A migrant looks at the sea as he waits with other migrants
Paris - AFP
Migrant workers in Europe sent a whopping $109.4 billion back to their home countries last year -- supporting an estimated 150 million people around the world, a new report said Monday.
Two-thirds of that money went to developing countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, the study by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) found.
The other third was sent by migrants to relatives within Europe, particularly from Russia and western Europe towards poorer Eastern European countries.
Migrants can play a "critical role in the economic transformation of their home communities", the report said.
"In countries that have faced natural disasters, economic hardship or political instability, the diaspora not only takes care of the daily needs of family members, but are also the first to respond in times of emergency."
Within the EU, the estimated $63.7 billion sent home by migrants last year was roughly equivalent to the union's entire aid budget, the report found.
Most of the migrants' money was made in Russia as well as western European countries such as Germany, Britain and France.
Nigeria, China and Morocco topped the list of countries receiving the cash.
These remittances often equal 50 percent or more of the families' incomes back home, the report said.
The IFAD said the money transfer sector could do more to benefit senders and recipients alike, such as reducing transfer costs. In 2009, leaders at the G20 summit set a goal of reducing transfer costs to five percent -- which could save migrant workers an additional $2.5 billion, according to the IFAD.
"The immense potential of remittances for development is still largely underutilised but it is within our capacity to make every hard-earned euro, ruble, pound, krona, or Swiss franc sent home count even more," said IFAD president Kanayo F. Nwanze.
This past year Europe has seen a tremendous surge in migrants, with many of them risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean in makeshift boats.
Over 100,000 people -- many of them escaping conflict, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and Africa -- have made the journey this year, with around 1,800 drowning in the attempt.
Those lucky enough to arrive in Europe and find work often send money back home to family and friends.
"Remittances are often the only thing that families living in the most difficult circumstances imaginable can consistently count on," the report said.
Millions of EU citizens -- particularly workers from poorer Eastern European countries -- have taken advantage of freedom of movement within the union to move west in search of opportunity.