Carlos Arredondo, Carlos, Arredondo, Chile, Scotland, music, poetry, culture, Latin America  

Taken from: Listening to the evidence: the future of UK resettlement 2003

Conference proceedings Victoria Park Plaza, London, 6 February 2003 Edited by Verity Gelsthorpe and Lauren Herlitz, Further copies of this conference report are available from: Communication Development Unit, Room 264 50, Queen Anne’s Gate,London email This publication is also available on the RDS website: Internet: http//

The Chilean ‘Programme’, 1974-79

Policy considerations

Although there was never an official ‘Chilean programme’, the government did accept and resettle some 3,000 political exiles from the regime of General Pinochet between 1974 and 1979. There was a good deal of public support in the UK for these political refugees and this was manifested through the spontaneous formation of over forty local Chile Solidarity Campaigns in Britain and the actions of various trade unions which lobbied for the release of political prisoners (Kay, 1987). Many of the latter had been incarcerated for considerable periods of time and had also been tortured, and their release was only made possible by the intervention of international human rights organisations such as the United Nations (UN).

Also important was that the Chileans were not a visible minority and that many were well-educated, although few could speak English before coming to this country. Very few had elected to come to the UK as their first choice since there was little knowledge about Britain in that country and people naturally looked to the United States as their preferred destination. Rather, they were pre-selected by humanitarian organisations. Even those

who were sponsored by British organisations such as the World University Service (WUS) were making a step into the unknown. Moreover, most wished actively to continue the struggle against Pinochet and, initially at least, intended to return home when his government had been overthrown. Integration was therefore far from their thoughts.

Policy implementation

There is very little literature on the policies that were introduced to resettle the Chileans. However it is known that in July 1974 a group of charities and activist groups combined their resources to form the Joint Working Group for Refugees from Chile (JWG). WUS continued to be responsible for the thousand or so Chileans who came to the UK to continue their education, and simply met them at Heathrow before escorting them to the University that had offered them a place.

The remainder were met by the staff of the JWG, who took them to a Reception Centre in London that had been funded by an initial grant from the Home Office and which was then funded by a rolling programme of recurrent grants. They stayed there four weeks, during which time they received medical assistance, counselling, and orientation classes. When they left the Centre, they were handed over to one of the eight regional co-ordinators who oversaw all aspects of resettlement and were funded by the charities. The government again refused to countenance targeted service provision. Front-end loading meant that again, reception was funded centrally, but resettlement and integration were not. Local authorities that volunteered to accept Chileans were not reimbursed (Browne, 1979). The government again decided that accommodation should take precedence over employment, but that housing should not be requisitioned, built or bought, but should be volunteered by those authorities with the political will to do so (Joly, 1987).

Policy outcomes

Because local authorities knew that they would receive no financial help if they resettled Chileans, offers were slow to materialise, and tended to come from areas where authorities had been lobbied by local labour groups or support groups. As a result, offers were concentrated in the older industrial cities of the north, Scotland or the

Midlands, and the Chileans found themselves being denied the opportunity to live in the south-east. Kay (1987) argues that this dispersal took place against the wishes of the Chileans and actively disempowered them. Furthermore, the dispersed Chileans were often sent to areas which lacked the infrastructure and experience to support minorities who did not speak English as their first language. Many Chileans found themselves living

in cities where there were few other Spanish-speakers and where local authorities had failed to pro v i d e language classes. The latter situation was not helped by an eighteen-month-long argument between the Home Office and the Department of Education about who should fund language classes (Browne, 1979). The inadequate provision of language tuition was not the only problem. The local authorities which offered housing were often unfamiliar with refugees, their needs and their entitlements. This became a major issue for those who had experienced torture, but was also a significant problem for all Chileans, only 50 per cent of whom ever received any employment training (Browne, 1979). The sense of isolation that gripped some Chileans stimulated their secondary migration to London (Levin, 1981). This migration augmented a Chilean community that had begun to develop in the capital when the JWG found itself so short of accommodation in the regions that it had to accept and use offers of local authority housing in London. In fact, 31 per cent of all Chileans were eventually resettled by the JWG in London.



  Carlos Arredondo, Carlos, Arredondo, Chile, Scotland, music, poetry, culture, Latin America