More Europeans Migrate to Latin America, Caribbean than Other Way Around: IOM Study

Switzerland - IOM has released a study today that reveals a trend of increased migration flows from the European Union (EU) to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region, and a marked decrease in the movement of people in the other direction.

The new study, “Migratory Routes and Dynamics between Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Countries and between LAC and the European Union” explores migratory flows in and between Latin America, the Caribbean and the EU, with a particular focus on movements in the last five years. 

"Over the past few years, changes in migration flows between LAC and EU countries show, once again, how the flows naturally adapt to the fluctuating socioeconomic realities and their potential as an adjustment tool and a response to economic and structural crisis," says IOM Deputy Director General Laura Thompson. 

The study shows that since 2010 – and for the first time in 14 years – more people emigrated from the EU to LAC than the reverse.  In 2012, 181,166 European nationals left for LAC countries, as compared to 119,000 Latin and Caribbean nationals who moved to the EU. This marks a 68 per cent decrease from 2007, when the number of LAC migrants to the EU reached historic highs.

Spain is the EU country that sends the most migrants to LAC, followed by Italy, Portugal, France and Germany.

The research shows that the profile of the migrants from the EU to LAC is not necessarily that of a return migrant – in fact, the study confirms that not many LAC migrants are returning to their home countries.  

The study also notes a shift in migrant stocks in LAC countries.  Countries that have historically hosted higher numbers of European immigrants, such as Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela, have seen a decline in the number of EU nationals residing there. But there was a marked increase in the number of EU nationals in Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.  

The data reveals that in 2013, 8,548,000 international migrants lived in LAC, which is half a million more than in 2010, and 2.5 million more than in 2000.  Today, there are also more LAC migrants living in their own region than in EU countries, confirming that the character of most LAC migration today is intraregional, with the main countries of destination being Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. The shift can be attributed, in part, to the economic crisis affecting the EU.  

Regarding emigration from LAC to the EU, the four largest sending countries remain Brazil (23 per cent), Colombia (11 per cent), Peru (9 per cent) and Ecuador (9 per cent.)  LAC migrants are highly concentrated in just six EU countries, with slightly more than the half of them living in Spain (53 per cent). The other 41 per cent live in the following EU countries: Italy (15 per cent), the UK (9 per cent), France (7 per cent), the Netherlands (6 per cent) and Portugal (4 per cent). Just 6 per cent of all LAC migrants reside in other EU countries.

Touching on the link between migration and development, the study notes that immigrant women from LAC have higher levels of employment than immigrant men in four of the main EU destination countries: Spain, Italy, Portugal and UK.

In Spain, for instance, the unemployment rate of immigrant women from LAC is 12 per cent lower than that of immigrant men from LAC. Additionally, women immigrants from LAC tend to have a 10 per cent lower unemployment rate than Spanish women. This is especially relevant, as women are able to maintain their important role in the development of their home countries as senders of remittances.

Moreover, the research analyses how the integration frameworks at regional and sub-regional levels impact migration flows from the perspective of development and human rights.

Released ahead of the EU-CELAC Summit, which opens on 10 June, the report is intended to serve as a policy tool and reference to enable a better understanding of migratory dynamics, characteristics and trends in and between the two regions.  

The study is published as part of the project: “Strengthening the dialogue and cooperation between the European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to establish management models on migration and development policies” funded by the EU and implemented by IOM, in a partnership with the International and Ibero American Foundation for Administration and Public Policy (FIIAPP).

It will be presented by the author Rodolfo Cordova at the "CELAC-EU Migration: Overviews and Opportunities" seminar to be hosted by the European Commission in Brussels on 22 June 2015. 

The study is available for download in Spanish at the following link:

For more information, please contact Ana Eugenia Duran Salvatierra at IOM HQ in Geneva. Tel: +41 22 717 93 82, E-mail: Or Monika Peruffo at the IOM Regional Office in Brussels. Tel: +32 2 287 78 10, E-mail: