration) of labour.

Author: Tais

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