This diplomat has been in the post of Consul General in London for three years. Speaking about his community in the capital, he tells us they fit in perfectly: there is something about Argentineans that British people find particularly attractive.
Claudio Óscar Rojo has always had an interest in politics and psychology. He came from a middle class background with no diplomatic tradition, but a friend recommended he follow this route. “Diplomacy involves bringing these two aspects of the character together”, he says.
He studied Political Science, specialising in international relations with the idea of joining the Foreign Service. He has since held posts on his country’s delegations to the UN Security Council in North America and Consul General in Belgium.
“It was an honour to be asked to move to London for this post. It’s a privilege to serve my community, and it hasn’t been at all problematic”, comments Rojo.
As to what role he will carry out after this posting, he is uncertain. “In a couple of years I’ll return to Argentina. I honestly don’t know where I’ll land when I return. I try not to speculate; I’ll work it out the moment they tell me about my new post” says the diplomat.
In an interview with The Prisma, Claudio Óscar Rojo discusses consular activities, the situation of Argentineans in the city, and immigration.
What are the main functions of the consulate?
For the most part, our work involves giving assistance to fellow nationals arriving in the UK, or passing through. We have bureaucratic duties, giving assistance with passports, notarial processes, and travel permits: then we have the duty to protect the basic rights of our nationals, for example providing assistance to detainees. At the moment we have four nationals in custody: we visit them regularly and help as much as we can”.
The most important point is that the embassy and the city work alongside one another. That is why the embassy concerns itself with the promotion of cultural and commercial events. The new ambassador, Alicia Castro, took up her post in March of last year and she is doing a great job working with the Argentinean community: they feel more involved.
How have such activities been received?
The community values it; they feel a sense of coming together. Embassies and consulates have always been seen as out of reach and this is really the fault of career diplomats like me. Now there are presentations, conferences, tasting sessions, culture… The credit shouldn’t go to the consulate; but the ambassador.
The elections in Argentina take place in October. We want as many people as possible to register. The foreign vote isn’t obligatory but many people want to vote, so they need to change their address and register here.
We also want to bring forward some technological improvements: a better digitalised database would give us more precise statistics on Argentinians living in the UK.
How many people make up the Argentinean community?
There are approximately 3,300 people registered across the country. For the most part they live in urban regions: 68% live in, or two hours from, London. Aside from these residents, there are others who arrived with a European passport, above all from Spain and Italy: they are Argentinean but don’t show up in the statistics.
There have been several waves. One group descend from the Britons who went to work in Argentina in the rail industry decades ago. Another generation came to the UK in the 60s and 70s for political reasons, because of the military dictatorship. And finally, there are those who came for economic reasons, after the financial crisis in 2001 and the devaluation of the peso.
Has the migratory phenomenon changed over the years?
Yes, there are now a significant number of people coming from Spain or Italy, because of the economic situation. As I said, these people have European passports: they are Argentineans with dual nationality.
There are also a lot of people returning to Argentina, perhaps because of the recession, or simply for personal reasons. The country has improved, the economy has recovered, so if they return it’s because there’s work there for them already.
What is the current profile of an Argentinean immigrant?
Nowadays, immigration is about people coming to study, to carry out postgraduate degrees or work directly for companies who find them: some have started to study here and they’ve been offered the opportunity to stay.
What type of jobs do Argentineans in London have?
There are Argentineans working all over the city, many in important posts; they are truly valued. I remember the case of a musician who came to study and has stayed on to work as a teacher. We export very qualified people: it is something of a drain on our country’s resources. The majority are university graduates who are making an important contribution to society and the economy of this country.
We have never had any reports of discrimination. In fact, I think they are much loved in popular culture: think of our artists and footballers. There’s a kind of fascination, an attraction to Argentineans. They are valued, and the community has integrated well into local life. There are many instances of mixed marriages, and they are well established here.
How is the consulate’s relationship with others from the Latin American region?
We meet frequently to deal with issues common to all our countries and exchange experiences. We invite someone from the local authority, to speak on their area of expertise: immigration, diplomacy… they always get a good reception.
The community is very much immersed in issues facing both Argentina and the UK. We try to transmit important news, and report on the relationship between the two countries, for example the debate about the Malvinas/Falklands and our position on it. The community needs to stay informed because it represents the country. We are the official representatives; but having an informed, integrated and active community is like having hundreds of ambassadors.
(Translated by Claudia Rennie – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)