March 30, 2007

The Emigration of Bolivians, an Alarming Situation!

MABB © ®

The emigration of Bolivians to Spain is taking alarming tones. According to EU legislation to control illegal immigration, Spain will be asking Bolivians to apply for visas if they want to visit that country. Up to now, Bolivians did not require any visa to enter Spain as tourists. That is the main reason Bolivians who want to immigrate to Spain have been, since the end of last year, trying to get to Spain before April first.

The situation is dramatic because at this point in time, there are no more tickets available to travel by plane. The two airlines servicing that route, LAB and Aero Sur, have sold out all their seats. Additionally, LAB, the Bolivian airline, has been having trouble keeping up with its bills and just days ago, it has completely ceased operations and canceled all its flights to Spain. This left literally thousands of customers stranded in both sides of the Atlantic, in Viru-Viru, Santa Cruz and in Barajas, Madrid. To put salt on the wound, the three highest executives of LAB have been arrested for fraud by the Attorney General of Santa Cruz. The alleged charge is the selling of tickets, even though the executives knew they would have to cancel the flights.

Making matters worst, there are plenty of people, such as travel agents, who are trying to speculate with the anguish of these people by continue selling tickets to Spain, even though there are no more places on the planes. The military has jumped in and has announced it would make available, on order of the government, airplanes to take Bolivians to Brasil so they could catch connecting flights. These tickets are supposed to cost $390 dollars, and that is on top of the between $1200 to $3000 dollars people already paid.

Due to the lack of flights, other Bolivians have opted to make the trip on cruises. However, that did not turned out to be an optimal solution either. As I write this post, there are around 89 Bolivians on board of the cruise ship Sinfonia, who have not been allowed into Spain, at the ports of Cadiz and Valencia. Now they are on their way to Genoa, and are at the mercy of Italian authorities.

According to press reports, there are around 60 thousand legal Bolivians living in Spain, and there are estimates that in total are around 300,000 Bolivians living there without papers. Every day arrive around 500 immigrants in Barajas. Of those, 55% are illegal and at the time, 90% are Bolivian.

The situation is dramatic indeed. Many Bolivians are desperate to join family and others want to just immigrate. This will remain critical until this Saturday, when the possibility to reach Spain before the visa legislation enters into force is not possible anymore.