As the Syrian refugee crisis continues to become the worst refugee crisis in recorded history (beating the 4.6 million Afghans who fled in 1992), it might be beneficial to know about refugees in Argentina, one of the most refugee-accepting countries.
- High wages, economic prosperity, a good public education system and a liberal legal framework brought many European immigrants to Argentina between 1870 and 1914. By the start of World War I, Argentina was one-third European.
- Although fewer in number, Europeans continued to immigrate to Argentina between the two World Wars and throughout the post-World War II era. However, by the end of 1960, most European migration to Argentina halted.
- With the ending of migration from Europe, regional migrant numbers became more significant. Interest in the job opportunities and a relatively beneficial currency exchange rate brought many regional migrants in the 1990s. Oddly enough, this became an issue as Argentina’s laws were increasingly restrictive, leaving many migrants susceptible to abuse.
- By the end of the decade, this led to a degree of contempt between natural-born Argentinians and migrants or refugees. The degree of the contempt was so harsh that even legislation denounced irregular migrants, and trade unions claimed they were stealing jobs.
- Argentina formally switched course, though, and signed a regional agreement, along with Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. The agreement recognizes the right to migrate, provides equal treatment for foreigners and the right to family reunification. It also established the “Patria Grande” program, granting residency and creating a process for foreigners to become permanent residents.
- Argentina signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2005, dictating the guidelines for the admission of refugees in Argentina. Among the criteria for resettlement in Argentina are that immigrants are survivors of torture or violence, women at risk, or women with children or families with strong integration potential.
- Before refugees in Argentina are considered for visas, relatives or other Argentinian citizens must vouch for them. The process kicks off with a letter of invitation sent to the refugee family.
- In July 2016, Argentina announced it would accept 3,000 Syrian refugees.
- By making this announcement, Argentina was the first country to assist the European Union with the Syrian refugee crisis.
- On April 7, 2017, an international non-governmental organization, Blue Rose Compass, announced it would provide 1,000 university scholarships to young women, ages 18 through 34, who are Syrian refugees. The scholarships will grant the women humanitarian visas to Argentina and eventually allow them to register as citizens.
Hopefully, as the Syrian refugee crisis persists, Argentina will continue to represent itself as a role model for countries accepting refugees.
– James Hardison