Economy, Business And Markets

A Look at Iran’s Migration Profile

A Look at Iran’s Migration ProfileA Look at Iran’s Migration Profile

The International Migrants Day was marked on Sunday. Migration Policy Institute once called Iran a unique country since it has experienced simultaneous emigration and immigration to extreme degrees.

“It has produced and hosted abundant flows of emigration and immigration, a steady coming and going mainly driven by key political events,” it said.

During the past decades, Iran has always been among the top five refugee-hosting countries; the other four being Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon.

The country is hosting over one million registered refugees mostly from Afghanistan and Iraq. The numbers of refugees are much larger than figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other international institutions suggest.   

Ironically, Iranians account for a large population of asylum-seekers in Europe. According to Eurostat, most asylum claims were filled by citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran in the second quarter of 2016.

Germany received most of Iranians’ asylum applications (68%) during the period, followed by the UK (12%), Hungary (5%), Austria (4%) and Greece (3%).  

Based on socioeconomic status and motivations for migration, Iranian emigrants can be divided into two more groups: individuals who are educated and skilled, and unskilled or semi-skilled individuals who move abroad to advance their economic and professional ambitions.

As the first group includes migration of large numbers of professionals, entrepreneurs and academics, it accelerates the “brain drain or human capital flight”, terms used to describe the emigration of a country’s most educated and highly skilled for better opportunities in another country.

Among the factors contributing to the brain drain are economic well-being and better educational prospects abroad. The inability of the home country to respond to its citizens’ needs, coupled with high unemployment rates and a general lack of intellectual and social security, all contribute to the brain drain.

The International Monetary Fund claimed in January 2006 that Iran ranks highest in brain drain among 91 developing and developed countries, with an estimated 150,000 to 180,000 educated people exiting annually.

However, a report by the Persian weekly Tejarat-e Farda claims Iran ranks fourth among all countries when it comes to its share of educated, skilled emigrants in the world.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization statistics show Malaysia, the US, the UK, the UAE and Italy were the main destination of Iranian students in 2012. Around 52,000 Iranian students were studying outside the country in that year, constituting 1.5% of international student markets.

There is scant statistical data by local institutions on Iranian economic migrants. The only available figures are those by Persian Gulf littoral states, which show 150,000 and 98,000 Iranian economic migrants were working in Qatar and Kuwait in 2015, respectively.


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