The second wave of immigration of many South Americans to the UK comes accompanied with better working and living conditions. Ecuadorians are one of the migrant groups that are finding a new opportunity in London after escaping the Spanish crisis.
According to details from the Office for National Statistics, Ecuadorians make up only 5% of the Latin Americans that live in England, in other words, between some 7,000 and 10,000 of London Latin Americans originate from the Andean country.
They are visible mainly in the districts of Lambeth and Southwark, where close to 50% of the Ecuadorians who live in the British capital have their homes.
Luis Reinoso is president of the Ecuadorian Community Association in the United Kingdom (ECA), a not-for-profit organisation formed by volunteers that defends and supports the rights and the social, labour and economic well being of Ecuadorians in the UK.
Talking to The Prisma, Reinoso reiterates that the main difficulty for his compatriots is the language. “Mastering the English language is very important for getting along in London, as much as in the social sphere as in the work sphere. It is vital for adapting.”
Statistical details show that 11% of the Ecuadorians that have arrived in the UK had no knowledge of the language and 22% arrived with basic knowledge.
Not expressing oneself correctly, thus not being able to maintain a fluid conversation, is the main reason why many Latin American immigrants are employed in non-skilled jobs despite having superior qualifications. The Ecuadorians are no exception, and a statistic from the SENAMI, an Ecuadorian immigrant organisation in the UK, shows that 50% are employed in cleaning.
“Ecuadorians are not victims of racism, as, on the one hand, there aren’t many Britons in London. But another reason [for working in poorly paid jobs] is that, as they don’t know much English, they are always looking to join with other Spanish speakers.”
Among other characteristics of the Ecuadorian community, Reinoso comments that, “despite the effort to integrate themselves into a multicultural culture, most don’t forget their origins and maintain their traditions and lifestyles.”
Members of the Ecuadorian community started to arrive in large numbers during the first decade of the 2000s. A report carried out in 2011 notes that between 50% and 60% of these citizens began a new life in the UK during this time.
“I would say that more than 90% of Ecuadorians who have arrived in the last few years have come from a European country, mainly from Spain and Italy. They are Europeanised Latin Americans, and having previously attained European national status, and have improved their working and living conditions in the UK.”
What’s more, Reinoso points out that throughout the years there has been a change in the profile of migrants coming from his country.
“Arriving in England in the 1990’s was much more difficult, people were even more unaware of the language, and they were lost. Recent immigrants come more educated and with a better level of English. Now, adapting and starting is easier, many have friends and family here who help them from before the start of their journey.”
He is aware that his organisation plays a fundamental role in helping the Ecuadorian community in the UK, but he still seems more satisfied in recognising that there currently exists a predisposition amongst other immigrant organisations and official institutions to collaborate with each other.
(Translated by Ollie Phelan)