Migration data in Oceania

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 semi‑autonomous territories1 in the area that do not maintain representation at the United Nations, and these are not included in these analyses.

Oceania is a region of migrants: there are 8.7 million migrants amongst the region’s 41 million people (UN DESA, 2019). With migrants comprising 21 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%), Palau (28%), New Zealand (22%), and Nauru (19%). In contrast, on average migrants represent only 2.2 per cent of the population in the region’s other countries.

Around half of the 2 million migrants originating from countries in Oceania remain in the region, reflecting both economic opportunity and socio‑political ties. In addition, 41,000 people from Oceania have migrated to one of the nine semi-autonomous territories located within the Pacific Ocean including American Samoa (18,175) and Guam (12,929) (ibid.). In contrast, the majority of the 577,255 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. Similarly, almost all 219,126 emigrants from Papua New Guinea (and 8,205 from the Marshall Islands) now live in Northern America (ibid.).

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