1705032871 The Colombian diaspora is the one that is growing the

The Colombian diaspora is the one that is growing the most in Madrid, with more than 30,000 migrants in 2023

Every morning a crowd gathers at number 6 Calle Alfonso XI, just a few meters from Retiro Park. In front of a glass door topped with a tricolor flag, security guard Nelson López (Kali, 45 years old) attends to three large lines of Colombians as they raise their ID cards while shouting their consular needs. “I’ve come to renew my passport.” “I want to make a duplicate of the ID card,” they shout in unison. López, who has mastered the art of directing the confused, distributes instructions with two hands: “Please show me it's my turn,” “go on to reception,” “That's why you need to talk to your lawyer,” he says he continues to be more than one person. 500 Colombians who come to the diplomatic headquarters every day. These Latinos represent the nationality that is growing the most in the capital, with 25,110 entries in the first nine months of 2023, and also in Spain, with 116,000 entries in the same period, according to the latest data from the INE.

This exodus has broken the hegemony of the Venezuelans, who were at the top of the list until 2022, and the Ecuadorians, who dominated at the beginning of the millennium. Barajas Airport has become the best-selling international destination for airlines operating from El Dorado Airport (Bogotá), with more than a million travelers in 2023, up 21% year-on-year, according to figures from the Civil Aeronautics of Colombia. The entry of Colombians into Spain has increased like crazy since 2015, following the signing of a bilateral agreement with the EU that abolished visa requirements for tourists, allowing this population to grow in the capital by 50% in the last eight years: from 82,000 before the contract, to 124,451 in 2022, according To figures. There are 568,034 registered Colombians in Spain. The most common method among undocumented Colombians to start life in Spain is to pretend to come as tourists.

Felipe Largo (Manizales, 45 years old) came to Barajas nine months ago with the intention of staying there to live. “I had to say I was coming as a tourist and would be returning, so I brought some clothes, bought a return ticket and planned a two-week tour of Alicante, Barcelona and Valencia,” he recalls. He even deleted some files from his phone in case they came by to check. In the end, so many utensils were unnecessary. After midnight, he entered immigration control with such ease that he never realized the tension was over. “I was waiting for a police officer to start asking me questions,” he says. In 2023, 2,178 Colombians were not admitted to Barajas Airport, representing 0.2% of the total number of travelers. Consular sources emphasize that there is a “high level of no-shows,” referring to Colombians who do not use their return ticket but also do not cancel it.

The Colombian diaspora, once driven from their borders by the armed conflict, is now emigrating with the aim of increasing their purchasing power. In a state with a minimum wage of 300 euros (as of 2023) and unsustainable inequality, half of citizens say they would like to leave their country, according to a Gallup poll. After Madrid, Catalonia is Spain's second most popular destination with 97,000 visitors in the first three quarters of 2023, followed by Valencia with 83,500.

Largo held several administrative positions in his home country, but was unable to build enough wealth to “grow into old age peacefully” or to provide his 11-year-old daughter with higher education. That's why he came to Spain, even if it means an implosion of his comfort zone. “What I have learned in life is of no use to me here, here I just need to know about electricity, construction work or bathing dogs,” admits the man, who already has a history of unhappy jobs in B (without a contract, nor benefits): “Lots of mops, lots of brooms,” he summarizes. The last of them worked as a cleaner in a restaurant where exposure to chemicals caused an allergic reaction, his blisters burst and he became infected with a bacteria that put him in the hospital for 25 days. The employer was not responsible for the treatment.

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Subscribe toThe central Consulate General of Colombia in Madrid is compared in operational capacity only to that of New York or Miami.The central Consulate General of Colombia in Madrid is compared in operational capacity only to that of New York or Miami.

Anyone who finds a job irregularly has to work long hours without having to pay social security or register in the pension system. Julián David Mosquera (Barranquilla, 19 years old) was processing an asylum application after arriving in Barajas as a tourist in early 2022. After two years of waiting, his application was rejected by the Spanish government. He decided to take a job in construction for a salary of 800 euros a month, without benefits. As an employee at B, the young man warns: “You are not treated equally and you are not paid equally.” Sometimes the abuse manifests itself in other ways, as shown by Alexandra Echeverri (Kali, 19 years old), who is one from the owner of a bar A job as a waitress was offered, regardless of whether she did not have a residence permit, e.g. as long as she wore a skirt or dressed up during working hours. The young woman assures: “Often the need leads to allowing these behaviors: either you wear a skirt or you lose your job.” She decided to remain unemployed.

From the Colombian consulate in Madrid they warn of excessive use of asylum by migrants, although the positive reactions are minimal. According to the Interior Ministry, 245 applications were accepted in 2023, including more than 50,000 submitted by Colombians. The misuse of this figure can be explained by the fact that applicants receive a temporary card that allows them to work until the procedure is clarified, which usually takes a few years. This panorama is much more encouraging than looking for a job in B or folding your arms until social roots are reached.

Spain is becoming increasingly attractive to Colombians, not only because of the language, but also because of the ease of getting to the promised land by plane and avoiding dangerous border crossings such as the Darién Gap or the Río Bravo between Mexico and the USA. At the national level, coffee farmers are the second largest nationality, with 568,000 registered people, surpassed only by Moroccans, who number almost one million, according to INE. 57% of Colombians arriving in Spain have only an ESO degree, 11% have a bachelor's degree and higher professional studies represent a remainder.

Tricolor flag at the Colombian Consulate on Alfonso XI Street in Madrid.Tricolor flag at the Colombian Consulate on Alfonso XI Street in Madrid.

The “call effect” of networks

Rodrigo Pinzón, Colombian consul in Madrid, warns of the “call effect” that appearances on social networks create: “People (in Colombia) only see the photo of their acquaintances celebrating the Real Madrid final in Cibeles, but the reality “Many have to.” Come here to work day and night. The young Echeverri supports this hypothesis, saying that “the Colombian is very prone to bullying (attitude), he wants to pretend something that is actually something else.” Several testimonies collected for this report agree that the migrants make the journey, without being aware of the difficulties that come with a new life in Spain. When they arrive, they face the impossibility of finding a job without a residence permit. Savings in pesos begin to disappear in euros, and then comes a flood of worries and sometimes regrets.

Since the oasis is nothing more than a mirage, many migrants decide to return, like Adriana Vélez (Manizales, 56 years old). “I made the decision to return to Colombia because I couldn't find a job after two months,” says the 56-year-old from Manizale, concluding: “I thought it would be easier, but if you don't have any papers.” very complicated.”

Others, like Largo or Mosquera, prefer to resist and make adversity a natural step in the migration process. “Giving me back is not an option,” says the first. “Crying is a waste of time,” explains the second. These Latinos will hold out as best they can while they reach a settlement. They have already been transplanted, the most difficult thing is the beginning, even more so in a rocky and desert soil like that of Madrid, difficult to fertilize for root formation.

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