Facts and Figures
Population (2020)
11.7 million
Net Migration Rate (2021)
-0.4 migrants/ 1,000 population
Remittances (2021)
USD 1.4 billion
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants (2020)

Migration in Bolivia
Although Bolivia has been characterized as a country of emigration, at some times the Bolivian State promoted international immigration with the aim of achieving a process of colonization of sparsely populated lands, mainly in eastern Bolivia. However, despite various attempts, it was not possible to attract a relevant flow of immigrants.

Indeed, during the 20th century, very small groups of Jews, Arabs, Mennonites, and Japanese arrived in the country. Throughout this century, the total number of immigrants was never a significant volume, standing at around 1% of the population between the 1976 and 2001 population censuses, without ever exceeding 100,000 people.

The neighboring countries were the main emitters of migration to Bolivian territory. In this sense, Argentines, Brazilians and Peruvians have been the most numerous foreign groups in the country, establishing their residence mainly in the departments of the so-called "central axis", Santa Cruz, La Paz and Cochabamba, places that have been characterized by a greater economic development.

Concerning internal migration, Bolivia has stood out for presenting large historical flows. Thus, various episodes, such as the "March to the East", generated internal colonization processes in the most depopulated areas of the country. Internal flows maintain their continuity and Bolivia is currently going through a process of deruralization through which thousands of people leave the countryside in a migration directed mainly towards the cities, where there are better job opportunities.

This phenomenon of internal migration coexists with that of emigration. Some segments of the population, mainly urban and with certain socioeconomic characteristics, choose to leave the country.

It is currently estimated that more than 700 thousand Bolivians live abroad, representing around 7% of the total population. These movements have had Argentina as their main destination, being one of the oldest and most constant migratory flows.

In relation to extra-regional emigration, the last decade has shown a migration directed towards Spain, where economic development and the construction boom caused this group to increase exponentially.

Finally, another older and highly relevant destination for Bolivian migration is the United States of America.

Main Areas of Action and Thematic Areas of IOM in Bolivia

Emergency Situations

IOM works within the framework of the Interagency Standing Committee (IAS) providing humanitarian assistance to people in emergency situations and reconstruction initiatives after them. To this end, IOM coordinates the rapid deployment of personnel and resources in emergencies and oversees programs and projects during the emergency response phase. Additionally, it contributes to the development of early warning actions and maintains a close watch on the appearance of humanitarian crises, for which it participates in evaluation processes and collaborates in the development and implementation of projects, actively participating in other groups related to the implementation of shelters. temporary, health and protection among others. Currently, it is participating in the implementation of a flood resilience project in Bolivia in coordination with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizations (FAO).

Labour Migration

IOM provides specialized assistance to governments in facilitating regulated labor migration processes and direct assistance to migrants. The purpose of the IOM on the subject of labor migration is to facilitate the development of policies and programs that can benefit mutually and individually, the governments involved, migrants and society.

Migrant Integration

The integration of migrants is essential for effective migration management. IOM supports policies and strategies that promote the social, economic and cultural inclusion of migrants in their new environment in destination countries and educate host communities about the potential contribution of newcomers. For this purpose, IOM promotes the dissemination of information on the rights and obligations of migrants, providing advice and guidance related to available services, among others.

Resettlement Assistance

To assist the Bolivian Government in its policy of transforming the structure of tenure and access to land and forest through the distribution and redistribution of land to marginalized sectors, IOM is collaborating in the establishment and consolidation of mechanisms that facilitate the economically sustainable and socially dignified resettlement of these communities. To this end, it provides specialized technical assistance in the organized transfer of internally displaced communities that require assistance before, during and after the resettlement process. 

Migration and Development

Activities in this area include strengthening the capacity of governments and other stakeholders to effectively involve migrant populations in development processes in their countries of origin, promoting economic and community development in areas where there are a high level of emigration, the improving of the incidence of remittances in development and the facilitation of the return and reintegration of qualified nationals.

Voluntary Return and Reintegration

It is one of the migration management services that IOM Bolivia continues to develop. Its objective is the orderly return and reintegration, in humane and cost-effective conditions, of migrants who cannot or do not want to remain in the host countries and wish to return voluntarily to Bolivia. This assistance may also include profiling of target groups, information and counseling for potential returnees, medical assistance, and assistance for long-term reintegration in the countries of origin, in order to facilitate sustainable return. The cases attended come from Italy, Switzerland, London, Ireland and Belgium.

Policy and Research

The IOM has the function of protecting migrants in accordance with the principles and values ​​of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, which determines and guides its institutional action as a specialized agency in decisions and actions related to national migration problems. It works on migration policy, civil and political rights of migrants and research, considering the following actions: Develop a national database on migration, promote a national network of researchers, dissemination and exchange of research work with regional and national reference centers. Ongoing actions related to this sphere are implemented within the framework of a project for the Optimization of the Integrated Migration Control System in Bolivia.

Migration and Climate Change

Migratory processes, movement and/or displacement of people associated with the effects of climate change and socio-natural disasters, are not new phenomena but require a more comprehensive understanding of the same and that emphasize the complex relationship between migration and climate change. Comprehensiveness for the formulation of policies in this area is particularly important due to the complex, transnational and multifaceted nature of migration, for which actions are required that lay the foundations for the development of resilient capacities. Currently, negotiations are being carried out with state entities for the implementation of a project aimed at developing a greater understanding of the relationship between migration, climate change and risk management.


IOM has a comprehensive approach to Human Trafficking and Smuggling in a broader migration management context, which is based on three principles: respect for human rights; physical, mental and social well-being of the individual and her community; and sustainability through institutional capacity building in governments and civil society. IOM's mission is to combat all forms of exploitation of migrants, especially the serious human rights violations suffered by trafficked persons. Among the areas of action are prevention, protection, prosecution, technical cooperation, a database on trafficking in persons, and research.

Career Opportunities

 Being a member of the IOM team requires the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity. As an international organization with a global mandate, IOM also aims to maintain an equitable geographical balance among its staff. As such, its recruitment efforts target, but are not necessarily limited to, nationals of its Member States. IOM is an equal opportunity employer and seeks committed professionals with a wide variety of skills in the field of migration. IOM staff work in multi-cultural environments, in which diversity and cultural sensitivity are valued.

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Contact information

International Organization for Migration
Calacoto Calle 22
Edif. Montecristo #7896 1er piso Of. 103
La Paz, Bolivia

Tel: +591 2 2770161

Email: iomlapaz@iom.int
Facebook: www.facebook.com/oimbolivia
Twitter: @OIMBolivia