5 key aspects on the migration of indigenous peoples

The number of people who decide to migrate is continually increasing. However, the experience of indigenous people has been systematically excluded from international migration frameworks. There is a generalized vision of indigenous peoples as communities deeply rooted in their territories and customs. However, more and more indigenous individuals and families are migrating from their territories as part of the dynamics of global migration.

The development of different States in the region is characterized by the non-involvement of indigenous peoples from a participatory and multicultural approach. This has led to a series of actions imposed on traditional local systems, which impact the culture, heritage and socio-economic opportunities of these communities. In many cases, the migration of indigenous peoples arises due to these cultural pressures and the new conditions of industrialized and globalized life.

Within this context, societies and States must consider the following points for multicultural work with these populations:

The correct way to address them: in terms of international law, Indigenous People should be understood as all the people who are consciously part of a common identity or culture. On the other hand, indigenous communities can refer to these groups of people, or the geographic areas where they are concentrated. Finally, indigenous territory is the extension of land that these people have in their countries of residence.

Human rights: Indigenous peoples are protected in three legislative areas: their universal rights, recognized by States or in international declarations; their rights as migrants, guaranteed by national or international laws; and their rights as indigenous persons guaranteed by national or international laws.

Diversity: all indigenous peoples are different in their culture, language, customs and traditions. Indigenous languages are an important factor in socio-cultural issues such as education, scientific and technological development, the biosphere and the environment, freedom of expression, employment and social inclusion. In addition, many of them have cross-border characteristics, which requires new analytical approaches and public policies that take into account the perspective of indigenous peoples in migration.

Causes of migration: Indigenous societies are seen rooted strongly in their territories and customs, which are usually located in areas rich in natural resources and far from urban areas or cities. However, the migration or internal displacement of indigenous people occurs due to multiple factors: mainly the need to escape from conflicts and persecution, the impacts of climate change, the dispossession of their lands and social disadvantage. Limited access of indigenous peoples to services such as education, health and employment opportunities is another factor that causes the mobilization of these people.

In Latin America, around 40% of all indigenous peoples live in urban areas, including 80% in some countries of Central America. In most cases, indigenous people who migrate find better employment opportunities and improve their economic situation, but they must move away from their traditional lands and customs, forcing them to face numerous challenges, including lack of access to public services and discrimination.

For 2010, a population of 45 million indigenous people was estimated in the region, and in 2018 there were 83,000 indigenous international migrants in 9 Central American countries, most of whom were women. It is important to emphasize that, although they stay far from their place of origin, identity traits and processes of resignification of identity are in constant movement to create a new sense of belonging.

Health: some of the health problems faced by indigenous migrant people are poor nutrition, a lack of access to medical services and a lack of health programs with an intercultural focus, leading to greater incidences of preventable diseases.

To summarize, within the countries, support for these communities is essential to cultivate an inclusive, multicultural and development-oriented society in which indigenous and non-indigenous communities benefit mutually. With this vision of intercultural coexistence, the migratory processes could become safer for these people throughout Central America.

In other words, to achieve this objective, society and institutions should be encouraged to change their methods of approaching indigenous peoples through more inclusive systems through intercultural dialogue, and thus avoid the imposition of forms of progress or attention without considering the unique characteristics of each group of people.

Recommended reading:

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs:

World Bank Report:

Cepal Report:

Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean:


How to gender mainstream migration policies

Categoria: Migration Governance
Autor: Jacinta Astles

At each stage of a person's migration process, whether at the destination, transit, origin or return, they are likely to be treated differently according to their gender identity. Understanding migration from a gender perspective offers States tools to guarantee and protect the rights of migrants of all gender identities.

Integrating a gender mainstreaming approach to policies associated with migration issues is essential. These policies are also linked to the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including, for example:

Goal 8.8: Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

Goal 5.2: Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

In Central America, North America and the Caribbean important contributions have been made regarding how gender mainstreaming can be incorporated into tools linked to migration policies:

a. Regional Conference on Migration (CRM): This regional consultation forum has a gender focus as a transversal axis and has positioned the reality of migrant women in its agenda for analysis and debate since 2017. Member Countries of this conference have a technical tool that provides clear and viable recommendations for countries of origin, transit, destination and return. This document, Guidelines for the Assistance and Protection of Women in the Context of Migration, recognizes the need to examine how gender influences migratory trajectories to address inequalities. It also explains how policies can adopt a range of perspectives, such as human rights, intergenerational and intersectional approaches, among others.

b. Forum of Presidents of Legislative Powers in Central America and the Caribbean Basin (FOPREL): the feminization of migration is gaining momentum in the region and is reflected, for example, in the recent approval by the ‘Regional Legal Framework on matters of Migration, with a Human Rights Approach’, which includes a special reference to migrant women, adolescents and girls. The document, Regional Legal Framework on Migration Issues with a Focus on Human Rights, was published in August 2019 and provides guidelines to promote safe, orderly and regular migration for populations that are particularly vulnerable in Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. Under this legal Regional Framework, governments can address the needs of migrant women, girls and adolescents through:

  • Legal Protections and Rights

This includes equal rights as those of nationals, including the right to social services and education.

  • Public Services

Specialized services are essential to ensure the wellbeing of migrant populations, such as medical care, legal assistance and psychological services. Training for frontline agencies also helps to prevent re-victimization and ensure adequate support for victims of violence.

  • Comprehensive Migration Management

This involves the development and implementation of standards, plans, programs, strategies and management instruments that are tailored to the needs of different groups, including indigenous women, migrants with disabilities, victims of gender-based violence, among others. A coordinated approach between government agencies and authorities can ensure the effective prevention, investigation and eradication of specific forms of discrimination and violence that target women, girls and adolescents.

  • Research and Data Collection

Ensuring the collection of data disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity and other characteristics, as well as statistics on gender and migration that include differentiated risks and impacts allows for more effective policy responses. Research should also examine the positive impacts of migration on development, including the contribution of women to the economies of their countries of origin and destination.

  • Communication Campaigns

Clear and reliable information on human rights and services for migrant women is crucial in providing space for them to exercise their rights.

“Mujer Migrante”, an initiative implemented in Mexico sheds light on how digital platforms can be used disseminate reliable information to migrant women. This programme involved the creation of a multimedia platform with key information on themes such as: procedures, services, support programmes, health, risks when migrating, tips for adapting to a new country, workers’ testimonies and migrant care manuals, among many other resources. It also included a mobile application through which migrant women can submit questions and be directed to the right institution. This highlights how the utility of digital technologies, in combination with a gender mainstreaming approach, can be harnessed to increase the availability of information for migrant populations.

The assumption that all migrants have the same experience regardless of their gender has rendered women, girls and other individuals with diverse gender identities invisible from a policy perspective. It is important to recognize that migrant women may face a double discrimination, as a result of their gender and their migration status. This may be further exacerbated by other forms of discrimination, such as based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, among others. Migration policies need to recognize women’s agency and seek to alter existing power structures, thereby reducing inequalities and making a wider variety of opportunities available for women. By understanding their realities and tailoring responses accordingly, States can promote, protect and guarantee the rights of all migrants in the region.