Solidarity: The reason why Central American migrants stopped their journey

 

Wilson, a 25-year-old Honduran, had recently started his journey towards the United States. On the night of September 7, Wilson was staying in a shelter for migrants in Ixtepec in southern Mexico. Ten minutes before midnight the earth started to shake so hard, fell out of his bed. “It seemed like the end of the world”, he recalls.

The 8.2 magnitude quake in Mexico was recorded as the strongest in the country’s history. Another Honduran immigrant, Joel, who was trying to cross irregularly into the United States, was flabbergasted by the sound of the earth moving, by seeing buildings crumble down and witnessing a person fainting in the middle of the street.

When the earth stopped moving, Joel, Wilson and other migrants were staying at the shelter. They started talking to  other people who had just arrived at the shelter and they had  bad news: the situation was critical. Hundreds of people were injured and remained under the collapsed buildings and the rubble. The group of migrants had the idea to stay and help out and shared it with Ernesto, one of the shelter’s coordinators. The next morning, they started assisting people.

Wilson, a member of the brigade.

“Migrants were the first to help”, that’s what the Mexican people of the affected communities from Ixtepec said. This brigade of approximately 30 people engaged in debris removal using their bare hands. They were digging through the debris of collapsed buildings to recover people’s belongings or to rescue the injured people they found. We only had two shovels that we found at the shelter, so we were taking turns to use these rescue tools. When one person was using a shovel, everyone else was using their hands”, explained Wilson. A woman noticed the men trying to help and immediately offered to lend them her tools in exchange for some help to clean her house, which had also been affected by the disaster.  

On September 19 Mexico was struck by a second earthquake. Wilson and most of the members of the improvised brigade were still helping to repair the damage caused by the first quake in Oaxaca two weeks earlier. Their hands were covered in blisters and wounds but with their simple tools they proceeded to help in those areas, that were hit the hardest.

“Migrants are abused and mistreated by some people. Unlike what most of those people  think, we are good people” - Joel.

Solidarity was the reason why every single member of this group of migrants postponed their trip. In their hearts and their minds, they were not thinking about anything other than staying and helping the Mexican people. According to Joel, a lot of people couldn’t believe that migrants were helping, but through their actions they showed that many negative stereotypes towards migrants are false. “They were amazed by the fact that we were migrants and that we were helping them, because we got to some affected areas that not even the Mexicans could get to.”

Most of the members of this brigade were forced to flee from Central America. They were in search of a better life and working conditions to help their families back home. Joel decided to take this journey to help his child, and because he was being threatened by organized crime. 

“The gangs in Honduras gave me 24 hours to leave the country. I had to go because if a gang member gives you 24 hours to leave, after 25 hours you’re dead.” - Joel.

Currently, Wilson and Joel are looking for a temporary job in Mexico to continue helping their families in their home countries. When it comes to assisting people, they won’t hesitate to do so.

 

Joel, another member of the brigade.  

 

 

 About the author:

Jean Pierre Mora Casasola is a Communications Specialist at IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. He has served as a consultant in different social organizations and in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). He holds a Degree in Advertising from the University “Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología” (ULACIT), and he is currently getting a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations at the same university.  Twitter: @jeanpierremora 

 


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.