Migration data in Oceania

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Oceania is comprised of island nations with few shared land borders spread across the Pacific Ocean. Traditionally, the ocean was seen to connect people through a ‘sea of islands’ (Hau’ofa et al., 1993), resulting in the region’s current identity as the ‘Blue Pacific Continent.’ Its 14 countries are grouped into four geopolitical sub-regions: Australia and New Zealand; Melanesia (Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu); Micronesia (Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Palau), and Polynesia (Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu). There are nine semiautonomous territories[1] in Oceania that do not maintain representation at the United Nations, and unless specified otherwise, these are not included in the following analyses.

Oceania is a region of migrants: there were an estimated 9.1 million migrants amongst the region’s 41.8 million people as of mid-year 2020 (UN DESA, 2020). With migrants comprising approximately 22 per cent of the population, the region far outstrips global averages. The countries with the highest proportion of migrants in their population are Australia (30%), New Zealand (29%), Palau (28%) and Nauru (20%). In contrast, on average, migrants represent only 2.1 per cent of the population in the region’s other countries[2].

More than half of the 2 million migrants originating from the countries and semiautonomous territories in Oceania remained in the region, reflecting both economic opportunity and sociopolitical ties. This includes more than 61,000 people from Oceania who had migrated to one of the nine semi-autonomous territories located within the Pacific Ocean. Some major destinations among these territories include American Samoa (18,248),    New Caledonia (16,651) and Guam (15,370) (ibid.). In contrast, the majority of the 598,765  Australians living abroad have moved beyond the region, reflecting ongoing ties to the United Kingdom and the more recent origins of post-World War II migrants.