Human Mobility and the XXII Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean: Why is it important to prevent forced migration and address the needs of environmental migrants?

Human Mobility and the XXII Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean: Why is it important to prevent forced migration and address the needs of environmental migrants?

The XXII Forum of Ministers of the Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean met virtually on 1-2 February 2021 with a focus on the environmental dimensions of the post-pandemic recovery. Under the presidency of Barbados, discussions led by representatives of the 33 countries of the region focused on the promotion of sustainable development to combine the post-COVID-19 recovery with the fulfillment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the fight against climate change.

From a migration perspective, it should be noted that the countries of the region have made progress in integrating human mobility into their climate agenda. The recent report of the Secretary General of the United Nations on the progress made in the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration emphasizes the progress made by countries such as Belize, Guatemala and Peru in addressing climate migration.

However, it is important to remember that this integration continues to be limited to a restricted number of countries in the region. In fact, with some exceptions, few countries have advanced concrete commitments to address the drivers of climate migration and address the needs of migrants. This process requires the development of partnerships and a whole-of-government approach with entities in charge of various sectoral areas.

Ministries of the Environment play a fundamental role in this effort. Strategies such as climate change adaptation plans, nationally determined contributions, and national climate change policies offer opportunities to address climate migration.

The current pandemic context has once again highlighted the vulnerability of populations exposed to climate change in the region. In a context of restricted mobility and economic crisis, vulnerable communities generally have access to restricted livelihoods to cope with disasters and environmental degradation. The experience of Eta and Iota in Central America shows the extent to which multiple risk factors - including natural hazards, socioeconomic vulnerabilities and the pandemic - can create catastrophic scenarios in the region.

Integrating the migration perspective is essential to promote sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery plans. Human mobility is a fundamental feature of the social reality of Latin America and the Caribbean and the evidence shows that environmental and climatic factors will have a growing influence on these movements. Facilitating the resilience of communities so that they are not forced to migrate and meeting the needs of environmental migrants are crucial elements required to consolidate a solidary, comprehensive and sustainable recovery from 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.