International migration

The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) is responsible at the international level for collecting and disseminating official national data on international migration.

The United Nations Statistics Division collects statistics on international migration flows and on the stock of migrant population through the Demographic Yearbook data collection system. The collection of international migration data is shared among different institutions in order to minimise the burden on countries.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) collects and compiles international labour migration statistics.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) collects and compiles data on asylum seekers and refugees more specifically on asylum applications, refugee status determination, recognition rates, refugee populations and movements, demographic characteristics (age and sex) as well as major refugee locations (camps, centers, urban areas, etc.).

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugee (UNRWA) provides statistics about Palestinian refugees, Agency installations, budget and staff for the programme in its areas of operations in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The United Nations Population Division prepares estimates of migrant stock for each country using the data provided by the United Nations Statistics Division; undertakes regular studies on national policies on international migration and assesses the impact of international migration on development.

Data collection

The United Nations Statistics Division collects data on flows and stock of migrants through the Demographic Yearbook data collection system. This is done by requesting countries to provide data by completing data questionnaires.

The questionnaires for collecting international migration flow statistics is:

Questionnaire on International Travel and Migration

Another questionnaire request data on international migrant stock collected from population censuses. These are:

Population Census Questionnaire

Data dissemination

The latest statistics on international migration flows can be found here. Before this, detailed statistics on international migration flows and stock were published by the United Nations Statistics Division in two issues of the Demographic Yearbook: 1977 and 1989. Two other issues of the Demographic Yearbook, published respectively in 1985 and 1994, include a limited number of tables pertaining to international arrivals and departures.

Data on migrant stock collected from national population censuses for the 1990 round (1985-1994) and the 2000 round (1995-2004) of censuses are available in electronic format on the Demographic Yearbook Special Census Topic Volume 3: International Migration Characteristics.

Based on our collection of national census questionnaires, UNSD compiled a database of census questions on the following three topics from the 2000 census round (1995-2004):

  • Country of birth
  • Country of citizenship
  • Year or period of arrival

A review of data collection and dissemination

A technical report was produced in 2004 to review the collection and dissemination of international migration statistics at the United Nations.

Standards and methods

The United Nations Statistics Division issues standards and methods approved by the Statistical Commission to assist national statistical authorities and other producers of statistics in the collection, compilation and dissemination of data.

Two most recent United Nations recommendations are related to the data collection on international migration:

Additional United Nations Recommendations on international migration and Handbooks are also available.



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