EVER since the dawn of civilisation, human beings have been on the move, travelling to unchartered areas, seeking better life, better opportunities and the mere thrill of conquering the unknown. Today, people migrate for economic and political reasons.
Earthscan has come out with a publication on migration that looks into the minute details of the pattern, reason and route of migrations down the centuries. The Atlas of Human Migration: Global patters of People in the Move discusses who, how many and for what all reasons migrate inter and intra nationally. It comes as little surprise that the largest single migration is taking place in China, people moving from rural areas to urban centres, wanting a share in the huge economic growth. More than a 100 million people have relocated in recent years.
Migration is not merely a social issue. It affects and influences national policies. While the “sending countries bemoan the loss of their most energetic and highly trained workers, whose education and upbringing have been paid for with scare resources” the governments of receiving countries see migrants as “causing unemployment for their nationals, incurring high welfare costs and bringing cultural and ethnic conflict, even terrorism.”
It is also an irony that though globalisation is shrinking geographic distances, it is not simultaneously increasing the opportunities. In fact, on the other hand, it is tending to concentrate the fruits of this economic globalisation in certain centres, towards which people are flocking. Having said this, one must add that the total migration taking place in the world today is only three per cent of the population. But in actual count, it is an enormous number of human lives. According to the United Nations Population Division, there were 214 million migrations in 2010. From 2.3 per cent in 1965, the migrations have only grown to three per cent in 2010, a small growth.
The book offers some interesting info and statistics on migrations over the centuries. The transatlantic slave trade was the largest ever forced migration from 16th to 19th Centuries. Around 11 million Africans were taken as slaves to North and South America and the Caribbean, 84 per cent of them between 1700 and 1850 AD. Next was the indentured labour, with millions, especially Indians and Chinese forcibly taken as paid labourers by the colonial powers.
One of the largest ever free movements of people took place in the 19th and 20th centuries when 50 million people emigrated from Europe to the US. The partition of India sparked off the relocation of over 4.5 million people across the new border. The end of colonialism in several countries led to several such migrations in some countries in Africa and other parts of the world.
Migrations tell a story by themselves. If one were to study the cases, they give the history, geo-political realities and the economic scenario of both the sending and the receiving countries.
This book gives exhaustive details on migrations. However, it is all numbers and routes only. The book does not discuss the human element of this great on-going movement, probably because that issue is absolutely complex, too vast to be compiled into any category. The book gives enough material to be a source book for any student of politics, anthropology, geography, economics, public administration and population studies. With bright coloured charts and maps, the content is well presented. It is a very useful if not essential atlas. The authors Russel King, Richard Black, Michael Collyer, Tony Fielding and Ronald Skeldon are all from the University of Sussex. The University has The Sussex Centre for Migration Research.
(Earthscan Ltd, Dunstan House, 14a St Cross Street, London ECIN 8XA, UK,)