The Migration Information Source asked leading migration experts from all over the world, "What surprised you most this year?" Their answers came from the headlines as well as personal observations about what the media does — and does not — report.
Dr. Rubén G. Rumbaut
Professor of Sociology, University of California, Irvine; Co-author, Immigrant America: A Portrait and Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation; and Co-Director, Center for Research on Immigration, Population, and Public Policy, UCI
"It never ceases to surprise me that, in a world of 6.5 billion people, 98 percent are 'stayers,' living in the country of their birth; that the remaining two percent, international migrants of a bewildering variety of origins, migration motives, and modes of adaptation to their new environments, are at heart ambitious, determined, and intrepid souls, which is what makes migration the 'selective' process that it is; and that, all things considered, so little focused attention is paid to either of those two facts."
Dr. Mary Garcia Castro
Member of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM); Researcher at the UNESCO Representation in Brazil; and Associated Researcher at the Center of Studies on International Migration, University of Campinas, Sao Paulo
"The year 2005 was important to international migration in singular ways. Its visibility grew, and despite the fact that, in the media, a great deal of information was about migrants' vulnerability and state control and reactions against them, as well as first-world population fears of these 'others,' positive signals about the importance of the issue came out.
"The Global Commission on International Migration report and its international repercussions indicate that a coherent and sound proposal for the governance of international migration was presented.
"Another positive trend, despite its ambiguous meaning, is how some world media have captured the reactions of the young second generation of migrants in France against the situation they have been enduring for so long: racism, prejudice, and human rights violations by police and other state institutions. The message sent by the second generation is clear: it is enough, there are limits to human rights violations, and migrants are not as passive as they are commonly represented.
"Summing up, other types of information and actions on international migration are needed by the international community, first-world countries as well as origin ones. In 2005, clear signals on such a need were sent by different sources, including the migrants themselves."
Faculty of Law, Economics and Social Sciences, Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco; President, Moroccan Association of Migration Studies
"It is astonishing that certain politicians in positions of authority treat young citizens from the [Paris] suburbs as migrants, sons of migrants, confirming them in their status as citizens apart, while in order better to integrate them, they must be considered as full-fledged citizens."
Head of Statistics, UNHCR, Geneva
"In 2005, the global refugee population under the mandate of the UN Refugee Agency dropped to 9.2 million, the lowest level since 1980.
"The number of refugees is falling for two main reasons. First, fewer people need to escape their country due to conflict or persecution. Second, more refugees are able to return home or to integrate in host societies.
"This may be a surprise to those who rely on the mass media for their information, but it is very good news, not least for refugees."
Dr. Jorge Santibañez Romellon
President, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Mexico
"I will say that in 2005 the three most important events regarding international migration took place in three different spaces and are related to three different processes.
"First I will mention the violence initiated in Paris's suburbs, showing that receiving countries are making a huge mistake handling immigrant's integration, from the conceptual and practical point of view.
"The second one is related to sub-Saharan migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea through Melilla and who were shot by Moroccan police, indicating that transit countries do not have the means, nor an appropriate public policy, to handle transit migration processes.
"Finally, in the Mexico-U.S. region, it is clear that if migratory reform were to take place, if ever, it would be under the umbrella of national security, and that Mexico is not doing the job it should be doing regarding its own migratory flows under this umbrella in the short term and social development in the long term, showing that we are currently facing a worst-case scenario, where the receiving country is mistaken about its migratory process and the exit country is not facing its responsibilities."
Federation Fellow, Professor of the Discipline of Geographical and Environmental Studies and Director of the National Centre for Social Applications of Geographical Information Systems at the University of Adelaide, Australia
"A most surprising (and encouraging) development in international migration to me in 2005 was an unexpected increase in the amount of bilateral and multilateral discussion and dialogue on migration-related issues between sending and receiving nations in the Asia-Pacific region.
"This has partly come as a kick-on effect of discussions between nations undertaken initially on migration and security issues in the wake of 9/11. This has set up relationships of trust and linkages which are beginning to convince sending and receiving nations that they both have something to gain from mutual discussions.
"While these developments have been small, they may be important in encouraging bilateral and multilateral discussions on migration."
Prof. Rita Süssmuth
Member of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM); former President of the German Federal Parliament; and former Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Women, Youth and Health
"In 2005, a new immigration law went into force in Germany; its concepts reaffirmed the current migration paradigm that Germany is indeed a country of immigration. It also introduced, for the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, integration courses designed by the government.
"Contrary to popular opinion, immigrants in Germany showed great interest and extreme motivation in participating in integration courses on language and culture. This disproved the notion that immigrants do not want to play an active role in the integration process. It also showed that immigrants do prefer integration over segregation when given a choice."
Senior Economist, World Bank
"To me, a major milestone in the area of international migration for the year 2005 was a broad agreement in the international community that international migration helps reduce poverty and achieve other internationally agreed development goals.
"This was reflected by the decision of the World Bank to devote a flagship report to remittances and migration. Remittances posted another year of surprisingly strong growth: the 2004 figure turned out to be 26 percent higher than what was expected earlier in the year."
Chair of the Demography Department and Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Warsaw University, Poland
"The most interesting thing to me was a sudden collapse of the republican French policy of immigrant integration, which manifested itself in recent Muslim street riots, especially vis-a-vis a German policy of immigrant selective exclusion which seems to bring about more social peace."