During the guano boom in the 1860s and 1870s, the Peruvian government imported Chinese laborers to mine the guano deposits, build railroads, and work on cotton plantations. Since then, Peru has not attracted large numbers of immigrants, although there are Japanese as well as Chinese enclaves in the coastal cities. In 1991, 377,485 Peruvians left the country, and 309,136 returned. The US was the leading country of destination (38%), with Chile second. Arrivals by foreigners outnumbered departures by 7,789. In 1999, Peru continued to produce more refugees than it received, due particularly to human rights violations. As of 1999, there were 433 recognized refugees, most of them from Latin American countries.
Recent governments have encouraged the movement of people into the empty areas of the eastern Andean slopes (the high selva) in order to bring the eastern provinces into the national economic mainstream. Since the 1950s, however, the main trend has been in the reverse, from the sierra to the coastal cities. Lima has received the bulk of rural migrants, and by the mid 1990s the metropolitan area of Lima supported nearly one-third of the total national population.
In 2000, the net migration rate was -1.1 migrants per 1,000 population. The total number of migrants living in Peru in that year was 46,000. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.