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Leaving no migrant uncounted – better data for safe, regular and orderly migration

As the number of international migrants continues to grow, reaching highest levels in decades, it is becoming increasingly important for the public and the policymakers to understand its impact on individuals, societies and economies. How many migrants arrive and leave a country? Who are they and why do they move? When, if at all, do they return to their country of origin? What is the impact of migration on the individuals and their families? What is the impact of migration on countries of origin and destination?

Providing reliable and timely answers to these questions can be challenging for national statistical systems, oriented predominantly to monitoring the population usually resident in the country. Capturing those on the move is becoming even more difficult with increasing complexity of migration phenomena and a growing number of people fitting neither a traditional definition of a migrant nor that of a usual resident of a country.

Countries have recognized at the highest level the importance of issues of international migration and better statistics for its measurement. In 2016, they adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which includes a commitment to negotiate and adopt a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and calls for improved data collection. Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes ten targets related to migration, while the United Nations Statistical Commission recommends that all Sustainable Development Goal indicators be broken down by migratory status where relevant.

Experts from national statistical offices exchanged experience and discussed common challenges at the annual joint UNECE and Eurostat Work Session on Migration Statistics, held in Geneva on 30 and 31 October. The discussions addressed such issues as the integration of data from censuses, administrative registers and surveys; measuring integration of migrants in the receiving countries; producing statistics on refugees and asylum seekers; and measuring migration related to labour and education.

Recognizing the importance of studying the settlement of migrants and their families in a long-term perspective, the Work Session recommended pursuing methodological work on the use of longitudinal data, that is, data on the same individuals recorded over time, for regular production of migration statistics. Such data can provide crucial insights into whether migrants become part of the receiving society, participating in the labour market education system and local communities or rather face problems leading to marginalization and isolation of migrant communities.

To strengthen capacities of countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia to produce migration statistics, UNECE also held a workshop in cooperation with the Interstate Statistical Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States on 1‑2 November.

Synthesizing all UNECE work on migration statistics, the UNECE Executive Committee further held a discussion on 6 November 2017 on coordinated UNECE regional input to the process towards the Global Compact. The discussion focused on the key measurement issues and capacity building activities. Countries recognized that important challenges exist in collecting data and producing statistics on many aspects of migration, and that better use of administrative sources and integration of data from different sources have been identified as main avenues for tackling these challenges. They appreciated the platform provided by UNECE for country experts to exchange experience, learn from each other, advance the implementation of methodological guidance, and exchange data. In their statements, representatives of Belarus, the Russian Federation, Switzerland and the European Union all emphasized the importance of reliable migration data for decision-making and highlighted their particular challenges and efforts in addressing them.

Details of the meetings, including papers and presentations, can be accessed at the following links:

2017 UNECE-Eurostat Work Session on Migration Statistics

UNECE workshop on migration statistics

94th meeting of the UNECE Executive Committee