Ecuador: Historical look at emigration and return migration

Posted on June 8, 2015 • Filed under: Border Issues, Ecuador, Social Issues D. Jokisch reported Ecuador’s geographical variety is nearly matched by its diverse migration patterns. Although it is a small Andean country of approximately 15.7 million people, Ecuador accounts for the largest Latin American nationality in Spain, the second largest in Italy, and one of the largest immigrant groups in metro New York. Ecuador also is an important migrant destination. The long-standing conflict in Colombia has driven tens of thousands of its citizens into Ecuador, making it the country in Latin America with the largest refugee population.

Since the early 1980s, Ecuador has experienced two major waves of emigration, sending 10 percent to 15 percent of Ecuadorians overseas. Today, an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million Ecuadorians live abroad. The first wave of migrants originated in southern Ecuador and departed in the early 1980s, heading mainly to the United States. The second wave left in the late 1990s and early 2000s and mostly went to Spain, the United States, and Italy. Since the mid-2000s emigration has slowed considerably, and the earlier waves have been replaced by a steady flow of Ecuadorians leaving to reunite with relatives abroad, most notably in Spain and, to a lesser extent, the United States and Italy.


Rafael Correa is the first president of Ecuador to reach out to Ecuadorians overseas. Since taking office in 2007, his administration has developed programs to encourage diaspora members to return. This state-led transnationalism coincided with the 2008 global economic crisis and Spain’s efforts to encourage unemployed immigrants to return to their home countries. Although efforts to pull and push Ecuadorians to return initially had minimal success, return migration from Spain has increased recently—a pattern likely to continue in the short term. Read Article

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