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Los países de la región tienen no solo el desafío, sino la obligación, de promover políticas de gestión migratoria basadas en estándares internacionales de derechos humanos | EFE

Challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean in the management and protection of migrants’ rights

Socioeconomic integration, border management and the climate emergency in the region are some of the challenges to create programs that safeguard the rights of migrants and refugees.

Por: Lina Arroyave VelásquezFebruary 21, 2024

Migration continues to increase worldwide. According to current figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 2020, there were approximately 281 million international migrants, representing 3.6% of the global population who have left their country of origin. The reasons that drive people to migrate across borders are diverse and include the closing of civic space, persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a specific social group, violence and the impacts of climate change, among other factors.

According to the aforementioned IOM report, particularly in the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, although they are not the main destinations for migrants, the figures have experienced a notable increase over a period of 15 years, from 7 million to 15 million. This region had the highest rate of reception of migrant population during this period.

Serving migrants and refugees imposes challenges on States, which may vary according to the specific context and circumstances. Some of the most common challenges that migration imposes on States are: promoting sustainable socioeconomic integration programs and policies over time, strengthening the infrastructure and capacity of public services, protecting the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees, among others.

If States do not take adequate action, this can have negative consequences on the migrant population, leading to violations of their fundamental rights and exacerbating their vulnerability. Among the challenges posed in 2024 for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, with respect to the management and care of migrants and refugees crossing the corridors linking the countries of origin, transit and destination, we highlight three: the due guarantee and protection of migrants’ rights and their security (prevention of human trafficking and smuggling); the consequences of climate change; and border management.

Protection of migrants 

With regard to protecting and guaranteeing the rights of migrants and their safety, the challenges are centered, on the one hand, on the provision of humanitarian aid, which constitutes the first phase of the attention that States must provide to people in a situation of human mobility, i.e., migrants and refugees. This humanitarian assistance seeks to meet their urgent basic needs, such as food, health and housing.

However, when it comes to programs aimed at migrants in transit, States tend to delegate this responsibility to international cooperation organizations and United Nations agencies. But it is imperative that the countries of the region assume a role in which regional co-responsibility is the guiding principle for offering dignified attention, based on human rights, to the migrant population in transit and with the intention of settling in the region.

On the other hand, in the case of migrants with a vocation to remain, humanitarian aid must evolve towards sustainable socio-economic integration. This integration should not only contribute to local economies and host communities, but also help migrants and refugees to achieve their subsistence in an autonomous and sustainable manner. Both types of programs need to be strengthened in the countries of the region. 

With regard to programs and policies for the socioeconomic integration of migrants and refugees in the countries of the region, it is important that the regularization of their migratory status also include measures that allow easy and expeditious access to permanent residence. The limited duration of regularization programs, their high costs and the impossibility of complying with their requirements once again lead to the irregularity of migrants and the lack of access to their rights. 

Human rights-based border management 

Border management is another issue that poses challenges for the countries of the region. Borders are areas where different phenomena tend to converge: migrant smuggling, human trafficking, territorial disputes between transnational organized crime groups for the domination of illicit economies, etc. 

To confront these phenomena, States have militarized their border zones under the guise of sovereignty and national security and to curb irregular migration. 

Although States have the power to establish mechanisms to control and order migration, and to have armed forces or police to protect their borders from illegal groups, it is problematic that these authorities are the ones in charge of carrying out migration control actions and responding to the migrant population that arrives to their territories in search of protection. Instead of fulfilling the objective of guaranteeing safe and orderly migration, these measures continue to generate serious violations of the rights of migrants and refugees, even exposing them to crimes such as human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and sexual and labor exploitation. 

The countries of the region have not only the challenge, but the obligation to promote migration management policies based on international human rights standards that also guarantee safe entry and transit for migrants and refugees.

Climate emergency and human mobility 

An additional challenge posed by the year 2024 in terms of migration is linked to the effects of climate change on migration processes, as it has become an element that amplifies the current dynamics. In view of this situation, it is crucial that States assume an active and proactive role, which implies the creation of sustainable protection mechanisms and programs. Therefore, at the regional level, States must commit to understanding the impacts that climate change is having on migratory flows, with the aim of promoting preventive measures and coordinating adaptation, humanitarian and stabilization responses that contribute to counteracting the effects on people’s rights.

Against this backdrop and with the aim of ensuring that migration is managed from a human rights perspective, it is crucial that the States of Latin America and the Caribbean implement programs to safeguard and guarantee the rights of persons in a situation of human mobility, covering both those in transit and those who intend to settle permanently. This requires coordinated work between States, international cooperation, international and multilateral organizations and civil society, with the aim of reducing the socioeconomic vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees in receiving countries.

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