Report on the Reality of Migration in South America

Buenos Aires, November 2019 – The migratory reality in the field of countries in which the Region N. Sra. Madre de los Migrantes, where we have our missionary presence, is marked in the last three years by the emergence of the massive Venezuelan immigration. In the most recent decades, these countries have mainly received intra-regional migration of contingents of Bolivian, Paraguayan and Peruvian migrants, which stabilized over the years. In Argentina, for example, there were practically no changes in the migratory stock of these groups since 2010: Paraguayans, 550,713; Bolivians, 345,272; Peruvians, 157,514. Peruvian immigrants in Chile have reached 223,923, mostly concentrated in Santiago. In Brazil, there is still great internal mobility due to the temporary migrations that move workers throughout the country, as well as an important rural-urban migration and Spanish-American immigration in some regions. However, it also perceived a stabilization in the groups of migrants at the beginning of that decade, Brazil has received a large Haitian immigration, which today divides with Chile the largest contingents in the region: Brazil with 67,226 and Chile with 17,849. Despite some emergency events with Haitians in some borders, such as the 2018 one on the border between Bolivia and Brazil, Corumbá, it can be said that these groups are also stabilizing. We must also mention the groups of Dominicans, Cubans and Africans that have been circulating in some countries of the region, as well as the problem of trafficking of people that remains a serious social issue in our countries.

But, since 2015, the countries of the continent have been overwhelmed by the massive arrival, or passage, of thousands of Venezuelan migrants, fleeing the deep social, political and economic crisis that Venezuela is going through. In the last four years, the volume of this displacement has grown exponentially. According to data collected by IOM: in 2015, 695,551 Venezuelan migrants were registered; in July 2019, that figure reached 4,326,330. In South America, we went from 86,964 in 2015, to 3,239,730, something around 75% of the total. In the countries in which we operate, this phenomenon has meant a profound change of scenery: in Peru, we went from 2,351 in 2015 to 853,429 in 2019; in Chile, from 8,001 in 2015 to 288,233 in 2019; in Argentina, from 12,856 in 2015 to 145 thousand in 2019; in Brazil, from 3,425 in 2015 to 168,357 in 2019. Uruguay, like Paraguay and Bolivia, has received a smaller contingent, but which also marks the daily life of the country. The numbers that register the border crossings between 2017 and 2018 indicate the size of that overflow: in Cúcuta, an increase of 89%; in Ramichaca (Ecuador), 250%; in Tumbes (Peru), 348%; in Santa Rosa (Chile), 125%; in Christ the Redeemer (Argentina), 125%. These figures explain the impacts of this phenomenon on recent rumors of the management of migration policies. In the case of Bolivia, the closure of Chilean borders with the growth of xenophobia in Peru, for example, has been perceived as an increase in the circulation of Venezuelans who pass through their territory in search of other destinations, evidencing a search for roads less and less safe.

The numbers do not say everything about the human drama experienced by Venezuelans and their families, those who have left and those who stayed. The numerous testimonies collected by the press, the research bodies and the care and reception centers help to imagine the meaning of this unusual forced migration. The same must be said about the daily impacts of societies that receive these migrants, which generate rejection reactions and restrictive measures in the field of migration management. The recent closure of the borders of Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, with the requirement of visas, for example, have caused situations of the humanitarian crisis at their borders. This trend of closing the borders, of restrictive policies, of police control of the migrant population (such as Decree 70/2017 that modifies Law No. 25,871 in Argentina, which facilitates the expulsion of foreigners), is reinforced by the emergence of right and extreme right rulers in a good part of our countries. In Latin America, too, there is a setback in regard to the rights of migrants.

Fr. Sidnei Marco Dornelas CS
CEMLA – Buenos Aires – Argentina