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Why people migrate

Development disruption

Another factor influencing emigration is the disruption caused by economic and social development.

Development and modernization break up many of the relationships that hold communities together. Large-scale commercial agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean Basin, for example, has displaced millions of small producers. Mexico is one of the clearest examples. From 1989 onwards, the government started to dismantle the system of communally held 'ejido' land and reduced subsidies to farmers. Since then hundreds of thousands of Mexicans have left the land

Most of those former farmers had to leave the countryside and flocked to the Third World's towns and cities. But the cities generally cannot offer the jobs the immigrants need so the millions of people who crowd the slums and squatter settlements may also ultimately be tempted - or forced - to look further afield.

This is similar to the processes which European countries went through two hundred or more years ago during the industrial revolution. Added to this there have been profound demographic changes, largely as a result of falling death rates, that have resulted rapid increases in population size. Nevertheless the underlying principle is similar — that the disruption caused by economic and social development makes people more mobile and creates the conditions for emigration.

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Mexican farm worker

This Mexican man is waiting to attempt to enter the US. NAFTA has made farming unprofitable. Instead he hopes to harvest tomatoes and melons in California.
Photo: Radi Ann Porter