A new study finds that more than 10,000 people from around the world migrated to the Middle Eastern desert to escape the violence and poverty of Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Researchers analyzed the genomes of nearly 7,000 individuals from more than 20 countries and found that, at the most extreme extreme end, at least one person from every region of the world is said to have migrated to one of the most religious places on Earth.
“There’s a huge amount of data on migration that we don’t have in terms of how much of it is a result of migration, what kind of population, what kinds of geographic area,” says David Alford, a geneticist at the University of Southern California and lead author of the study.
The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that at least half of the individuals from the five most religious regions in the world have migrated since at least the second half of last century.
One of the major points of contention among scholars is whether the migration is linked to religious wars or persecution.
In some cases, the study suggests that religious violence has driven some individuals to flee the region, while others, including a subset of migrants, were motivated by poverty.
Still, Alford said, the findings show that migration is not an inevitable outcome of religious conflict.
Alford and his colleagues analyzed data from 1,800 individuals from around 50 different countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Turkey and Ukraine.
They compared the genomes with information about migration patterns and found the genomes that are most closely related to migrations to the region were more closely related than others.
But the authors also note that some migration data is limited to individuals who left a region, so it’s impossible to draw firm conclusions about the exact number of people who migrated from one place to another.
Overall, the researchers found that at the extremes of migration patterns, at times as many as 30 percent of the population has migrated to an area with at least some degree of religious and/or ethnic conflict.