MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – Russia hosts the world’s largest population of immigrants after the United States, according to a new UN study showing that the number of people living abroad across the globe has reached a record high.
New figures released Wednesday by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) in New York indicated that 232 million people (3.2 percent of the world’s population) live abroad. Over 11 million of them live in Russia, the study found.
The total number of international migrants has considerably increased over the past two decades, from 154 million in 1990 to 175 million in 2000.
The US remains the most popular destination with a total 45.8 million migrants, while Germany (9.8 million) is ranked third after Russia, the UN study said.
But while the number of foreign migrants has been steadily growing since 2000 in the US and other most popular destinations, Russia recorded a slight annual average decrease of about 0.6 percent in its immigrant population in that period. According to UN data, Russia hosted 12 million migrants in 2000.
The immigration issue remains a contentious one in Russia’s politics and society, with surveys consistently revealing popular hostility towards the influx of people from abroad. Government migration officials estimate that most of Russia’s immigrants originate from the impoverished neighboring former Soviet nations that share a visa-free regime with the country and are mostly looking for work.
"The former Soviet Union retains close migratory ties," the UN study said, adding that "bilateral migrant stocks" are especially large in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine.
Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS) said Thursday only a minor percentage of international migrants have permanently settled in Russia, unlike the situation in Europe, according to official data.
The number of immigrants in Russia registered as temporary and permanent residents stands at 718,600, an FMS spokesperson told RIA Novosti.
“Most of those people have integrated in our society and contribute to Russia’s economy. Experts estimate that Russia has a demand for more such people,” the spokesperson added.
According to the study, the other world’s top destinations for people moving abroad include Saudi Arabia (9.1 million),United Arab Emirates (7.8 million), United Kingdom (7.8 million), France (7.4 million), Canada (7.3 million), Australia (6.5 million), and Spain (6.5 million).
The data showed Asians account for the largest group of migrants in 2013, accounting for about 19 million people living in Europe, some 16 million in North America and about 3 million in Oceania.
The figures were released ahead of a high-level global summit on migration and development to be held by the UN General Assembly in New York on October 3 and 4.