When Nicolai Quintero At the airport he saw the plane that would take him. SpainHe knew there was no going back. Encouraged by his mother, who had crossed the Atlantic a few years ago, this young man from Cali finally decided to follow the same path last May.
Today he makes a living by installing windows in Barcelona and misses his native city less than he thinks. “I was driving an Uber and was suffering from fear of being robbed. I’m fine now, and even the winter when I was very lazy didn’t feel that strong to me, ”she says.
on his behalf Patricia Espinosa sums up the decision that led him to go in one word: hope. A professional with more than twenty years of experience in the clothing industry and her husband, who works for a multinational in the fuel industry, began looking for a better place for her family in the midst of the pandemic.
“We are tired of living in Bogotá with money, job uncertainty and insecurity,” he says. And he adds: “We were looking at possibilities and came across an article explaining how to immigrate to Canada through studies.”
Newly settled in Montreal, she states that her husband got an open work permit while earning a degree. “There are many job opportunities, but even if we start with the minimum wage paid here, we will be able to offer jobs to our adolescent children. dignified life”, he emphasizes.
(Another text: Problems in the region / Analysis by Ricardo Ávila).
Stories like Nicolái and Patricia’s have been heard much more frequently lately. According to official statistics, the net inflow and outflow balance of Colombians by air was 547,332 people who did not return from abroad in 2022.
Not only is this figure the highest in the country’s history, it also represents a 95 percent jump over the 2021 figure. The slope began to steepen noticeably from the middle of last year and continued its trend throughout January. “This personal decision is a way to reveal that the prospect of well-being in another country is greater than in Colombia,” the report said. Resource Center for Conflict Analysis (Cerac) defines what it is.
A barrage of people planning to go out and try their luck at other latitudes – at a time when international passenger flow is at a minimum – may have been created due to pandemic restrictions. But even with this thought, those who know speak of a possible possibility. immigration wave at unprecedented rates.
(Interesting: they rescued three Colombian victims of human trafficking in Greece).
This is not the first time such a situation has occurred. First Exit This significant event took place between 1965 and 1975, when there was both the strength of the Venezuelan economy and some flexibility in immigration laws. United States of AmericaAlthough it had a very different characterization, it attracted a large number of people.
In the case of the neighboring country, they were low-educational workers arriving by land and coming from the Caribbean or Santander regions. Second, they were professionals, such as doctors and engineers, who built large residential areas around New York City or south Florida.
Shortly after, the United Kingdom’s determination to allow unskilled labor in commercial services, hotels or restaurants led to the arrival of a large contingent, mainly women, to the Old Continent. Originally from Viejo Caldas and Valle del Cauca, this initial group would extend as far as France and Italy.
There are scientists who claim that the world expanded in the eighties of the last century. medicineand above all the desire to have distributors and marketers of narcotics partially explains the arrival of Colombians in areas like Miami-Dade County. Others tend to blame the mix of economic crisis and security deterioration as the main motivators for higher volume. one way ticket towards the so-called “giant of the north”.
What is not disputed is that these two factors combined in the late 1990s to form a much larger diaspora. According to a document written more than a decade and a half ago by Mauricio Cárdenas and Carolina Mejía, close to 1.9 million people left the country between 1996 and 2005.
Different censuses specified what happened. The 1970 survey identified 261,847 Colombians living abroad, while the 1990 survey mentioned 893,476 people. At the beginning of the new century, the backlog delivered by the Danes was 1.5 million, which increased to 3.3 million in 2005.
Until then, the changes were not only in size, but also in fate. United States of America ranked first, but Spain second place, followed by Venezuela, Ecuador, Canada, Panama, Mexico and even Australia. More recently, Chile and, to a lesser extent, Argentina have also featured in the rankings.
As experience shows, multiple communities in very different geographies are constantly expanding as the first generation attracts the second, and so on. From family networks to commerce and territories, they determine that many continue on the path others have paved.
Go back to numbers from 2002 to 2010 average net outbound was 151,000 ColombiansBetween 2011 and 2019, it reached 212,000 citizens. In the two years before the outbreak broke out, the data rose to 270,000 per year, very close to what was observed in 2021. Now the jump of over half a million in 2022 breaks the previous trend.
Beyond these flows, there is no definitive explanation for how many citizens live abroad. A State Department estimate in 2012 spoke of 4.7 million, while those registered in the Consular Register – something done voluntarily – are just over 1.2 million. Due to the Venezuelan crisis, a good number was returned, but the actual size diaspora is a big question mark.
Another topic: Visa for Colombians: have trips to countries that abolished it increased?
As the process continues, it is not yet possible to make definite judgments about the height of the current. Meanwhile, today’s environment is undoubtedly different from previous eruptions.
To start, 133 countries no longer require visas for Colombians Something that (more than 70 years ago) significantly reduced barriers to entry. Perhaps for this reason, more and more people decide to take their passport. According to the State Department, 419,384 new notebooks were issued in the third quarter of last year alone, of which 77 percent were delivered for the first time.
Changes such as the wide range of airways or the collective culture itself are no less important. According to David Roll, a professor at the National University who specializes in immigration, “there are a lot more people. globalization or civic networks, after very calmly analyzing possible destinations, do not see any mystery in leaving, despite someone who nevertheless goes boldly”.
It is indisputable that this last group still exists. As various press reports pointed out, arrests of Colombians at the US-Mexico border have reached record levels. Thousands of people still travel over Central America with Venezuelans, Cubans or Haitians trying to illegally enter US territory through the “hole”.
There are many incentives to leave, but there is no doubt that the economic is very important. Whoever makes the trip knows,Labor demand is very high and that millions of places are still empty. Unemployment in the US is at historically low levels, and multiple employers ignore it when it comes to asking for the appropriate documentation.
Others, of course, comply with all laws. There are no reliable statistics, but dual citizenship, which allows for the protection of one family member, is no longer a privilege reserved for the few.
(You can read: Immigration to the USA: what will happen to Colombians who get through the ‘hole’).
Also, special programs seem to attract different professions. Many developed countries are experiencing a decline in birth rates, which arrival of immigrants doing basic work and, meanwhile, contributing to social security, which must finance a growing mass of retirees.
For this reason, Immigration flows will continue. According to World Bank calculations, in 2022, the number of people living in a country other than their country of birth was 287 million, of which 37 million were classified as refugees.
With the exception of people displaced by conflict, famine or natural disasters, more than three percent of the global population is leaving their place of origin to seek opportunities not presented to them. In return and once they manage to settle down. The money they send to support the family they left behind is huge.
According to that world Bank Global remittance flows reached $794,000 million in 2022, of which 626,000 million entered low- and middle-income countries. These shipments are crucial for Latin America, which generated $142,000 million in revenue from this concept last year. In fact, they are the main source of foreign exchange in Guatemala or Honduras.
Colombia is also an important buyer of these resources. Bank of the Republic records show Colombians living abroad sending money. $9,428 million There was a new peak in 2022.
Even so, debate is emerging about what it means for so many people, many of whom are highly skilled, to use their skills in countries other than their own.
(Also: ETIAS: Do Colombians need an entry permit if they travel to Europe?).
From this perspective, the brain drain perpetuates inequalities between the northern and southern hemispheres. “Three-quarters of those leaving are under 40, which means a huge loss of human capital and productive potential,” says Jorge Restrepo, professor at Javeriana University and director of Cerac.
Preventing this negative balance from continuing increasingly requires the creation of the necessary conditions to retain talent. Unfortunately, it has a slowing economy, a highly active political climate and a increasing dissatisfaction.
Other factors come into the equation, although the difference in earnings for the same trade in wealthier places continues to affect. “Discontent is the biggest challenge for social mobilityThe lower profitability of higher education as coverage expands and the perceived lack of improvement prospects may be other reasons explaining this phenomenon,” Restrepo adds.
In his inaugural address on August 7, Gustavo Petro referred to the suffering of “a young man who emigrated for lack of opportunity”. And despite promising to work for “the Colombia we deserve”, the dreams of that day are clouded by the flow of events.
a few decades ago Yan MartelThe author of the literary success book Life of Pi answered the question of why people leave their land. “For a feeling that eats,” he wrote. “No matter how hard they work, they cannot get their money’s worth, and what they have done in a year will be destroyed in one day by others.”
as well as pointing “the impression that the future is locked”The novelist also described “the feeling that nothing will change and that happiness and well-being can only be achieved elsewhere”. If only those responsible for so many exiles understood the consequences of their decisions.
RICARDO AVILA PINTO
Exclusive to EL TIEMPO
On Twitter: @ravilapinto