Since Homo Sapiens dispersed across Africa and beyond some 70,000 years ago, people have been on the move. They travelled in search of sustainable sources of food, water and shelter.
In recent times, migrants have chosen to move to new locations, often in search of better opportunities. For many the aims are short-term: to make money to send back to relatives, to experience life in another country, then to return home. But some settle down, bringing family members to join them. Like migrants in other times and places, their reception will be mixed. Societies need migrants to thrive and grow. They need them to refresh and develop their cultures. But their existing citizens often feel threatened or suspicious of newcomers who they may see as competitors for jobs, benefits, education and housing.
Some people have had no choice but to leave their homes and families, forced out by extreme poverty, war or policies of violence or exclusion. As refugees or asylum seekers, they have fled their places of origin, undertaking sometimes long and arduous journeys in search of safety and security.
According to the United Nations, in 2010 there were about 214 million international migrants. That is about 3% of the world’s population and the equivalent in size of a very large country. Whether forced or voluntary, migrants move because they hope for better lives for themselves and their families.
Emmanuel Changunda, ‘A journey to safety’ (2008) © Aria Ahmed