RECENT AFRICAN IMMIGRATION TO SOUTH AMERICA: THE ARGENTINE CASE IN REGIONAL CONTEXT
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RECENT AFRICAN IMMIGRATION TO SOUTH AMERICA:
THE ARGENTINE CASE IN REGIONAL CONTEXT
PEDRO F. MARCELINO Centre for Research on Latin America and the CaribbeanYork University, Toronto, CanadaMARCELA CERRUTTICentro de Estudios de Poblacin - CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Newspaper Headlines.Africa in Buenos Aires. Every year hundreds of young men from the black continent arrive to Argentina escaping from wars and misery: Where do they come from? What are their dreams? What do the bijou street vendors that took over downtown think about Argentina? (La Nacin, 25/4/ 2009)
Buenos Aires: destiny for Africans (La Nacin, 7/9/2009)
Once [a neighborhood in Buenos Aires]: The Little Dakar of new African immigrants (La Nacin, 21/10/2009)
Bijou street vendors: a group of Africans complained persecution and discrimination. A ruling from the Superior Tribune ordered policemen and prosecutors to let them sell because it is for their subsistence (Pgina 12, 19/8/2011)
Argentina: a potential destination for Africans?
In the last few years, the presence of recently arrived Africans to Argentina became more noticeable, particularly in Buenos Aires City.
The sudden emergence of this new immigrant group raised all sorts of speculations: Who are they?, What are they doing in Argentina, of all places?, Why did they choose to come here?, Is this a growing phenomenon?
Local reactions to their presence vary from more sympathetic to openly racist. Up to now curiosity, instead of concern, prevails. However it is clear that they are not integrated in social and economic fabric.
The predominant view is that African immigrants are running away from conflicts over land, religion or racial/ethnic persecution.
General ObjectivesTo describe recent African migration to Argentina in socio-demographic terms, their migration motives, modes of entry, legal situation, context of reception and modes of incorporation.
To propose social, economic, and geopolitical hypotheses that might justify the appearance of this new migration corridor.
To stimulate institutional debate, particularly regarding the regularization of the migratory situation and the process of integration and participation of African migrants in receiving countries such as Argentina.
A broader context to account for African migration to the regionThese migrations constitute marginal expressions of a troublesome situation: that of people fleeing from violence, persecution and hunger with no places to go. As such, they should be analyze taking broader geopolitical considerations into account.
Despite the relative remoteness of Argentina (and Brazil) they are proving to be attractive destinations due to:Open migratory policy (recognition of migrants rights);Porosity of borders;Weakness of state control, monitoring of irregular migrants and visa overstaying;Relatively receptive and fairly affluent communities to perform informal commercial activities.
Points of departureArgentina is at the core of the South America migration system with about 1.5 million regional immigrants. In this context, African immigration is a small and distinctive flow.
We do not know with certainty the size of this group, but there is evidence that it has been growing and getting more noticeable (for various reasons).
It is constituted by a variety of migrants from different countries. Their backgrounds and migratory statuses are heterogeneous, but generally they share a common trait: most are seeking human security.
Argentina is not the sole destination in South America.
Africans in Argentina: the context of reception
Africans in ArgentinaDURING COLONIAL TIMES AND BEYONDHistorical records show the significant numbers of black, mulattos, brown, and zambos at colonial times in Argentina Yet, the presence of black Africans in Argentina has been neglected by an unfortunate numeric argument:Smaller number of slavesSeverely downsized by wars and pandemicsMiscegenation (mestizage)The influence of European models of thought that purposefully denied their presence
Africans in ArgentinaIt has been shown that Argentina does not glorify its mestizage, but it does its whiteness derived from an ideal image of how is Argentina is.
Since the mid-1980s, studies of Africa, Africans and Afro-argentines, particularly in the XIX and XX centuries, have gained significant impulse. Emergence of a multicultural narrative in academia and the upsurge of a new social movement (Afro-Argentine militant groups, cultural activism, participation in transnational black movements).
The recent arrival of Africans to Argentina has served to visibilize and to discuss the issue of the African heritage and influence.
Africans in NumbersAfrican born population is small but grew during the last decade. According to census data it grew from 1883 people in 2001 to 2738 in 2010.
The inflow is predominately male: 66.5%. Among newer cohort the percentage of males is even higher.
Heterogeneous educational profiles. Recent migrants, lower educational attainment.
Two types: older population that arrived in prior migratory corridors (Cape Verde, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Algeria) and younger population recently arrived (Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Congo, Angola).
A Note on Africans in BrazilThey are a minority but a significantly larger population than in Argentina (15,679).
Roughly 40% are from Angola; 22% from Egypt and 9% from Mozambique.
Most Egyptians arrived during the first half of the XX century and one out of two immigrants from Angola arrived between 1960 and 1979, while one third arrived after 1990).
They are also predominately men.
A First Step Toward Incorporation: The Migratory SituationArgentina (as well as Brazil) have migratory laws that are considerable less restrictive than those of developed countries and practice non-refoulement of asylum seekers.
Yet, for African immigrants the process of becoming a temporary or permanent resident is much lengthier. They do not come from MERCOSUR (or associate) countries; and the fact that many have entered the country irregularly (with no proof of entry) creates barriers to their regularization.
There are considerable references to the arrival of migrants crossing illegally from Brazil, possibly requiring access and payment of smuggling networks.
Becoming a Regular Migrant: Asylum Seekers, Refugees and ResidentsData from the National Office of Migration shows: between 2004 and 2009, 353 applications for temporary residencies and 296 for permanent residencies were filled by Africans (Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, and Sierra Leone).
Data from UNHCR, by July 201, there were 3,233 refugees and 329 asylum seekers; 28% from Senegal and 3% from Nigeria.
Among petitioners who are younger than 21 years old, the vast majority are from Africa (Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana).
Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Residents (contd)Petitions from Senegal increased from 0 in 1996, to 59 in 2005, to 438 between 2006 and 2008. From Sierra Leone, from 1 in 1998 to 71 in 2004.
Key informants stated that the significant increase in the refuge petitions by Senegalese probably constitutes a strategy to obtain a regular residency in Argentina.
No empirical studies on reasons given by petitioners, although evidence that conflicts in West Africa were provided as reasons.
Living in Argentina
Senegalese appear to have entered mainly through Brazil, using migrant networks in Argentina and organized networks at the origin to facilitate access to visas for Brazil, provide contacts at arrival and facilitate the border crossing.Many arrived in less organized manners from Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, escaping violence in cargo ships with unknown destinations.High concentration in densely populated areas where informal labour opportunities abound: street vendors, wage workers in small-scale enterprises.A considerable number may be in a limbo situation in terms of regularity.Informal incorporation and marginal integration.
Argentina and Africa: Spasmodic foreign relationsAfrica has not traditionally been a priority for Argentinas foreign policy (with the exception of South Africa). Low density relations, lack of continuity.
In contrast to Brazilian foreign policy , Argentinas policies were driven by ideological, political or commercial impulses.
Small number of African embassies and consulates in Argentina.
In recent years, intensification of relations, bilateral initiatives, particularly to increase staple foods production.
A geopolitical intepretation and policy implications
Clash of macro and micro-levels:geopolitics and personal aspirationsAfrican migrations today happen overwhelmingly between neighbouring countries in the continent.
Preferred transcontinental destinations are the EU and USA.
Political complexities in the continent and in main exit points have increased the cost of migration routes. Migratory projects take longer, with more/longer pauses, informal periods in different points along the route.
Pivotal policy changes after 9/11 limited access to EU/USA.
Aspirations to leave (for those who can afford it) remain!
Post-9/11 Migratory HardshipsHiked travel prices, need to resort to smuggling networks in certain routes - where possibly people and drug trafficking may also take place. Little data but worrying concern.
Need for networks of contacts in pit-stops and destination.
The journey becomes part of a personal goal and, in cases, a rite of passag