The challenge of environmental migration in Mesoamerica and the Caribbean


Throughout the last decade, the increasingly severe consequences of climate change have brought a number of challenges for the Mesoamerican and the Caribbean region. This has led to increased pressure on human displacement. We still do not fully understand the consequences, it is however crucial for the region’s future development to understand this development.

According to data published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) , there has been a significant increase in global average temperature over the last years. This development has a direct impact on the environments in which we as humans develop ourselves and carry out economic activities.

The Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index 2016, sees countries from Central America and the Caribbean as those most affected in the last decade.

The North Atlantic Hurricane region crosses the Caribbean Antilles and the Central American Isthmus. At the same time as El Niño (high temperature anomaly) and La Niña (low temperatures anomaly) have intensified, the flood-drought cycles have affected large crop-growing areas by reducing its potential for habitability.

This has been particularly severe in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, says the FAO Dry corridor - Situation report (June 2016). The levels of vulnerability in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama are also available in this report.

There are some islands off the coast of Panama that have been inhabited for over 150 years by the indigenous Guna Yala people that have disappeared due to rising sea levels. However, there are other islands in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, that are highly concerned about erosion and salinization of their land, states the UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS).

The Global Report on Internal Displacement 2016 shows clearly how these types of events force  the affected population to move to other places. Whether it is due to the climatic event itself or the impact it has on the economic resources for their livelihood. The exploratory study launched by Hunger without Borders, in collaboration with IOM, the Organization of American States (OAS), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the London School of Economics, is a first step in establishing the link between migration, hunger and violence in Central America. However, it remains a challenge to learn the details about the actual impact.

The Environmental Migration Portal was implemented by IOM within the project “Migration, Environment and Climate Change: Evidence for Policy” (MECLEP), which is funded by the European Union. This virtual platform promotes scientific research, the exchange of information and  constructive dialogue, in order to fill the current data gaps and the lack of knowledge or available studies about the migration-environment nexus.

More detailed research, as well as more coordination and closer cooperation between several stakeholders is required. to accurately define the true scale and nature of the efforts that must be carried out, in order to generate the required solutions to address the challenges of environmental migration.


Sobre el autor:

Francisco Masís Holdridge es Asistente Regional de Migración Laboral y Desarrollo Humano en la Oficina Regional para Centroamérica, Norteamérica y el Caribe de la OIM. Cuenta con una Maestría en Economía de la Universidad de Costa Rica y ha laborado como consultor para el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo y organizaciones del sector privado (EKA Consultores, entre otras). Asimismo, tiene experiencia en el desarrollo y gestión de proyectos de innovación.


Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and white slave trafficking, what's the difference?

Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and white slave trafficking, what's the difference?
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons and even white slave trafficking: we might hear these expressions being used as synonyms, when in reality they have very different meanings. Let's start by eliminating one, the term "white slave trafficking".

The term "white slave trafficking" was used at different times in history, but today it is completely outdated, as it only refers to the sexual exploitation of "white-skinned women". The problem with using this expression is that it can imply that only women with certain characteristics can be victims of trafficking (a racist concept), and that the only end of trafficking is sexual exploitation, when the reality is much more complex. This brings us to the second and correct concept, "trafficking in persons".

"Trafficking in persons" refers to all those forms of exploitation for the benefit of a third party, such as debt bondage, child labor, forced labor, forced marriage, forced begging and the removal of organs. In international law, the term is left somewhat open depending on the context, since new forms appear periodically in which one person or group of people forces another to take actions against their will to achieve some benefit. It is a form of modern slavery and can occur within a country or internationally.

According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, there are three elements that must be met to characterize a crime as trafficking in persons:

  • The action: That is, the crime carried out by organized networks, where it is evident that actions were taken with the intention of facilitating the exploitation of another person, such as capturing, sending or receiving them.
  • The means: The means is how the criminals manage to carry out the trafficking, for example, through deceit and lies, force, violence, abuse of the other person's vulnerability, etc.
  • Exploitation: In itself, the abuse of another person for the benefit of a third party.

Each of these three elements is made up of many possible actions, but if an action corresponding to each element is carried out, we are dealing with a case of trafficking in persons.

Finally, there is the term "migrant smuggling," which refers to supporting the illegal transfer of a person across border, as "coyotes" do, for exmple. The big difference between "smuggling" and "trafficking" is that traffic violates the laws of the State that is illegally entered, while trafficking violates the human rights of a person. The crime of migrant smuggling is characterized by:

  • The facilitation of illegal entry of a person to another country.
  • The creation or supply of a false identity document or passport.
  • The authorization, by illegal means, of the permanent stay of a non-national or non-resident.

It is clear that both actions, smuggling and trafficking, are often related, since smuggling places people in situations of vulnerability that can trigger a trafficking process. The fact that both crimes are included in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (also known as the Palermo Convention or Protocol) can also lead to confusion and leads to the belief that they are the same, but they are not.

To learn more about the dangers and characteristics of the crime of human trafficking, we recommend visiting the IOMX campaign.