Migration, Immigration and Emigration – Differences and examples


We explain what emigration, immigration and emigration are, the differences between them, their similarities and examples.

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It is estimated that there are 272 million migrants for labor, political or military reasons.

What are migration, emigration and immigration?

Migration is the change of habitual residence of a living being, either permanently or seasonally, that is, to change in habitat and location for long periods of time. Those who undertake these movements are known as migrants or migratory species.

It is possible to distinguish between animal migrations and human migrations, since they usually occur for different reasons and according to different mechanics: Animals migrate from one habitat to another, escaping from adverse weather conditions, or pursuing a safe place for courtship and reproduction.

For example, swallows often flee the winter to warmer latitudes, flying en masse until they find a suitable place to rebuild their nests. Once the cold is over, they make their way home en masse. Instead, human beings do it in pursuit of socioeconomic improvements or as a consequence of forced displacement due to wars, political crises or natural disasters.

Depending on one or the other the case, we will be in the field of study of zoology and ecology, or of geography and demography.

Difference between emigrate and immigrate

In the case of human migrations, they differ according to the point of view from which they are considered. If it is considered from the place that people leave, it is about emigration. On the other hand, if you consider from where they arrive, it is called immigration. One phenomenon cannot occur without the other, and the distinction between being an emigrant and an immigrant depends on the point of view.

Thus, for those who remain in their country of origin, those who abandon it in search of new places to reside, are emigrants, since they have left, they have left (the term comes from the Latin I will emigrate, literally “move out”).

On the other hand, those same individuals, perceived from the point of view of those who originate from the place to which they are going, become immigrants, since they come from abroad and settle within a new country (the term comes from the Latin immigrate, literally “move in”).

Emigration and immigration processes are very common throughout human history, and are direct causes of enrichment and genetic and cultural exchange between peoples that make up humanity. Since time immemorial, human beings have migrated, taking with them knowledge, customs, languages ​​and religions, which constitute a contribution to their new place of residence.

However, not everyone perceives these complex processes of human displacement in the same way, especially when they occur on a massive scale. The increase in the destination population that immigration brings with it has a direct impact on its economy.

Thus, new workers and new elements are added to the work culture, but at the same time competition for existing resources increases, which tends to generate discomfort in the original local population. Because, xenophobic attitudes may arise in contexts of mass immigration.

For its part, emigration is a debilitating phenomenon for the people of origin of migrants, who not only decreases their total population, but also loses workers, knowledge and talents, whose training took time and local resources, but whose fruits will be reaped by the destination country.

Today there are an estimated 272 million international migrants on the globe, two thirds of whom are labor migrants (that is, people seeking employment outside their country). Many others are displaced and refugees for political and military reasons (79.5 million), or asylum seekers abroad due to harassment and persecution in their countries (4.2 million). Migration is a typical phenomenon of the human species.

Examples of migration, immigration and emigration

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The human being is a migrant from the very beginning of his existence.

Throughout history there have been countless cases of human migrations. The capitals of the great ancient empires, in fact, were host sites for great waves of migration, and in general they were immensely cosmopolitan places. But a history of human migrations would not be complete without mentioning the following cases:

  • The expansion of the human species towards the different corners of the planet is the first case of massive migration in the history of our species. As we well know, humanity arose in the bosom of Africa, and from there it colonized Eurasia and the other continents about 60,000 to 65,000 years ago.
  • The Jewish exodus from Egypt, episode recounted in the Bible and that consisted of the abandonment of the Hebrew people from the imperial lands, in which they were treated as slaves, in pursuit of the promised land where they would found their own kingdom.
  • The period of the great migrations, understood according to the historians of the old time between centuries III and VII d. C., which included the so-called “barbarian invasions” that destabilized the Western Roman Empire, as well as other important political units in the Eurasia region: the Sassanid Empire, the Gupta Empire or the Han Empire.
  • The colonization of America that occurred after the war of conquest and subjugation of the American aboriginal peoples, implied the displacement of large masses of European settlers towards the so-called “New Continent” between the 15th and 19th centuries.
  • The Mediterranean migration crisis, which has taken place in the first decades of the 21st century, in which a large flow of refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants and other individuals in situations of extreme vulnerability, have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to flee from Africa and the East Middle to Europe, in pursuit of the long-awaited welfare state, or fleeing war and persecution. Unfortunately, this has aroused nationalist sentiment and xenophobic positions among some sectors of the European population, who perceive the massive arrival of migrants as a threat to their traditions and way of life.