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Emigration is the act of leaving one's native country or region to settle in another. It is the same as immigration but from the perspective of the country of origin. Human movement before the establishment of political boundaries or within one state, is termed migration. There are many reasons why people might choose to emigrate. Some are for political or economic reasons, or for personal reasons like finding a spouse while visiting another country and emigrating to be with them. Many older people living in rich nations with cold climates choose to move to warmer climates when they retire.

Many political or economic emigrants move together with their families toward new regions or new countries where they hope to find peace or job opportunities not available to them in their original location. Throughout history a large number of emigrants return to their homelands, often after they have earned sufficient money in the other country. Sometimes these emigrants move to countries with big cultural differences and will always feel as guests in their destinations, and preserve their original culture, traditions and language, sometimes transmitting them to their children. The conflict between the native and the newer culture may easily create social contrasts, generally resulting in an uncomfortable situation for the "foreigners", who have to understand legal and social systems sometimes new and strange to them. Often, communities of emigrants grow up in the destination areas.

Emigration had a profound influence on the world in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, when millions of poor families left Europe for the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Brazilmarker, Argentinamarker, the rest of Latin America, Australia, and New Zealandmarker.

Even though definitions may be vague and vary somewhat, emigration/immigration should not be confused with the phenomenon of involuntary migration, such as instances of population transfer or ethnic cleansing.

Motives to migrate can be either incentives attracting people away, known as pull factors, or circumstances encouraging a person to leave, known as push factors, for example:

Push factors

These factors, excepting disagreement with politics and discontent with natives and immigrants, generally do not affect people in developed countries; even a natural disaster is unlikely to cause out-migration.

Pull factors

  • Higher incomes
  • Lower taxes
  • Better weather
  • Better availability of employment
  • Better medical facilities
  • Better education facilities
  • Better behaviour among people
  • Family reasons
  • Political stability
  • Religious tolerance
  • Relative freedom
  • National prestige

Emigration restrictions

Some countries restrict the ability of their citizens to emigrate to other countries. The Soviet Socialist Republics of the Soviet Unionmarker began such restrictions in 1918, with laws and borders tightening until even illegal emigration was nearly impossible by 1928. To strengthen this, they set up internal passport controls and individual city Propiska ("place of residence") permits, along with internal freedom of movement restrictions often called the 101st kilometre, which rules greatly restricted mobility within even small areas.

At then end of World War II in 1945, the Soviet Union occupied several eastern European countries, together called the Eastern Bloc, with the majority of those living in the newly acquired areas aspiring to independence and wanted the Soviets to leave. Before 1950, over 15 million immigrants emigrated from Soviet-occupied eastern European countries to the west in the five years immediately following World War II. By the early 1950s, the Soviet approach to controlling national movement was emulated by most of the rest of the Eastern Bloc. Restrictions implemented in the Eastern Bloc stopped most East-West migration, with only 13.3 million migrations westward between 1950 and 1990. However, hundreds of thousands of East Germansmarker annually emigrated to West Germanymarker through a "loophole" in the system that existed between East and West Berlinmarker, where the four occupying World War II powers governed movement. The emigration resulted in massive "brain drain" from East Germany to West Germany of younger educated professionals, such that nearly 20% of East Germany's population had migrated to West Germany by 1961. In 1961, East Germany erected a barbed-wire barrier that would eventually be expanded through construction into the Berlin Wallmarker, effectively closing the loophole. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, followed by the unification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

By the early 1950s, the Soviet approach to controlling international movement was also emulated by Chinamarker, Mongoliamarker, and North Koreamarker. North Korea still tightly restricts emigration, and contained the most strict emigration bans in the world even in the late 1980s, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, though some North Koreans illegally emigrate to China. Other countries with tight emigration restrictions at one time included Angolamarker, Ethiopiamarker, Mozambiquemarker, Somaliamarker, Afghanistanmarker, Burmamarker, Democratic Kampuchea , Laosmarker, North Vietnam, Iraqmarker, South Yemen and Cubamarker.


  1. Simon, James and Finney, Patricia, Publication, Access and Preservation of Scandinavian Immigrant Press in North America, Center for Research Libraries, Quebec, Canada, August 10-14, 2008.
  2. Kleinschmidt, Harald, Migration, Regional Integration and Human Security: The Formation and Maintenance of Transnational Spaces, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006,ISBN 0754646467, page 110


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