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“Roots 2”: Waves of migration reach Santiago

Chile has become the point where the various exoduses of South America join up. Those who are choosing the trans-Andean country as their second home have lived through conflicts, and economic disorder, and they are searching for a better future. The Prisma’s Memoirs. December 2017


Marcella Via


In recent years, attention in Europe on migration issues has been focussed on the wave of refugees heading towards their frontiers, forgetting that this phenomenon is also occurring on other continents on a large scale.

In the same way, international forces on the other side of the Atlantic have lead to movements of people seeking a better future.

Among those events, the ones that stand out are the conflict in Colombia, the economic crisis in Argentina, the social and economic disorder in Venezuela, and the earthquake in Haiti.

These events have contributed to create different waves of migration, which have converged towards Chile.

And it has reached the point where the number of migrants has quadrupled, according to information from the Library of the National Congress of Chile, and the Ibero-American Observatory on Human Mobility, Migrations and Development (OBIMID). Concretely, since 2001, Chile has become the South American country that receives the largest number of migrants, with a total of 465,319 cases recorded according to the Casen report in 2015.

And although there are no exact figures and it is necessary to wait for Casen 2017, according to the calculations of the Department of Migration and Aliens, the population of immigrants could be as high as 600,000.

Certainly, there are different geo-political contexts which have transformed Chile into one of the destinations most frequently chosen by migrants.

One of these has been the increase in control and security at the borders of the US since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Another, is what happened in Argentina, because 2001 marked the serious economic crisis which has choked the country that until then had been the main destination for migration in Latin America.

As a result of events like these, Chile has been becoming the scene of a diaspora. According to the Casen report in 2015, the majority of migrants arriving in Chile originated in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The most important migratory movement of the decade of 2010 was the wave of Peruvian migration, involving a total of 130,361 people.

Other important currents arrived from Colombia, with 63,481 cases recorded, and Venezuela. In the latter case, the Aliens Department of the Investigations Police of Chile (PDI) reported that 23,000 Venezuelans applied for residence in Chile by the end of 2016.

And according to figures from the Department of Migration and Aliens: “in the last three years the Venezuelans have established themselves as the foreign community with the fourth highest growth rate, above neighbouring countries like Argentina, or others which have grown explosively, such as Haiti”.

And the number of Haitians arriving directly in Chile has grown exponentially since the earthquake which hit the country in 2010. It is estimated that Haitian migration to Chile grew by 731% with the arrival of 41,000 people between 2013 and 2016.

In this context the metropolitan region including the capital Santiago, is the place where most migrants are concentrated.

In the Chilean capital there are currently about 11,000 Venezuelans, 10,000 Peruvians, 8,000 Colombians, and 2,281 Haitians.

Outside the capital, the regions with the most immigrants are Tarapacá in the north, and Los Ríos in the south of the country.

When it comes to analysing the reasons for migration, it is difficult to distinguish between economic and political motives. In any case, in recent years Chile seems to offer a place of refuge for people seeking social, political and economic stability.

The figures collected in these reports and inquiries on the theme of growing migration in Chile might give the impression that the country has adapted to its new demographic characteristics, becoming a multi-cultural space.

Unfortunately, integration into Chilean society continues being a difficult process, involving several stages both bureaucratically and at the personal level.

What is certain is that Chile has turned into the principal destination for Latin-American migration. But it is necessary to achieve a better integration of its new inhabitants. Without that, multiculturalism will continue being a distant vision.

(Translated by Graham Douglas  – Email:

(Photos Pixabay)

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