Chilean Migratory Context
Main groups of migrants in Chile (2020)
Refugee applications 2010-2020 (accepted, rejected)
Source: INE-DEM, 2020
Source: Own elaboration from the DEM database
39% fewer visas
granted in 2020 compared to 2019, with the population of Venezuelan nationality having the highest number of visas granted with a total of 81,124, followed by the Haitian with 33,480 in addition to other nationalities such as Peruvian, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Argentina.
Source: Own elaboration from the DEM database
Legal framework for protection
and social inclusion
Chile is the last country in the region to enact a new immigration law in April 2021 ( Law 21325 ), which replaces Decree-Law No. 1094 of 1975 enacted under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The new immigration law enacted by Sebastián Piñera, which will enter into force once its regulations are published, is based on 89 amendments to a migration bill proposed during his previous government in 2013 (Migration and Foreigners Bill No. 8970- 06) (see Doña-Reveco 2021 ). Law No. 20,430 , approved in 2010, establishes provisions on the protection of refugees in Chile. Chile is a State Party to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Additional Protocol. In April 2018, Piñera announced an “ immigration reform ” that among other measures included two executive decrees that created a consular visa for simple tourism for Haitian citizens and the so-called Democratic Responsibility Visa (VDR) for Venezuelans, which can be issued at any Chilean consulate abroad but is subject to specific requirements such as passport (or national identity card) and background check non-criminal, among other requirements .
Impacts of the pandemic on the migrant and refugee population
In the context of the pandemic and the closure of borders, Chile has not been processing asylum applications. Two decisions of the Court (one in Iquiqu and another in Puerto Montt ) have pushed the government to admit the asylum applications of two families by email for processing.
The job insecurity of the migrant population is intensifying, since the majority of migrants in Chile work in the sectors most affected by the confinement measures and the economic crisis (commerce, hotels and restaurants, domestic service, manufacturing industries and construction) ( Henriquez 2019).
Already before the pandemic, high levels of overcrowding of the migrant population were documented in the communes of Santiago, which are especially high among the population of Haitian origin (see Bengochea et al 2021). In the north of Chile, according to figures from the Tarapacá Health Seremi , around 1,700 migrants are in an isolation system, of these 1,400 are in transitory health stays and about 300 in health residences.
Hundreds of migrants of Bolivian, Peruvian, Colombian and Venezuelan origin, among other nationalities, decided to return to their countries of origin and other countries, when the confinement measures resulted in the closure of their workplaces and loss of jobs (see Vera Espinoza , Zapata & Gandini 2020 ).
In 2020, the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security together with the PDI coordinated and carried out the mass expulsion of 1,365 foreigners, mainly Venezuelans and Colombians.
What impacts did the pandemic have on the migrant and refugee population?
The government announced a series of social protection measures to deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic. At the end of March 2020, the government enacted the “COVID-19 Bonus” (Law No 21225), through which the government granted a bonus of $50,000 Chilean pesos (USD $60) that sought to reach 60% of people more vulnerable. On May 14, the government enacted Law No. 21230 “Emergency Family Income”, aimed at helping families working in the informal sector, whose income was the most affected by the health crisis. To receive this benefit you must be registered in the Social Registry of Homes and have a valid Chilean Identity Card. This means that irregular migrants, or those with expired IDs, cannot access these benefits, including immigrants who have started their regularization process but have not yet received their identity cards (Ambiado et al., 2020; Freier & Vera Espinoza 2021 ).
The government granted an extension to the validity of identity cards for foreigners for a period of 1 year. The period for changing employers for immigrants with a contract visa was also extended from 30 to 180 days.
Civil society organizations, migrant organizations and international organizations have played a complementary role in the actions of the national government and municipalities in relation to social protection, especially in non-contributory benefits.
“The protection of the rights of migrants and refugees during the pandemic”
PhD in Human Geography
School of Geography
Queen Mary University of London
This and other publications from our group are supported by the FORD/LASA Special Projects program [Grant # FL-15-01].
This and other publications of our group are supported by the FORD/LASA Special Projects [Grant # FL-15-01].