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How people migrate

Networks

Another major influence on the choice of destination is the availability of a ready network of contacts.

Things are always much more difficult for migrant pioneers. They have to decide where to go and find out about documentation and visas (or how to travel without them) and they have to find work quickly. Things are easier for those who follow. Over the years immigrant communities have provided them with an invaluable source of advance information and practical help and accommodation.

One of the most important things that the network can do is to suggest employment. Many villages in Mexico, for example, are linked through informal networks with certain US farms. One pioneer migrant will arrange with the employer for his family and friends to come to the same place. He or she may also help finance the trip and advise on how to get across the border - and will often train and take responsibility for the new employees .

These systems also mean that certain nationalities are gradually concentrated into particular employment niches. Thus, by the mid-1990s almost half of the economy motels in the US were owned by Indians, a high proportion of the fruit and vegetable shops in many cities were owned by Koreans, and if you went into a doughnut shop in California you were very likely to be served by a Cambodian.

So deep and extensive have these networks become, with people traveling back and forth between countries, and linked by telephone and email, that they have now created new kinds of 'transnational community'.

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Phoning home

Migrant workers keep in touch with their families back home