Migrants Find Poverty, Exclusion in South America’s Copper Capital (Voice of America – May 31, 2017)


ANTOFAGASTA, CHILE — Immigrants from around South America hoping to seek their fortunes in the continent’s copper mining capital of Antofagasta, Chile, are instead finding poverty, exclusion and a precarious home in the city’s growing temporary slums.

Chile, one of Latin America’s most developed countries, has become a magnet in recent years for immigrants from poorer and less stable parts of the region, especially Haiti, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

Many are attracted to this northern Chile city, close to where the majority of mines are located in the world’s biggest copper exporter. Not all seek work in the mines themselves, but rather in providing the ancillary services that mushroomed during the previous decade’s commodity boom.

But the end of that boom and a sharply lower copper price have hit investment and jobs, which has been felt particularly sharply in Chile’s northern provinces. While most of the country has maintained weak economic growth thanks to other industries like agriculture, Antofagasta has been plunged into recession.

Migrants to Chile on average have a higher level of education than Chileans, according to U.N. data. But anti-immigrant sentiment — increasingly exploited by politicians — means they are more likely to be left without work.

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