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Second Report on International Migration in the Americas Presented at the OAS

  January 17, 2013

The Second Report of the Continuous Reporting System on International Migration in the Americas (SICREMI), a study by the Organization of American States (OAS), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was presented today at the headquarters of the hemispheric institution in Washington, DC.

In the presentation, the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, said that "in the years of the recent economic crisis there was a decrease in migration flows, but it was small, which shows that the importance of international migration for the world economy persists and especially in our region, where the number of people migrating is higher than the global average." "Not even the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression has been able to significantly reduce migratory flows, which continue and which will no doubt increase as the demographic imbalances in developed countries begin to make themselves felt more forcefully," he added.

Among the data in the report, the Secretary General stressed "the strong concentration of migration between neighboring countries in Latin America and the Caribbean." "For some destination countries, between 40 and 50 percent of immigration came from a single neighbor. This was the case in Argentina (from Paraguay), Barbados (Guyana), Bolivia and Chile (Peru) and Costa Rica (from Nicaragua)."

The leader of the hemispheric organization highlighted the importance of SICREMI, which allows Member States "to have reliable, comparable data across countries and regular monitoring of the movements and policies on migration." He further emphasized that "it is complex to formulate migration policies to address the causes and impacts of migration dynamics, because it involves establishing public policies that cover social issues, labor issues, security issues and international relations, among others. That is why it is essential to have reliable information and data that allow for the design of more appropriate and timelier policies."

The Report reveals that the economic crisis did not change significantly the total numbers of migratory flows from the Americas, but it had a "substantial effect" on models of population movements. The figures are especially significant in the case of migration to Spain, which fell by 38 percent between 2008 and 2010 compared to 2005-2007. Similarly, flows into the United States fell by four percent.

These decreases towards the two countries that had been the focus of the migration of the citizens of the Americas in recent years were offset numerically by population movements to other OECD countries outside Europe, which grew by eight percent (Canada, Chile, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand), and to other countries in Europe, which increased by 14 percent. "The economic difficulties in Spain and the United States seem to have had the effect of redirecting migration from the Americas to other destination countries of the OECD," finds the report, which considered likely that "migration is determined more by the conditions in countries of origin than in the countries of destination."

Regarding the origin of migrants, there was a decrease of eight percent between 2005-2007 and 2008-2010 in migrations from the Americas, which reached three million, figures which the report indicates "remain at a relatively high level." The largest decreases were registered in the countries of the Andean Region and the Southern Cone (over 180,000 migrants within each region), while in the same period of time the Caribbean region saw an increase of 11 percent in the number of immigrants, largely due to migration from Haiti, but especially from the Dominican Republic to the United States.

The report also includes data on remittances. In that sense, throughout 2011 flows to Latin America and the Caribbean showed strong signs of recovery, achieving growth rates close to those recorded before the onset of the global economic crisis. In that year, the countries of the region received from the United States 61.013 million dollars in remittances, which represented an increase of 6 percent over the previous year.

For his part, Georges Lemaitre, an expert from the International Migration Division of the OECD, said that migration patterns are very diverse and changing, and cited as an example that some OECD countries with a tradition of emigration, such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland, became countries of immigrants in recent decades. In this regard, he said that countries should be prepared to face these possible changes.

The OECD expert compared the effect of the most recent global crisis with that of the 1930's, and said that while "at the time of the Great Depression migration flows stopped completely, in the recent crisis they simply slowed." He warned, moreover, that population movements to developed countries are likely to continue to increase, due to the growing workforce needs in advanced economies because of the aging of the local citizenry.

Meanwhile, Maria Luisa Hayem, consultant at the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the IDB, highlighted the chapter on remittances in the report for its influence on the economies of the region, especially in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador, countries that received more foreign exchange in 2011.

The IDB consultant reported that countries that receive most of their remittances from the United States had recovered their pre-crisis levels. For example, in Mexico there was a 16 percent decline in remittances in 2009 due to the economic crisis, but two years later, in 2011, there was an increase of 7 percent. In the case of countries such as Colombia and Ecuador, which have a large number of migrants in Spain, "they are still being affected in the receipt of remittances by the crisis in the European country."

Meanwhile, Sherry Tross, Acting Executive Secretary for Integral Development (SEDI) of the OAS, said that "international migration has made a significant contribution to the economic growth of individuals, families, communities and countries." According to UN statistics, Tross said, "more than 205 million people live outside the countries where they were born, and more than seven hundred million migrate to live within their own country."

Carla Serazzi, Chair of the Committee on Migration Issues of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) and Alternate Representative of Chile to the OAS,said for her part that the report was supported by specialists from 18 countries in the region, unlike the first report, which received input from specialists from nine countries in the Americas. The Ambassador of Barbados to the OAS, John Beale, was the host of the event, in his role as the CIDI Chair.

The SICREMI 2012 was compiled with funding from Spain and Canada. The Permanent Observer of Spain, Jorge Hevia, highlighted the migratory ties that have existed between his country and the region for 500 years. Ambassador Hevia recalled that Spain today "receives 57 percent of Latin American migrants heading to Europe," a trend that has reversed with respect to the flow of Spanish migrants who arrived in the Americas during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and after the Civil War in the country (1936-39).

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

The audio of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-015/13