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Chile has fastest growing immigrant population in South America

Tuesday, May 26th 2009 - 05:19 UTC
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Chile's immigrant population has grown more than any other country in South America since 2000. Chile has fewer total immigrants than Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil, the proportional increase is greater. Immigration into Chile has increased in the past decade, while it has decreased in those other countries.

The growing influx of immigrants into Chile has been documented by the Economic Commission for Latinamerica and the Caribbean (ECLAC or CEPAL in Spanish) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), among others.

According to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN (UN-DESA), the number of immigrants in Chile grew by 30.54% between the years 2000 and 2005. In that same period the immigrant populations in Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil decreased by a few percentage points. Brazil's immigrant population, for example, decreased the most: 6.29%.

Today, 290,901 people in Chile were born outside of the country, according to Chile's Department of Migration; this figure represents 1.8% of the total population and translates to a 64% growth in the immigrant population since the year 2000.

Peruvians make up the largest immigrant population in Chile with 83,352 residents, followed by Argentines with 59,711 residents. The peak of Argentine and Bolivian immigration occurred before 1997, while immigration of Peruvians Ecuadorians and Colombians increased after that year.

The 2006 ECLAC report on demographics in Chile attributed the increased immigration beginning in the 1990's to Chile’s” increased democratic and economic stability“ and emphasized the impressive growth in immigration from other South American countries.

The majority of immigrants are above the age of 15, and 55% of Chilean residents born outside the country are women. Fernando Alarcón of the IOM emphasized this growing phenomenon, which he identified as the “feminization” of immigration.

Jorge Martínez, a researcher for ECLAC, said that the continued immigration into Chile could be attributed to the already established networks of immigrants. According to Martínez Chile's immigrant population is a small demographic in the country and has not had as much influence as in other countries in which immigrants make up ”up to 20%“ of the population.

Martínez also said that laws aimed to discourage migration to the US and Europe could also encourage more migration within Latinamerica. According to Martínez, ”It's probable that some of the Peruvian migration that doesn't migrate to Spain will go to Chile. It could also end up in Argentina, which has a larger Peruvian population than Chile.”

By Lucy McDonald-Stewart - Santiago Times

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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