How Argentina Used a MERCOSUR Decision to Regularize Over a Million Migrants: Migration Notebook
The third IOM Migration Notebook (Cuadernos Migratorios), published
in Buenos Aires this week, reports on MERCOSUR’s migration
initiatives and how Argentina turned a political decision by
MERCOSUR Heads of State into a regularization programme that
benefitted more than a million migrants.
The 2002 binding agreement by MERCOSUR, the Southern
Cone’s political, economic and social union, by its original
members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, on residence for
nationals of MERCOSUR countries, opened the way for member and
associate countries to regularize and integrate migrants.
Venezuela joined MERCOSUR last July and the rest of
Spanish-speaking South American countries are now associate
“The 2002 agreement constituted a new vision of how to
overcome the obstacles of irregular migration for governments and
migrants. This was the moment when the South American Common
Market countries decided to include in their national migration
policies the free movement of MERCOSUR nationals,” explains
Juan Artola, IOM Regional Director for South America.
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In 2004, Argentina unveiled Patria Grande, a regularization
programme for migrants living in the country. Since then
nearly 1.1 million people have obtained legal residence - 90% of
them MERCOSUR nationals. IOM supported the initiative by
contributing to the design and implementation of the software for
the registration and processing of applications.
Between 1992 and 2003 Argentina regularized the status of
156,000 foreigners through one-time amnesty decrees, but since
policy and legislation restricted immigration, thousands of new
irregular migrants were arriving each year.
Between 2003 and 2006, Argentina regularized more than 400,000
foreigners. The IOM study notes that in 2003 the unemployment rate
was 16.3%, while by 2006 it had decreased to 6%, confirming that
the regularizations had a positive impact on unemployment.
Throughout its history, Argentina has been a country of
destination for migrants. Between 1881 and 1914 more than 4.2
million people, mostly Europeans, settled in the country (2 million
from Italy, 1.4 million from Spain, 170,000 from France, and
160,000 from Russia). In 1914 more than 30 per cent of the
population was foreign born.
In contrast to the early 20th century, the 2010 census in
Argentina showed that of a total migrant population of 1,806,000,
77% were from neighbouring countries (Paraguay (550,713), Bolivia
(345,272), Chile (191,147) and Peru (157,514.)
The Migration Notebook series is published by the IOM Regional
Office for South America and examines relevant migration issues,
current trends and/or policy dilemmas.
The full report in Spanish can be found at:
For more information, please contact