The Covid-19 pandemic may have slowed international migration flows by around 2 million people last year, cutting the annual growth expected since mid-2019 by around 27 per cent, according to a UN report.

International Migration 2020 Highlights, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) on Friday, shows that since the year 2000, however, there has been a major increase in migration, reports Xinhua news agency.

That year some 173 million people lived outside of their countries of origin. Twenty years later, that figure had risen to 281 million.

In a statement, Liu Zhenmin, UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said that "the report affirms that migration is a part of today's globalised world and shows how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, and undermined progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals".

The economic crisis in the wake of the pandemic has had a major impact on remittances, the money migrants send home to their countries of origin.

The World Bank projects that remittances sent back to low- and middle-income countries may see a $78 billion dip, around 14 per cent of the total amount.

This will negatively affect the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, especially in those countries with a big diaspora.

India, for example, has the largest diaspora in the world: 18 million people born in India live outside the country. Other nations with significant diasporas include Mexico, Russia, China and Syria.

Unsurprisingly, high income countries are the most coveted destinations for migrants.

The US takes the top spot with 51 million migrants hosted in 2020.

Germany hosted the second largest number of migrants worldwide, at around 16 million, followed by Saudi Arabia, Russia and Britain.

Many migrants do not travel far, however. Nearly half of them remain in the region from which they originated.

For example, in Europe 70 per cent of migrants come from another European country. Similarly, some 63 per cent of migrants in sub-Saharan Africa come from a country in the same region.

Contrary to some perceptions, the vast majority of refugees, around 80 per cent, are hosted in low- and middle-income countries, and constitute some 12 per cent of all international migrants.

The number of refugees is rising faster than voluntary migration: the number of people forced to leave home due to conflict, crises, persecution, violence or human rights violations has doubled from 17 to 34 million since the beginning of the 21st century.

In recognition of the need to better manage migration, the UN General Assembly has adopted several landmark agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

DESA said that around 60 countries have begun to adopt measures to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.