Colombia Migration Profile: IOM

Colombia - The IOM Migration Profile for Colombia, published this week in Bogota, confirms that the country continues to be a country of emigration, holding the lead in the South American continent, with an estimated 4.7 million Colombians living abroad.

Colombians began emigrating in the 1960s, mainly in search of better economic opportunities.   The main countries of destination for Colombian migrants are the United States (34.6 per cent), Spain (23.1 per cent), Venezuela (20 per cent) Ecuador (3.1 per cent) and Canada (2 per cent).

According to the latest US Census, the number of Colombians residing in the country doubled in the past decade – from 470,684 in 2000 to 908,734 in 2010.  The vast majority of Colombians in the US live in the states of Florida, New York, New Jersey, Texas and California.

In the 1990s Spain became an important country of destination for Colombians looking for greener pastures.  The common language and therefore ease to find employment and integrate prompted Colombians to choose this European destination.  Official figures report 221,797 Colombians now living in Spain.

In the 1970s neighboring Venezuela also became a country of destination for Colombians.  Strong economic growth, investment in infrastructure and a strong currency made Venezuela an attractive destination for Colombians (684,040 in 2011) and other South American migrants.

Ecuador’s 1950 census counted 23,489 Colombians living in the country, representing 62 per cent of the migrant population in the country.  By 2001, when thousands of Colombians began seeking international protection from the ongoing armed conflict in their country, the number had grown to 51,556.  In the next ten years, continued cross border migration brought the official figure of Colombians in Ecuador to 89,931 in 2011.

Although the number of migrants choosing Colombia as a country of destination is not large, the IOM Profile highlights economic, social and political realities that could possibly attract migrants to Colombia in the coming years.  Migrants living in Colombia are mainly from the United States, Ecuador Spain, and Peru, as well as Europeans from Spain, Italy and Germany.

Remittances from Colombians abroad amounted to USD 4 billion in 2012 and represent one of the most important cash flows, exceeding exports such as coffee, flowers, plantains and fabrics. 

The Profile highlights the creation of the Special Administrative Unit “Migración Colombia”, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and created in 2011, as one of the most important recent changes related to migration management in Colombia. 

The launch of the Profile coincides with International Migration Week in Colombia.  With the slogan Miles de sueños, un mismo suelo (Thousands of Dreams, One Land), the event  is bringing together migrants who have made Colombia their new home to discuss and celebrate the positive contributions migrants make in their adopted countries.

IOM Regional Director for South America, Diego Beltrand said: “The IOM Migration Profile is an important tool for the Government of Colombia as they design and implement policies aimed at managing migration and linking migration to their development agenda.”

For more information please contact

Daniel Fernández Gómez
IOM Colombia
Tel: +57 1639 77 77 Ext.: 1219