According to a definition by the United Nations (UN), an international migrant is someone who lives outside of their regular country of residence for at least one year. If a refugee has spent more than a year outside of his or her country, a refugee is also considered to be an international migrant according to this definition.
The UN estimates that in 2005 worldwide there have been around 200 international migrants, 9 million of which have been refugees. This number, 200 million, roughly equals to the population of Brazil, which is the fifth largest country on the planet by population. The number of international migrants has been on the rise in the last 25 years. Only in the first five years of this century, this number increased by 25 million.
The numbers are not the only change that is occurring. Before 1990 the majority of international immigrants were coming from one developing country to another developing country. Today most of the international immigrants live in the developed countries. The ratio of international immigrants in the developed countries also keeps going up. In 2000, there have been 50 million international migrants living in various European countries, 44 million in Asia and 41 million in North America. The most important countries in the world for migration have been the United States and Russia with 35 million and 13 million of immigrants.
It is often very hard to identify where the immigrants are coming from because many of the origin countries do not keep the count of how many people are leaving. According to various estimates, there are at least 8 million Filipinos leaving abroad, 35 million Chinese and 20 million people who were originally born in India. These numbers mean that international migration is an important issue in every part of the world.