Emigration from Colombia
Emigration from Colombia is determined by economic, social, and security issues linked mainly to the Colombian armed conflict. Emigration from Colombia is one of the largest in volume in Latin America. According to the 2005 Colombian census or DANE, about 3,331,107 Colombian citizens currently permanently reside outside of Colombia. Other estimates, however, suggest that the actual number could exceed 4 million, or almost 10 percent of the country's population. It is difficult to estimate total numbers of emigrants, because most are illegal immigrants where they have sought sanctuary, and only a fifth, at most, are registered at Colombian consulates. Approximately 1.2 million Colombians are believed to have left the country during 2000–5 and not returned.
The population movement in recent years toward North America and Europe in particular has been motivated in some cases by the threat of violence but more typically by the search for greater economic opportunity. Due to the current sociopolitical situation in Colombia, emigration affects Colombians of all social standings and geographic zones. The highest rates of emigration have been registered in the main urban centers of the interior zone of the country: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Bucaramanga, Pereira, Manizales, and Cúcuta.
Destinations and diaspora
External migration is primarily to the United States, Venezuela, Spain, and Ecuador. As of 2003, the estimated Colombian population in those countries was 2,020,000, 1,340,000, 240,000, and 193,000, respectively. Panama, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom also have significant (>20,000) populations of Colombian emigrants. In 2003, North America was the destination for 48 percent of Colombian emigrants; Latin America and the Caribbean, 40 percent; Europe, 11 percent; and Asia, Oceania, and Africa, 1 percent.
Perhaps the most well-known concentration of Colombians abroad is the Jackson Heights section of Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City. It is sometimes called El Chapinerito or "Little Chapinero" after a middle-class section of Bogotá with similar architecture and ambiance. More recently, the area of Jackson Heights associated with Colombians has become home to Mexican and Ecuadorian immigrants. Other Queens neighborhoods with a Colombian presence are Elmhurst, Corona, and Woodside. The 2006 American Community Survey put out by the US Census Bureau reports that 80,116 persons claiming Colombian origins live in Queens, while 244,164 are spread out in the entire New York metropolitan area.
Colombian restaurants and bakeries are important institutions for the Colombian diaspora. These eateries have popularized formerly regional dishes like the well-portioned Bandeja paisa among Colombians from all parts of the country.
Social and economic impact
Colombians living abroad—1.5 million of whom departed during the economic downturn between 1996 and 2002—have had a positive effect on the balance of payments thanks to remittances to family and friends at home. According to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, the value of remittances from Colombians living abroad is ranked third as the main source of income in Colombia and has already surpassed the value of coffee exports.
But external migration to the United States or Europe has represented a definite loss of talent and energy because migrants to the developed world tend to be better educated and in the prime of working life. Some estimates would have roughly half the physicians trained in Colombia during certain years, at great expense to fellow Colombian taxpayers, now working in the United States. Then, too, there are communities (as in Mexico, for example) that have been so drained of young workers that they find themselves dependent on the flow of remittances. Several municipalities in the vicinity of Pereira in western Colombia, hard hit by troubles in the coffee industry and the competition of cheap Asian labor in garment exporting, exemplify the latter phenomenon.
The Colombian government has developed prevention programs against illegal groups that offer emigration help to unsuspecting people, many of whom are eventually forced into slavery, forced prostitution and human trafficking in foreign countries.
- DANE - Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica
- Bushnell, David and Rex A. Hudson. "Emigration". In Colombia: A Country Study (Rex A. Hudson, ed.), pp. 98-99. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (2010). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Myriam Bérubé, Colombia: In the Crossfire, Migration Information Source
- According the US Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, around 801,363 persons claiming Colombian origins live in the US. Detailed Tables - American FactFinder
- Detailed Tables - American FactFinder