All The World's Immigration Visualized In One Map

This map shows the estimated net immigration (inflows minus outflows) by origin and destination country between 2010 and 2015.

Blue circles = positive net migration (more inflows). Red circles = negative net migration (more outflows). Each yellow dot represents 1,000 people..

Country-to-country net migration (2010-2015)

Click here to view the interactive version of this map

Immigration: the new Godwin's Law

If you're not familiar with Godwin"s law, it is an old internet adage that states, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler approaches 1."

Lately, I've found a similar principle applies to immigration. No matter what topic is being discussed online, if the conversation goes on for long enough, someone will inevitably tie it back to immigration.

Immigration has always been an important and frequently debated issue. And for many current events, the connection with immigration is clear, for example: terrorism / ISIS, the Brexit, Donald Trump and this year's presidential race, the refugee crisis. But at some point in the last year or two, I started noticing immigration being mentioned in connection with all sorts of topics I never would have expected.

To see what I mean, here are some of the topics I've posted about where immigration came up in discussion, either in the comment section of the post or on social media:

Why is immigration suddenly the cause / result / solution of everything? (Not meant rhetorically. If you have a good answer, I'd love to know.)

Who is migrating from where to where?

For a topic that comes up so often, I've found there to be a real lack of factual information about immigration online. Hopefully this map is helpful is clearing up at least the simple, basic statistics: how many migrants are there? Where are they coming from? And where are they going?

Please keep in mind, these numbers are only estimates. You can find the full details of how they were calculated at the bottom of the post.

That said, here are a few of the pieces I found interesting.


Between 2010 and 2015, the net migration from Syria to Sweden was more than Syria's net migration to the rest of Europe and the Americas combined.

Many Middle Eastern countries have been criticized for allegedly accepting few Syrian refugees. In Qatar and the UAE, the net migration appears to actually be negative. Though of the Middle Eastern countries that are accepting Syrian refugees, the numbers they are dealing with are orders of magnitude higher than in the West.

The United Kingdom / Brexit

In the Brexit debate, the loudest arguments in favor of leaving the EU have been about immigration. What strikes me as interesting is how small a portion of the UK's net immigration is actually coming from Europe.


Australia, another country where immigration has become a highly politically charged issue, jumps out as an interesting case.

By these estimates, Australia's net immigration is negative with every country in the world, except for a small positive immigration balance with Sudan. Australia is the only country in the world to have significant positive net immigration with the US.

United States

Last month, I posted a map visualizing 200 years of US immigration (inflows only). I would have liked to do the same with US emigration, which may be the more interesting direction since it is not nearly as well known. Unfortunately the US does not keep good emigration records and the best data I've managed to find goes back only a few decades. So, I don't foresee being able to make a historical US emigration map.

Still, I think it's pretty interesting to see what US net immigration flows look like in the present.

As mentioned above, according to these estimates, the US has significant positive net immigration with only one other country, Australia. The country with which the US has the largest negative net immigration is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Mexico. Though the amount by which Mexico leads is down substantially compared to a decade ago. Illegal immigration in particular has fallen off sharply, as demonstrated by this time series of border apprehensions from Pew Research.


When US immigration is viewed by region, the area that really stands out is Asia, which now accounts for just as much US immigration as all of North + South America (Mexico included).

Immigration between the US and Mexico is particularly complex, since it involves both legal and illegal immigration as well as temporary laborers, deportations, and a large number of people living in immigration detention facilities. For that reason, America's true net migration with Mexico is uncertain, and may actually be much lower than what's shown here. If you believe Pew's estimates, net migration with Mexico is now actually negative: more people are migrating from the US to Mexico than vice versa.

Regardless of where you stand politically on immigration, you have to admit, it's pretty strange how rarely basic stats like these enter the debate. For all the discussion in the US about border fences and immigration limits, the simple question of "how many immigrants are there?" hardly ever even comes up.


The data for this map comes from the UN Population Division's estimates for Total Migrant Stock -- the number of global migrants, broken down by country of residence and country of origin. The numbers are not fully consistent. In some cases, they represent foreign citizens and in others they represent foreign born. See the dataset itself for the full set of footnotes.

To convert those figures into immigration estimates, I took the difference between the migrant stock in 2015 and that in 2010. Since some of that difference is due to mortality, not immigration, I adjusted the 2010 numbers down assuming an annual mortality rate of 0.8%, the global average.

The map was made in Javascript using D3, three.js, and MapboxGL.

This post originally appeared on Metrocosm