How to focus communication towards migrants during the COVID-19 outbreak?

The current outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 is, above all, a health problem. However, it also has unprecedented consequences for mobility, as it has involved changes in the management of migration and borders, and in the situations of migrants.

IOM staff are working to respond to this public health emergency from a mobility perspective, taking as a reference among other things the experience gained in previous emergency situations, such as the Ebola outbreak. IOM also works closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Network on Migration to ensure the integration of migration and health concerns throughout the United Nations system.

To ensure that mobility is taken into account in public health messages, and that migrants and mobile communities have access to timely, context-specific and correct information, partners in the Risk Communication and Community Engagement network (RCCE) have proposed a series of guidelines:

Culturally and linguistically adapted communication messages: This involves providing technical guidance and other tools to ensure that migrants are included in national, regional and global outreach campaigns.

Community engagement activities: By communicating with communities and receiving feedback along mobility corridors, entry points, and between migrant and mobile population networks, including travel agencies, tour operators, employers, and recruiters.

Adapted psychological first aid for pandemics: It is necessary to develop the capacity of health workers and other actors, using previous models developed for outbreaks such as Ebola.

Information on good hygiene practices: In this type of situation, it is vital to incorporate health recommendations through the development and dissemination of information and educational communication materials adapted to the needs of migrants and related communities.

Consultations with communities and local associations: This includes associations led by women, organizations of persons with disabilities, children, students or youth networks, and so on... Strengthening their participation and community outreach efforts allows for improved accountability for affected populations.

Prevention and recovery of violence, discrimination and xenophobia: This must be created through community participation by promoting messages and activities of social cohesion.

Cross-border awareness raising: It is suggested that this type of effort is supported at the community level in close coordination with municipal authorities in border communities, as well as by training municipal officials and community members on prevention and preparedness measures, using appropriate medical and physical precautions.

Repository of products and practices for inclusive communications for migrants: As well as the development and translation of standard messages for migrants on recommended measures and rights of assistance. Along these lines, the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean has developed communication materials regarding COVID-19 and populations on the move which are constantly being uploaded to the Regional Knowledge Hub on Migration. These materials are free to download.

Commitment of migration authorities: Due to its characteristics, powers and scope, it is necessary to involve and secure the commitment of migration authorities to support communication activities against COVID-19 at border points, such as by disseminating information, as well as advice on prevention and when/how to seek medical care for travelers.

It is possible that in the short term and in the most affected countries, migrants are exposed to many vulnerabilities, maybe even more than nationals. For this reason, working on effective communication to minimize the impact and strengthen ties with the migrant population and authorities and actors close to said population, will be a necessary baseline to face the pandemic.


Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'

Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'
Categoria: Communication & Migration
Autor: Laura Manzi

‘Zamni' (2018) is one of the films that participated in the 2020 edition of the Global Migration Film Festival. The short film, which was selected to be screened at regional level by the Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, narrates the experiences and daily lives of four Haitian migrants in Chile and their integration process in the South American country.

In this interview, the young director Rubén Sánchez, tells what objectives and motivations guided him towards the creation of the short film.

Why did you choose young Haitian migrants as the protagonists of your work? Is there something in their profile that makes them different from other migrant communities in Chile?

What struck us is that the Haitian population here in Chile is the one that finds it most difficult to integrate into society. One of the main reasons is that they speak another language, the Creole language, and that is an even bigger barrier considering that Chilean Spanish has many idioms and tends to be spoken very quickly. Another obstacle to integration is the racism and rejection of some sectors of society towards the Haitian population: whether because of ethnicity, nationality, language or other prejudices. This leads to more segregation and not integration.

In the short film, there are many scenes that portray different landscapes: the sea, the forest, the city. What is the role of nature in the integration process of migrants?

Climatic conditions and landscapes can be a challenge for integration. For example, Haiti is very flat, there are no mountains and the climate is tropical. Here in Chile, nature and microclimates are quite diverse (the north has higher temperatures, the south is more humid and rainy, while the central zone is a mixture of these).
Nature, however, has also a symbolic purpose in the documentary. The mountain range, which characterizes the Chilean landscape, is the great frontier that any person faces to reach Chile. This justifies the scene that opens and closes the film and represents one of the protagonists in the Embalse del Yeso, which is a place here in Santiago, in the middle of the mountain range. We wanted to film those scenes there as a more oneiric way of representing this enormous wall that is like a border to cross in order to reach Chile, and that at the same time symbolizes the great wall that is in the cultural shock that the Haitian population faces.

‘Life is a circle. A perfect circle of which we are not a part': the protagonists in the film have jobs, go to school, learn Spanish. Then, what are the elements that continue to prevent their integration into the host community, this 'circle' from which they are excluded?

The cultural shock is big. If the host society lives this 'fear of the unknown', the Haitian migrant population in turn reacts and this generates a fear of the community where they live. The lack of integration is made difficult by prejudice and because initiatives that value cultural richness are not promoted. I think this is what we lack as a society: to be more educated. If there is no good education, there will be no people who cannot integrate; we still need to be educated and 'humanized'. I feel that in some way we are also 'dehumanized'. This is what the documentary wants to capture: to reflect on the humanity that we need, the humanity that we need to integrate others, to show that we are all really the same, we are all human beings and we all have dreams.

How much is the director visible in his work? How come are you interested in the subject of migration?

The issue of Haitian migration was, for me, a personal concern, because I live in one of the cities in Chile with the largest Haitian population. I used to witness daily this rejection of the Haitian population in the eyes of the people, in comments that were exchanged by whispering in the bus when I went to the university. I was worried about that.
Also, before I enrolled in audiovisual communication, I studied social work, and had many courses on the migration issue and related social policies. I did a lot of research on Haitian migration, which allowed me to capture the central idea of the short film. During the shooting process, I had the opportunity to meet these young people (Haitian migrants), to live their culture, to taste their food. I was filled with a culture that I didn't know, I was filled with knowledge, with a new experience. I wish this documentary could reach more people, change who we are and cultivate our humanity.