Why Sustainable Migration in the Caribbean is an Opportunity for Investment

Why Sustainable Migration in the Caribbean is an Opportunity for Investment

*Published originally in Caribbean Migration Consultations (https://caribbeanmigration.org/blog/why-sustainable-migration-caribbean-opportunity-investment)

The economic impact of migration is still often driven by negative perceptions, jeopardizing efforts to adapt migration policies to the new economic and demographic challenges that many countries in the Caribbean are facing. The matter of fact is that movement of people can be crucial for development in a globalizing world and it has potential economic benefits. Therefore, this phenomenon requires a carefully-designed, sustainable policy response, and reports indicate that it needs to be seen as an opportunity for all.

“Paradoxically, migration itself could be a major part of the solution, especially if the social capital that has been created through migration networks could be effectively trans-nationalized to benefit the Caribbean, and if the diaspora were to become a greater resource for the region” (Thomas-Hope, 2002, p.29)

Migrants from the Caribbean: what makes them special

Over the last 60 years, the Caribbean region has been the largest and most highly skilled diasporas in the world. Even though this population is diverse in terms of demographics and destinations, according to the World Bank’s 2011 Migration and Remittance Factbook, in relation to other global diaspora groups, a large portion of Caribbean migrants consists of individuals who are both highly skilled and well educated. Because of that reason, this population acquires more citizenships than other immigrants and they are far less likely to enter the country illegally.

Additionally, Caribbean migrants to the United States build higher relative wealth, thus sending more remittance to their countries of origin. In Canada, a point-based system for immigration was introduced in the 1970s, which favored educated immigrants. These later immigrants tended to be more educated and wealthy, more equipped to invest capital back in the Caribbean region and have a strong connection to their home country.

Are we allowing worthy investments?

As reported in the World Bank publication “Investing Back Home: The Potential Economic Role of the Caribbean Diaspora”(2016), the children of the earliest generations of Caribbean migrants, now middle-aged, tend to be professionals, with higher incomes and ability to invest. Some of them have set up businesses in their home countries such as restaurants, grocery stores, and nursing homes; however, the dominant form of investment has traditionally been housing.

According to the 2013 infoDev Diaspora Survey, one in four members of the diaspora invests in Caribbean real estate, and one in 10 invests in business enterprises in the region. Moreover, 70% mentioned belonging to an affiliation organization and giving back to their home country through remittances and through charity— via both national and alumni associations.

The private sector has a potential leading role in driving economic growth, as well as job generation, in which members of the diaspora could have an important influence on business investment; nonetheless, some have identified difficulties when searching for opportunities for attractive financial returns.

Opportunities

According to the World Bank (2016), the following opportunities for Caribbean governments can enable outreach to the diaspora and generate more benefits:

  • Market-Catalyzing Activities. To help catalyze greater diaspora investment in Caribbean markets and foster a more attractive business environment for private investment in the region, it is recommended that angel networks and their connections with the diaspora be expanded.
  • Offer accessible and attractive investment opportunities. In general, most diaspora members don’t invest in infrastructure and other robust projects because these tend to involve extensive and complex procedures. To further improve the climate for diaspora investment in the region, legal and regulatory frameworks in the region should be strengthened and harmonized.
  • Strengthen its strategy. Most diaspora members don’t know about the opportunities of investment in the Caribbean. The governments need to strengthen the positioning strategies to create awareness of the benefits by designing and implementing a plan to engage this diaspora. An innovative diaspora engagement plan should mobilize this group that has been traditionally oriented toward remittances and should channel a portion of this financial engagement into productive investments.
  • Facilitate mechanisms to provide investors with fast track resolutions. Most of the transactions in the Caribbean islands can be very bureaucratic and can lack in accountability across both government and nongovernment sectors. Diaspora Offices in the Foreign Affairs Ministries of Caribbean nations need to establish high-level Ombudsmen to receive complaints by the diaspora and help facilitate dispute resolution mechanisms to help appease diaspora investors. Judiciary improvements should be made, so that arbitration institutions can review business disputes in a timely manner.

To improve the investment environment and opportunities for the Caribbean diaspora, it is imperative that all the stakeholders are involved to jointly find viable solutions, and at the same time contribute to surpass the challenges of societies with out-migration tendencies and significant diaspora populations.

 

Sofía Cortés is the Digital Content Associate for the Caribbean Migration Consultations (CMC)


In a distant country, Erick daydreams - #MigrantsDay

In a distant country, Erick daydreams - #MigrantsDay
Categoria: Return and Reintegration
Autor: Laura Manzi

Story based on the testimony of Erick Galeas, a returnee.

The outbound journey

The heat was suffocating, as if the breaths of fresh air had forgotten that point in the world, where an immense dryness permeated every corner. The ground burned, the sun gave no truce. And this was no small matter: Erick hated the heat, which only made him feel tired and weak.

On those long days with his skin so exposed to the sun, he would try to find some place in the shade to relax for a little while, alone with his thoughts. It may seem absurd, but at that moment, instead of worrying and being overcome by fear and agitation due to the long-awaited trip, the only thing he could think of was that sweater that he intended to buy once arrived in the United States. He wanted to live in a cold place, this was clear to him, to buy a lot of coats and scarves, and to have frozen hands. Wasn't that part of the American dream too? To be able to escape that dryness and have a closet full of sweaters?

The city of Tijuana, in Mexico, served as the setting for Erick's mental wanderings. It had been also his temporary residence for almost a month. Residence, not home. Erick had been living far away from home for nine months, since he left Honduras and began his journey: one day in Guatemala, one month in Chiapas, six months in Veracruz, then Ciudad Juárez and now there, Tijuana. Nine long months treasuring the desire to be able to find better economic opportunities and support his family that he left behind, which was enthusiastic about the idea of being able to receive some remittances.

To fight for his wish, Erick had to pay for his trip by working, doing whatever job he could find, often up to sixteen hours a day for a paltry salary. But that was not a time to be discouraged, because the next day Erick was going to cross the Mexican border into the United States, after having paid 7 thousand dollars  to a smuggler who promised to finally take him to his destination. This is how Erick's last trip to the north began: early in the morning, on any given Tuesday.

You may have noticed that Erick's imagination led him to daydreaming very often, and at the beginning of his journey, after months of malnutrition, he was wondering what his first meal in the US would have tasted like. Surely it would have been the most delicious meal of the last nine months, a meal that tastes of success ... And then wham!, his reverie was suddenly interrupted. An immigration police officer instantly nullified all of Erick's efforts, who was arrested shortly after. But that was not the end of his journey; little did he know that he still had six months to spend in detention: first in California, then in Arizona, Ohio, Louisiana, and Michigan. In his fantasy there were no police officers or detainees; however, this was the only image that Erick could capture from the United States.

How angry he felt when the comments of people who said "it is easy to get to the United States" and "it is a matter of one, maximum two weeks" came to mind. The lack of truthful and adequate information had been an accomplice to his misadventure. Erick was tired, disappointed, and alone. He was also afraid, because in the detention centers there were not only migrants seeking a better life, but also some common criminals who intimidated others, exacerbating their feelings of discomfort. For Erick, the only chance for peace was those few minutes of calls that he could share with his family. He told them that he was afraid that the US authorities would deport him to Honduras, and on the 175th day of his arrest, that was precisely what happened.

The return journey 

A bittersweet taste marked Erick's return. Not being able to fulfill his long-awaited American dream made him feel frustrated, almost ashamed and humiliated. His overwhelming sense of failure disappeared for a moment when, after almost a year and a half, he could finally hug his son. "Children grow up so fast," Erick thought. But the little boy was not the only one who had grown up in all that time; Erick had also gone through an enormous process of personal growth, and he had acquired an incredible strength.

Oh, and there was also the Honduran food. That really made his return happy!

It was not easy, it was not quick, but after a long path, on a day like today we can imagine Erick dealing with his daily tasks at his handicraft company in Honduras. His small family-run atelier became a company that sells its products nationwide: souvenir-type crafts that include a large sample of boats, helicopters and airplanes, all made of wood. It is a business that allows him and his family to live with better economic conditions than when Erick decided to venture to the United States.

His work activity was also able to flourish thanks to the help of the IOM (International Organization for Migration), which provided him with the necessary machinery for his work, and also to the CASM (Mennonite Social Action Commission), whose course on entrepreneurship strengthened Erick's management skills. The feeling of frustration that he experienced when he returned to Honduras has been transformed step by step into a feeling of satisfaction and happiness a he saw his business growing and gained greater confidence in himself, in his talent and ability. The training courses and the support provided helped him through a difficult process of return and reintegration, and empowered the young migrant on his return home.

Erick was able to build his economic subsistence and his professional fulfillment in Honduras, and among so many complex and unfortunate stories, this is a story with a happy ending. Even so, from time to time, he cannot help but daydream, thinking about what it would be like to travel to the United States again, this time legally, and stay there, even just for one day: to eat at a different restaurant and buy a thick winter sweater.