A new life: Over 1 million immigrants currently live in Chile

SANTIAGO – According to the National Statistics Institute, more immigrants have arrived in Chile over the last five years. Overtaking Peruvians, Venezuelans currently make up the biggest group. Naturally, immigration has also caused controversy.

Immigration remains a hot topic as the number of immigrants has risen sharply. The National Statistics Institute INE published a study that revealed 1,251,225 foreigners lived in the country in December 2018, 6.6% of the total population.

The rise has turned Chile into the country with the sharpest increase in immigration in the region, specifically 232% between 2014 and 2017, Spanish broadcaster ABC reported.  

Venezuelans make up the majority

Venezuelans make up the majority of immigrants with 23%. Peruvians, which held the number one spot for years, are the second largest immigrant group with 18.6%, while Haitians with 14.3% are the third largest group in Chile right now.  

Considering gender, 51.6% of all immigrants are men and generally immigrants are between 20 and 24 years old.

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New legislation

The rise has led the government to create an immigration law which the Chamber of Deputies already approved. Senate approval is pending. According to the government’s website, this law seeks a “modern migration policy that promotes safe, orderly and regular migration, adapting to current times and to the needs of the country.”

Through the law, officials seek to establish “clear entry requirements and an effective administrative procedure, a Migration Policy Council and the creation of a National Migration Service,”  among other things.

Controversy over influx in relation to HIV numbers

But immigration has also caused controversy. As a recent example, consider the comments from Health Minister Emilio Santelices, regarding HIV numbers and immigration.

The minister claimed that of the 6,948 new cases, “the majority of these patients are foreigners.” He added that “foreigners have come with HIV, and therefore the number of patients has increased.

But the state authority, the Public Health Institute (ISP), showed that most new infections from January through December 2018 are suffered by Chileans.

Juan Pablo Ramaciotti, who is director of the Jesuit’s migrant service, told CNN Chile that “between 2010 and 2017 less than 10% of the cases diagnosed related to foreigners.”

So, comparing the figures reveals that in 2015 new cases reached 4,307, of which 88% were Chilean and 9.19% foreigners. In 2018, however, new HIV cases were 6,948, with 62.45% Chilean and 37.13% related to immigrants. That means total cases went up, as did the portion of foreigners with the diagnosis (from 9.19% to 37.13%).

But correlation is not causation, and the minister’s comments remain dodgy at best, since he claimed that from January to December 2018 more foreigners than Chileans received an HIV diagnosis.

The higher numbers, rather, reflect better monitoring, Paulina Daza, undersecretary of Public Health, told daily El Mercurio. “We knew there would be more cases, because we are going to look for potential patients to do the quick test,” she said. Hence, the new numbers reflect more accurately the situation. Daza expects another increase for this year.

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HIV epidemic in Chile: 2019 campaign will focus on migrants

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