The World’s Congested Human Migration Routes in 5 Maps

By Eve Conant, National Geographic
Maps by Matthew Chwastyk and Ryan Williams, National Geographic

Reposted from National Geographic

Desperate men, women, and children fleeing into Europe from the Middle East and Africa are not the only people moving along ever-shifting and dangerous migration routes.Plenty of other nations are also experiencing exoduses or are grappling with becoming transit points, smugglers' routes, or desired end points for migrants. The routes, which are often secretive, are cutting paths through Central America and Mexico, the Horn of Africa (there are now nearly one million Somali refugees), and countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Malaysia, along with the headline-making migrations through East Africa and the Mediterranean Sea.  

These four maps show some of the major mass migrations now underway:

The Eastern Mediterranean route—the passage long used by migrants crossing through Turkey to the European Union—has grown ever more crowded since the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011. Syrian routes have also been merging along easternmost points below the Mediterranean Sea of an East African migratory route that has long been used by people fleeing conflict in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.

Nearly 90 percent of those who attempt to reach Europe by sea come from ten countries, in descending order by percentage: Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, and Bangladesh.

Poverty and violence in Mexico and Central America has uprooted millions. Many have taken the treacherous journey north along smuggling routes, increasingly controlled by drug cartels, towards the U.S. border. The human flow includes more than 68,000 unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border between 2013 and 2014, according the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Long-simmering conflict in Colombia has resulted in more than six million internally-displaced people there while  an increasingly violent drug trade in Honduras and El Salvador has fueled more destabilization in the region.

Political upheaval—including Muslim Rohingya refugees who have fled political repression in Myanmar—restrictive migration policies, and a lack of legal frameworks for refugees have made Southeast Asia increasingly dangerous for migrants. Human trafficking, forced labor and other abuses are also rife in the region, according to the UN.

Earlier this year the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that some 6,000 people fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh were stranded at sea on overcrowded fishing boats controlled by smugglers in the Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca off the coasts of Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.  IOM also estimates that 94,000 migrants have set off by sea since 2014, including 31,000 this year.  

Addendum by Daniel Szabo and Ignatius Rautenbach

This is a good place to add a little more conversation on the phenomenon of South-South migration.

While there is a host of data suggesting that most migrants from the South move towards countries in the North, the numbers are almost matched by the migration flows to countries in the South. It is estimated, at least one third of migrants are moving from South to South. We surmise this number could be higher if more accurate data were available. The World Migration Report 2013 (WMR), published by IOM’s Migration Research Division (MRD) and supported by the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin, offers a wealth of different migration drivers that are most relevant in developing proper migration governance, both for short term as well as for long term perspectives.  

When looking at the different routes migrants are traveling, Joost van der Aalst, IOM Chief of Mission, Norway adds to this important discussion, stating the “Trek over the Western Balkan route for example is of disproportional size and is moving with clear specific destinations in mind, by enlarge Germany and Sweden.”  Joost goes on to add, “The current phenomenon of population movement in the South and South East of Europe is therefore not compatible with the ongoing migratory flows as for instance the permanent and gradual Western Sahara flow. Such distinction is most relevant in the design of policies to address the consequences of these movements.”

While it may be difficult to understand the full context of migration that happens between countries we do not live, or have never been to, having an awareness of them paints a more complete picture of what the nature of migration is and how it affects the lives of migrants around the world.

We would like to thank National Geographic for their continued support of our efforts.

Read the complete article from National Geographic here

For more information on deaths and missing migrants please visit Missing Migrants Project