Latin America is the region that currently registers the largest migratory flows in the world. Understanding and addressing these movements will bring benefits for host countries and for those who leave their countries in search of new horizons.
More than 41 million Latin Americans live outside their country of origin, making it the region with the highest number of migrants in the world. However, not all of them are the same. A good part are economic migrants who move motivated by job opportunities in other countries. Others, like the 7.2 million Venezuelans who are outside their country, many other Haitians and some Central Americans, are fleeing economic, political, social and climatic crises. Understanding these movements will bring necessary benefits for migrants, but also for the communities that host them.
Due to the reasons for which they are leaving their territory and their conditions of vulnerability, Venezuelan migrants are the only population in Latin America that is being considered with a status of need for international protection by the UN Refugee Agency (ACNUR). “The economic crisis in Venezuela has no precedent in Latin America and is the largest that has occurred in the region and in the world in the last 50 years, reaching even higher indicators of inflation and contraction of gross domestic product than countries at war. This implies a direct threat to life, security and freedoms. This is why they receive this status”, explains Paula Rossiasco, a senior specialist in social development at the World Bank.
This massive mobilization in recent years has forced host countries to take extraordinary measures to receive people who lack official documentation. “What countries like Colombia have done is create migration instruments that serve as a bridge, generating regularization conditions that are much more flexible than the ordinary migration system: they are not asked for a valid passport, or payment for a visa, rather these requirements are reduced or simplified so that they can access a regular immigration status that allows them to stay and work in the country”, explains Rossiasco.
This is the Temporary Protection Statute, which grants the right to permanence, services and access to the labor market with the same conditions as Colombians for a period of ten years.
Understanding the problem
Despite these efforts, the stigma that the population has about migrants who arrive in their countries must also change. “Migration is a change that we experience from day to day. As always happens with changes, they are not liked it and they pose questions, which are valid and legitimate questions that the population should be able to ask. What happens is that when a State does not generate clear answers or a clear political direction or does not manage the migration process, confusion is created and myths begin to be generated”, explains Rossiasco, referring to the stigma of the population which begins to receive migrants in their cities.
“In reality, what happens with these migratory processes, especially with those that Latin America is experiencing, is that they generate new consumers, that expand the economically active population, that rejuvenates the population. For example, in Chile, the aging process was very accelerated and when the migrant population arrived it was rejuvenated, extending the years of demographic bonus”, explains Rossiasco. “We actually have evidence that shows us that a lot of those myths don’t come to pass and that we’re missing out on growth opportunities at a time when we need it.”
The massive migratory phenomenon that Venezuela has had has put host countries on alert because they were not prepared for such a massive exodus. The World Bank’s senior specialist in social development explains that the organization has been working in response to these mobilizations with four main instruments: analysis of migration in each host country, technical assistance to implement adequate integration policies, financing of more than 4 billion dollars for migration projects in the region and, lastly, its convening power with multilateral banks, humanitarian actors and governments to generate a conversation, understand migration and propose solutions.
Regulation against gender violence
Latin America and the Caribbean have great challenges in terms of the gender gap. With migration, these inequalities have intensified.
According to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), women represent 58.9% of migrants in Caribbean countries. The World Bank ensures that some women show higher levels of education than men. However, the validation of qualifications is frustrated by the absence of regulatory options, the lack of resources and the required processes and documents that can become extensive and complex.
Furthermore, the challenge becomes greater due to gender violence. “Venezuelan women in Latin America have been over sexualized and have been disproportionately victims of cases of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and also harassment. This has limited their capacity for job placement. When we did the analytical study in Peru, many women said that they prefer to work on the street, because if they work in a restaurant it is easier to be a victim of harassment. In the public space they are harassed less and this is suboptimal, because surely in a formal job that person could generate more income and with this more consumption and contribute to the payment of taxes”, explains Rossiasco.
For the specialist, regularization is essential to protect migrants. “Although it is true that it is not an end in itself, it is a key way to ensure, on the one hand, formal employment, but on the other hand, access to the necessary protection services for women victims of harassment or gender violence. In Colombia we have registered an increase in reports of gender violence since regularization, because before that women are afraid of being expelled from the country, of being victimized, and only when they have regularization do they dare to seek support and protection”, she explains.
Facing the new reality
Migratory movement will continue in the region and it is necessary to be open to the changes that this entails. Policies and promotion in favor of improving the living conditions of migrants are essential. This is the case of the first financing of development policies that the World Bank has promoted in Colombia with Venezuelan migrants, with an approved loan of 526 million dollars to support social and economic integration strategies for this population.
But the actions must go further. The perception of migrants will have to change to accept an optimal introduction to the host population.
“At the end of the day, we are human beings who are facing a situation that is unknown, that generates questions, that generates impacts, and it seems legitimate to us that these conversations take place at that level, because if they do not take place, no matter how much public policy there is, no matter how many integration initiatives are carried out, the perception will not change”, says Rossiasco.
For the specialist, a positive interaction between a migrant and a local will help change the idea that one has of the other. “If these people begin to be part of our society, we are investing not in the migrant, we are investing in a new society that will revert to stability and development in the long term”, Rossiasco concludes.
One certainty is that, despite the complexities, the migratory phenomenon brings development opportunities for countries; this is where efforts should be focused and, although it does pose a challenge for the region, a solid and collective analysis will help generate new questions and answers that translate into shaping a society open to change.
Original article by Eduardi Luis Hernández at https://elpais.com/america/termometro-social/2023-06-30/la-migracion-vista-como-una-gran-oportunidad-para-el-desarrollo.html?fbclid=IwAR3vWNoBPJOUNZPjzOqaQGHhV_sXm_dtZ8urj5KOhkb65cnThQ7peNoD5-o
Translated by Schools for Chiapas.