Colombia on Monday sent a delegation to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to seek the end to an exodus of Colombian soldiers who are lured to join the Arab country’s military by much higher wages.
Colombia’s vice-ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs and a top general will be meeting with officials of the Emirates’ foreign ministry seeking some kind of agreement to regulate the incorporation of Colombian-trained soldiers in the UAE’s armed forces.
According to Colombian radio station RCN, the Arab country’s government is willing to regulate the inflow of Colombians.
Hundreds of Colombian soldiers have resigned from their home country’s armed forces to join ranks in the Middle East where wages reportedly are at least five times as high. The UAE seeks to increase its army with some 3,000 men. According to newspaper El Universal, the Arab country has already contracted 1,300 soldiers of which the majority is from Colombia.
The transfer of soldiers to the foreign army has caused unease among Colombia’s military commanders for years because the military claims the higher salaries abroad are draining the army of its best men and women.
“They have recruited soldiers with a lot of combat experience, valuable men with years of service in which the Army invested a lot in terms of training,” an anonymous general told weekly Semana in 2012.
“Without a doubt, this is a loss for the army, but there isn’t much we can do because it is by no means illegal,” the military official added.
According to Semana, the Colombians are making in between $2,800 and $18,000 in the UAE depending on the rank. In Colombia, a soldier earns $530 a month on average.