Large-scale emigration from Poland took place before World War II, with the heaviest exodus in the decades before World War I.
Between 1871 and 1915, a total of 3,510,000 Poles, Polish Jews, and Ukrainians emigrated, about half of them to the United States. Emigration diminished greatly during the interwar period, when France became the chief country of destination. Between 1921 and 1938, some 1,400,000 Poles emigrated, while 700,000 returned. Poland suffered a net population loss of nearly 11,000,000 between 1939 and 1949 through war losses, deportations, voluntary emigrations, and population transfers arising out of territorial changes. An estimated 6,000,000 Germans left the present western territories of Poland when these territories came under Polish jurisdiction, and since the end of World War II more than 7,500,000 Poles have settled in the area. From the 1950s through the 1980s, Germans leaving for Germany constituted the bulk of emigrants; Jews also left in substantial numbers for Israel, both in the immediate postwar years and during the 1950s and 1960s. Another emigration wave occurred after the imposition of martial law in December 1981.
Since 1989, Poland has been open to refugees. However, while tens of thousands of people transit Poland every year, the number of recognized refugees has been rather limited. As of 1999, there were 500 recognized refugees, including Bosnians who arrived in 1992. Since 1997, there has been a significant increase in the number of asylum applicants, from some 800 in 1995 to nearly 3,400 in 1998. Nonetheless, the great majority leave Poland before their cases are finalized. Main countries of origin include Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Armenia. In 2000, the net migration rate was -0.5 migrants per 1,000 population, amounting to a loss of approximately 20,000 people. In that year the total number of migrants was 2,088,000. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.