3 Factors that help to fight for #XenophobiaZero

Central America is one of the most dynamic migratory corridors in the world. Migrants that come from as far away as Africa and Asia pass through this region; from countries in neighboring regions such as Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela; migrants who leave the countries of northern Central America and Mexico seeking to enter the United States; Nicaraguans who arrive in Costa Rica and Ngäbe Bugle Indians who move from Panama, many of whom go to work in the coffee harvest and then return to their regions of origin.

In a context as varied as this, to address xenophobia in a structural way and with a vision that is sustained over time, it is necessary to incorporate an approach against discrimination from education and at an early age, which facilitates the creation of multicultural, more equitable and open societies.

However, we also need immediate answers and proposals that counteract misinformation and xenophobia, whilst strengthening the flow of true information. If we intend for communication to become an effective channel for this fight, it must be accompanied by a scaffolding that facilitates the proper governance of migration.

Communication is a powerful tool to raise public awareness about the benefits of migration and to demystify xenophobic lies about migrants. Information campaigns should respond to specific contexts, building messages with migrants and their host communities: ensuring that they have the opportunity to tell their stories.

Knowledge about the rights of migrants can also be strengthened in other areas, such as through legal, social, health, and other sectors. In that sense we have identified 3 factors that strengthen the fight against xenophobia and that must work hand in hand with communication:

  • Legal frameworks that promote regular, orderly and safe migration. The imposition of restrictive measures to irregular migration without generating regular migration alternative, in many cases result in the creation of scenarios that place migrants in situations of even greater vulnerability, such as people smuggling or human trafficking. A 2015 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states that legislation which criminalizes irregular migration can increase the vulnerability of migrants to potential racism and xenophobia, and even indirectly result in violence against them.
  • Spaces that promote collaboration between the different institutions of government, civil society, private companies, international cooperation and migrants, so that migration challenges and opportunities are approached from a more comprehensive view of the context, thus reducing the risk of stigmatization. According to the Salvador Declaration (agreed upon by the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Salvador, Brazil in 2010), an integrated approach to migration governance is essential in ensuring the prevention of xenophobia and crimes committed against migrants.
  • Access to services and programmes that respond to the needs of migrants, based on technical studies that allow establishing the real capacity of labour markets and their opportunities for growth, as well as the capacity of education and health systems to provide services. Social integration benefits both groups, by providing greater opportunities to migrants and allowing them to fully participate in, and contribute to, their countries of destination. A lack of measures to facilitate the integration of migrants can lead to strained relationships and animosity between migrants and host communities.

Creating holistic and collaborative policies that proactively respond to migration flows is a crucial aspect in the fight against xenophobia. This allows States to maximize the benefits migration whilst reducing migrants’ vulnerabilities and preemptively addressing hostility in host communities.


Hydrological extremes and migration: How does water influence migratory movements?

Extremos hidrológicos y migración: ¿Cómo el agua influencia los movimientos migratorios?
Categoria: Environmental Migration
Autor: Pablo Escribano


 “Today environmental problems play a role in migration. Some migrations occur when there is either too much water, as in rising seas, tsunamis and floods, or not enough water. In these countries people depend on the environment for their livelihoods.”

Wennersten, John R. and Denise Robbins. Rising Tides: Climate Refugees in the 21st Century.

Since 1993, the international community has commemorated World Water Day on March 22 of each year to highlight the need to responsibly preserve and manage this resource. In 2020, the selected theme is “water and climate change”, which intends to make visible the changes in water availability associated with climate change and the need to implement adequate adaptation strategies to these new phenomena.

From a migration perspective, it is necessary to understand and address the relationship between water and human mobility. This relationship is particularly evident in situations of hydrological extremes; both when water is lacking and when excess water affects living conditions. In the Americas there are cases of both scenarios and it is worth remembering them when studying the relationship between water and migration.

  • Droughts and migration: When lack of water affects the livelihoods and subsistence of rural populations

Scientific evidence on climate change predicts more intense drought events in certain regions of the Americas in the future, such as in the small island states of the Caribbean, areas of Central and South America (IPCC, 2018). These phenomena are evident today in different countries. The Dry Corridor of Central America, which brings together areas of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and even Costa Rica and Panama, has had recurring drought events with significant effects on production and agricultural yields although with different problems according to geographical areas. In Chile, the state of mega-drought in the central zone since 2010 has required the declaration of agricultural emergency zones to alleviate the lack of water.

Recurrent drought events affect the livelihoods of local populations, particularly in rural and agricultural contexts, through decreased yields, reduced need for labor and even direct impacts on food security when income decreases, or production does not allow needs to be subsidized. These factors can provoke migratory movements when families seek better survival options in the face of drought, and there is scientific evidence that suggests households migrate locally or internally in response to drought (IPCC, 2019).

However, to attribute the cause of migration to drought phenomena is complicated for several reasons. On the one hand, drought can reduce the incomes of the poorest households, which no longer have the means to migrate, especially with regard to international migration (IPCC, 2019). Furthermore, droughts are often a gradual and progressive phenomenon, in which households often try various adaptation strategies before leaving their communities. The dependence on rainwater - due to the type of crop and the limitations of the irrigation systems - increases vulnerabilities in the event of a drought. The dependence on agriculture fed by rainwater is more than 30% in countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, where the yield of corn and beans change greatly due to climatic variability.

The narrative around the motivating factors of the 2018 migrant caravans reflects some of these debates. While the press identified drought and climate change as a factor in explaining these movements, climate factors never appeared among the first motivations in surveys of migrants. Although there is some overlap, the areas most affected by drought in Honduras, for example, do not correspond to the first areas of origin of migrants according to IOM surveys. However, the high percentage of migrants who worked in the primary sector before their departure and the actual incidence of drought in various areas did allow for a glimpse of the impact of drought on the loss of opportunities at the local level.

  • Floods, tsunamis, hurricanes: Hydrometeorological disasters as a source of displacement

In reports from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), the category of climate-related disasters includes storms, cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes, floods, drought, fires and others. These disasters caused 16.1 million new displacements in 2018, a higher number than displacements caused by conflict and violence (10.8 million) and by geophysical phenomena (1.1 million).

As recent examples from Irma, Maria (2017) and Dorian (2019) show, Caribbean countries are particularly exposed to extreme hydrometeorological phenomena in which strong winds and rains destroy communities and cause mass displacement. However, the Caribbean countries are not the only ones in the region suffering from flood displacement. In recent months there have been heavy floods in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia due to excess rain and the limited capacity of watercourses to channel the torrent.

Displacement due to floods can be temporary or more permanent depending on the situation of the communities before, during and after the disaster. Certain families can return to their communities of origin after the event, when the waters return to their channel. This type of mobility has been evidenced, for example, in communities in Brazil and Argentina, in which recurrent floods promote the seasonal mobility of families outside the danger zone during certain months of the year.


Vulnerability to floods also causes more permanent migratory movements, both for individuals and communities. Hurricane Mitch, for example, caused the departure of Honduran populations in 1998. Some of these migrants accessed the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) in the United States, a status that remains in force for Honduras after a judicial decision that curbed the will of the administration of shut down the protection system.

Planned relocations of populations often respond to the desire to reduce risks related to hydrometeorological phenomena and also represent a form of human mobility. These processes have taken place in many countries in the region. In Nicaragua, for example, several communities around Lake Managua have been relocated to limit the damage caused by regular flooding and improve the living conditions of the populations. Sea level rise is also leading multiple countries in the region, such as Colombia, Panama or Guyana, to consider the potential need to move coastal communities to areas that will not be flooded in the relatively near future (IPCC, 2019).



IPCC. 2018. Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.

IPCC. 2019. Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.-O. Pörtner, D. C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M. Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)]. In press.

IPCC. 2019. IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. In press.