10 initiatives against xenophobia

To combat xenophobia, we must innovate and collaborate. IOM has implemented a number of successful initiatives to combat xenophobia in the region, particularly through Community Outreach and Communication Campaigns. Community outreach projects involve the creation of events and activities that strengthen bonds between migrants and host communities. Our communication campaigns have a wider reach but are also interactive; we collaborate with migrants to share their stories on our platforms. The list below outlines some of the initiatives carried out:

Working with Communities

IOM’s community outreach projects aim to engage migrants and nationals in shared experiences that promote acceptance and highlight the value of diversity.

1. Debating Championship

In Panama, the IOM Team created a Debating Championship to successfully raise awareness of xenophobia in 27 local schools.

Prior to the debates, students received workshops on key themes, including xenophobia, human trafficking, and gender equality. The teams then competed in a debating championship attended by community members as well as high level representatives from the Ministry of Security, the Ministry of Community, the Secretariat of Children, Adolescents and Family and the Faculty of Rights and Political Sciences of the Inter-American University of Panama.

2. Workshops and Events in Local Schools

In the Dominican Republic, 500 students attended a performance called “A heroine without borders”. The show follows the story of a Venezuelan girl and is aimed at generating empathy within the student population, which is made up of students from national and migrant backgrounds. It focuses on the importance of acceptance, peaceful coexistence and the harms caused by bullying.

3. The Global Migration Film Festival

The Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF), produced by IOM since 2016, has opened a space of reflection and discussion against xenophobia by sharing migrants’ stories through films and documentaries. In 2019, it brought more than 30 films to over 100 countries, including eight countries across Central America, North America and the Caribbean.

In Guatemala, for example, a screening of ‘The Power of Passport’, sparked a meaningful discussion of the barriers to migration faced by Indigenous peoples in the Mayan-Ixil region of western Guatemala. The event was attended by representatives of academia, civil society, media, the United Nations and human rights groups.

This event succeeded in raising awareness of how many migratory and consular services do not meet the needs of Indigenous peoples, such as due to the lack of information available in Indigenous languages and unequal access to immigration documentation. Creating spaces for visibility and raising awareness of the challenges faced by different groups can give rise to more equitable and open societies. 

(Photo taken at a 2019 Global Migration Film Festival Screening in the Bahamas)

4. Cross-Border Dialogues

Borders act at the frontline of migratory flows and are spaces in which government agencies, international organisations and civil society often operate collaboratively. Such a space therefore provides ample opportunities to share ideas, confront misconceptions and generate creative solutions. Our team is working at all the border points between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to make this happen. By establishing roundtables for cross-border dialogue between key stakeholders of both countries, this initiative aims to facilitate the identification of common interests and generate solutions that have benefits for all. In doing so, it serves as an avenue to dispel stereotypes and prejudices of migrants, thereby fostering mutual understandings.

The programme will officially be launched in the coming months. Whilst this project is still in its early stages, it demonstrates an example of how innovation can emerge in complex circumstances.

Acceptance through Communication

At national, regional and global levels, our communication campaigns have promoted dialogue and understanding. A central aspect is the empowerment of migrants by providing them with a platform to share their stories.

5. The UN Together Campaign

UN Together, launched in 2016, aims to counter the rise in xenophobia and discrimination by sharing events and stories of migrants and refugees. This platform also gave rise to the “I am a migrant” campaign.

 6. “I am a migrant” campaign

Through a collection of stories collated on an online library, “I am a migrant” provides first-hand insights into the triumphs and challenges of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys. It gives a human face to the 270 million international migrants living around the world and raise awareness about their experiences.

7. Plural+ Awards

Young people around the world have the opportunity to express their creativity through multimedia production as part of Plural+. This joint initiative by United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and IOM brings together more than 50 partner organizations globally. It invites young people, between 12 and 25 years old, to submit original and creative short films focusing on the themes of migration, diversity, social inclusion, and the prevention of xenophobia.

8. #IamamigrantChallenge

We also challenged Youtubers from migrant backgrounds to share their stories, through a campaign called #IamaMigrant. To date, 21 Youtubers have been involved, generating almost 700,000 views and more than 5,000 comments collectively whilst reaching a broader and more diverse audience. By sharing their personal experiences of migration and their ties with two countries and cultures, the videos inspire discourses of acceptance and diversity.

9. Somos Lo Mismo Campaign

To bring together refugees, migrants, displaced persons and nationals through a message of solidarity and respect, the campaign Somos Lo Mismo was born in Panama in response to rising xenophobia in the country. The campaign, a joint project by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) and IOM, shares the stories of migrants and nationals. Its goal is to humanize through sharing how we are all made of experiences, feelings, learning, struggles and achievement.

10. The Podcast On The Move

Finally, to address more broadly the problems and opportunities of migrants, the IOM Regional Office in San Jose (Costa Rica) produces the Podcast On The Move every month. It brings together a mix of perspectives, involving both migrants and specialists who discuss economic, social and gender-based issues (as well as many more) and how they intersect in contexts of migration. In doing so, it aims to dispel common myths that often fuel xenophobic and discriminatory attitudes and promote an evidence-based understanding of migration phenomenon. 

Throughout the region and the world, individuals, communities and organizations are taking a stand against xenophobia. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it serves as a starting point to understanding existing best practices and as a springboard for future actions.

Countering xenophobia remains one of the most pressing issues of our time. Through a concerted effort that leverages the expertise of key stakeholders and meaningfully engages with communities, we can strengthen bonds and address the root causes of xenophobia.

Migration and disability in 2020

Migration and disability in 2020
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Laura Manzi

Although calculating the number of people with disabilities in the world is a complicated task, since there are no official records, and also because of other challenges, such as having to distinguish between physical, mental, intellectual or sensory disabilities, according to the WHO estimates, 15% of the world's population lives with disabilities. However, in the discourses related to disability, mentioning the numbers is not so functional, since it should be noted, first, that many people may not recognise or do not consider their condition as a disability, and second, that each person experiences their disability differently.

This is due not only to the other elements that make up their identity, such as gender, age, sexual identity, ethnicity, nationality, which also define the way in which the disability manifests itself and which lessen or aggravate its consequences, but also to the factors that characterize their social position, such as their economic situation, educational level and migratory status (regular or irregular), among others. These factors can affect and limit the capabilities and opportunities of the person with a disability. In this sense, the severity of the disability is partly related to the living conditions and the environment in which the person lives. Migrants living with disabilities face numerous obstacles and suffer greater vulnerability, as they often lack opportunities and adequate attention to their needs and find it more difficult to access health and social security services.

Can the migration process be the cause of disability?

Due to the lack of studies focused on the subject of disability, the literature on the quality of life of migrants living with such a condition is scarce. However, some studies refer to how the migration process itself can also be the cause of disability.

According to a COAMEX report, which is based specifically on the migratory route from Mexico to the United States, during their journey, migrants have to deal with difficult and risky situations that can expose them to the risk of acquiring conditions of disability, especially physical or psychosocial, such as:

  • Getting on or off a moving train (often to flee, avoid arrest, or move more quickly through some sections), which can cause mutilations.
  • Having accidents or suffer the damages of a collision of vehicles in which groups of migrants are in unsafe conditions, or be the victim of violent acts that leave physical contusions.
  • As a result of an experience that can be stressful and traumatic, some migrants suffer from anxiety, panic disorders and post-traumatic stress, which in turn can lead to the development of psychosocial disabilities.

Through a statement, the United Nations also emphasized the vulnerability of migrants to the risk of disability. For example, migrant workers who have lower educational levels or who suffer from labour exclusion in many sectors, often have to deal with dangerous manual work, which expose people to high risk of accidents and consequently to conditions of physical disability.

What does it mean to be a migrant and live with a disability in times of a pandemic?

Reiterating the data and information disseminated by the World Health Organization, the IOM indicates that the risks suffered by people with disabilities (of course, depending on their disability) are due to:

  • Difficulties in complying with some preventive and protective hygiene measures, such as frequent hand washing (in particular, in cases where sinks are physically inaccessible or a person has physical difficulties to properly rub their hands); or putting on masks.
  • Obstacles to access information or maintain social distancing and isolation, since people with disabilities may need daily support from health personnel or family members and acquaintances.
  • People with disabilities can also suffer from more serious COVID-19 infections, due to pre-existing conditions, inability or difficulty in accessing health care services, and ultimately abrupt disruptions in the support systems from which they often benefit.

Migrant with disabilities present greater vulnerabilities to COVID-19, as these situations can be even more harmful when coexisting with other unfavourable conditions, such as lack of social protection, low economic levels, discrimination and social exclusion.

From the outside, it is easy to be able to identify physical disabilities and to make an effort to understand the struggles that the person faces. Less visible, however, are other types of challenges with which these people live, such as social and labour exclusion, stigma, discrimination or the obstacles they encounter when accessing education. These obstacles are doubly harmful for migrants living with disabilities.

For this reason, it is necessary to stimulate a broader and more active conversation about the subject, especially due to a still lacking literature on disability. Institutions, agencies and organizations should be invited to carry out more studies to make the issue visible and lead initiatives. Furthermore, the legislative framework that protects people with disabilities must be strengthened, more innovative solutions have to be discussed and provided, and above all, access to health must be guaranteed to migrants with disabilities.

Social, economic and political inclusion of people with disabilities, although not directly listed as a Sustainable Development Goal, is transversal to many of the goals of the 2030 Agenda and its purpose of ‘leaving no one behind '. From health (SDG 3) to quality education (SDG 4), decent work (SDG 8) and reduction of inequality (SDG 10) among others: the 2030 Agenda sanctions our commitments to achieve the empowerment and full inclusion of people -including migrants- with disabilities.