Uruguayan expatriates are returning at an average of 350 per month which is three times the 2010 rate, but his only refers to those that have formally requested advice and assistance from the country’s Foreign Affairs ‘Return and Welcome Office’.
“It is estimated that 600.000 Uruguayans live overseas (400.000 migrants and the rest children born outside of the country) mainly in Argentina, Spain, United States, Brazil and Australia” according to Gerardo Pérez head of the ministry’s office that links with Uruguayan overseas consulting councils.
Many of the Uruguayans returning are because of the growing economic difficulties in the countries they emigrated to while others have chosen to retire in their homeland. There are also a growing number of deportations from the US as well as from Europe, mainly Spain.
“Currently according to our estimates based on requests for information and aid, 350 people per month are returning to Uruguay but this is not definitive since many expats ignore the existence of this department and its net of offices and others simply do not need help”, said Perez.
Housing, jobs and health are the basic needs for those returning and the Uruguayan government coordinates efforts with the Housing ministry, grants them the health scheme for twelve months and the labour department helps retrain the newly arrived if needed.
However “we have problems with education” said Perez who admitted problems with the revalidation of degrees. “We are trying to coordinate with our local university and the Education ministry since Uruguay after all needs young educated people”.
The overseas consulting councils have the double purpose of keeping expats in contact with Uruguay and trying to have the highest possible level of participation.
According to Perez originally there were 47 of these councils in different countries but now the number is down to 17 and “we are holding an extraordinary meeting in Montevideo to try and determine why so many of them did not work”, admits Perez.
Another issue in which the current Uruguayan government is particularly interested is in promoting the ‘consular’ vote which would enable expats to vote in the national elections. The issue is highly controversial given that the Uruguayan population totals 3.4 million and those living abroad according to official estimates, are 600.000.