Latin Americans migrating from Europe to the UK: barriers to accessing public services and welfare

Date published



A new report has been published on the situation of people from Latin America who have migrated on to the UK after a period of living in another EU country has found evidence of vulnerability in employment and ‘practical exclusion’ for information services provided by local authorities.

The report has been published by the Care-Connect Social Care Innovation Hub at Leeds University working in cooperation with the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS). It comes at a time when the Latin American population in the UK has been growing significantly over recent decades, to an estimated total of 186,500 people in 2008 (including second generation individuals), 61% of them residing in London. Since the 2008 financial crisis and its harsher consequences in southern European countries there has been a significant increase in the number of Latin American migrants who, having lived and acquired citizenships in countries such Spain, have opted to re-migrate to the UK when facing long-term unemployment and other socio-economic difficulties in their current EU countries of residence.

The report focuses on these ‘new’ arrivals from other European countries, paying particular attention to Latin American women who, in many cases, are heads of household, have scant knowledge of the public services and welfare system in the UK, face language barriers and are often at risk of abuse and exploitation. Despite, in many cases, holding EU citizenship, these ‘new’ arrivals face a range of difficulties when settling in London, where they often enter low-paid, fragmented and insecure employment. Their precarious socio-economic circumstances are compounded by a lack of economic resources and, in some cases, debts before re-migrating, older age at which the re-migration occurs and reseparation from family members who are often left behind in their previous country of migration.

The key findings of the report are:

· Latin Americans migrating from other European Union (EU) countries to the UK face a range of difficulties when settling in London, where they often become employed in low paid, fragmented and insecure jobs (particularly in the cleaning sector). These difficulties affect women particularly, as they are often the main carers for children and family.

 · Reduced outreach, interpretation and information services from local authorities for new arrivals often result in ‘practical exclusion’ of migrants and their children from public services to which they are entitled, undermining their ability to integrate and secure appropriate standards of living.

 · Diminished resources in public services provision and welfare restrictions for recent EU migrants (due to public misperceptions that these migrants overburden the welfare system) create barriers for vulnerable migrants to access social protection, particularly for women.

· Barriers of access have been identified in healthcare, education, housing and employment, which have particular detrimental effects for those migrants working in precarious jobs, making them vulnerable to labour exploitation and poverty.

Related countries

United Kingdom
Latin America and the Caribbean

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12 pages

JMDI publication