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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 11:24 GMT
Crisis prompts Argentine exodus
Argentines queue outside Spanish Consulate
Queue are forming outside many consulates
By the BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires

Many Argentines have simply had enough. As the economic and social crisis deepens, thousands have decided to leave the country and start a new life elsewhere.

There are long queues daily outside the Spanish and Italian consulates in Buenos Aires of people applying for passports.

Well-educated and articulate youngsters find there is no future for them in South America

They are entitled to one if they have the papers to prove that at least one grandparent was born in Europe.

"I'm sad," said one protester. "I'm the son of immigrants and I'm sad to see all the work done by my parents and grandparents was in vain."

Argentina is a country of immigrants. First came the Spanish colonisers and subsequent waves of immigrants escaping economic or political hardship.

From the beginning of the 20th century, the Italians started arriving. Argentina was then one of the wealthiest countries in the world, trading on its wheat and beef exports.

Tempting location

The country was a tempting proposition for thousands of poor people escaping poverty-stricken and overcrowded regions of Europe.

With its wide open spaces and natural resources it promised a better future.

Economy Minister Remes Lenicov
Economy Minister Remes Lenicov faces a tough task
While the majority came from Spain and Italy, large numbers also arrived from Germany, France, Croatia, Britain and Portugal.

But Argentina has been plagued by corrupt and inept politicians.

And with each economic crisis, the queues have again formed outside the consulates as Argentines, fed up with the incertainty, try to return to the lands their grandparents left.

Argentina has the largest middle-class in South America and it's they who have been hit hardest by the current crisis.

Well-educated and articulate, youngsters find there is no future for them in South America.

The bars and restaurants of Madrid, Milan and Miami are full of young Argentines working to start a new life in countries they feel will provide them with greater stability and better opportunities.

Jewish emigrants

Argentina also has a large predominantly middle-class Jewish community, which has also been suffering during the current crisis.

There has always been a steady stream of people emigrating to Israel.

The country boasts a Spanish-language newspaper and Argentine Israelis are forming a well-established community.

Regional tourism has been hit, with many Argentines cancelling holidays

As the crisis in Argentina continues the Israeli authorities are investigating ways to make emigration for Argentine Jews easier.

Like all new arrivals, they spend time at absorption centres where they learn Hebrew and become acclimatised to life in their new homeland.

"Unfortunately we left our country in ruins," said Monica Niselboim, who arrived in Israel from Buenos Aires last month with her family.

The constant political tension in Israel was not the family's overriding concern.

It was the economic crisis in Argentina that prompted them to leave in search of a future for their children that they didn't see in South America.

Unless the crisis is tackled soon, many more Argentines will be looking at their family roots to find an escape from the economic and social chaos in their homeland and the hope of a better life elsewhere.

See also:

11 Jan 02 | Americas
Fresh protests rock Argentina
09 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina currency fears mount
08 Jan 02 | Business
IMF sees more pain for Argentina
07 Jan 02 | Business
Q&A: Argentina's economic crisis
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