Migrant caravans or caravan migration is a method of migration that has two main characteristics: 1) It’s done by land; and 2) It’s done in large groups. Migrant caravans in Northern Central America have been developing over the years but have gained relevance due to number and frequency since October of 2018.
These caravans have emerged from social networks, where migrants are called to mobilize as a group to reach the United States, usually through Mexico. Migrants believe that, in some way caravan migration means:
- Greater protection for migrants, since they are less exposed to the crimes and abuse usually encountered on route;
- Greater assistance from governmental and non-governmental entities;
- Lower associated costs (particularly with irregular migration), since there is a lesser need to hire a coyote or smuggler to cross borders.
The migrant caravans from North Central America during this period have been characterized by being mostly made up of adult men and, to a lesser extent, women and children. There is a consensus among the institutions and organizations involved that these people do not really know the risks and characteristics of the route, and that they usually have an idealized notion of what migration is.
IOM directs its attention on the members of migrant caravans in the four following areas:
1. Information delivery: Information is provided on the services for which migrants have access to along the route: assistance services and shelters in the region, among others. For example, the MigApp application provides georeferencing and other useful information for access to migration regularization mechanisms, humanitarian visas or other permits that may be provided by the transit and destination countries.
2. Strengthening the capabilities of authorities assisting caravan migrants: IOM has provided a series of hygiene and food kits at different points where caravans pass.
3. Aid in voluntary assisted return for those migrants who decide to return to their communities of origin: Migrants often voluntarily decide to return after they realize the difficulties of the route, run out of available money, fall ill, or spend a long time waiting for visas and asylum, among other reasons. IOM facilitates a safe and dignified return, in some cases with support post-arrival. The voluntary character is crucial for this axis.
4. Collection of data on the population: This axis intersects with all the work carried out by the IOM, which has as its main objective the characterization of the migrant profiles, in order to channel their assistance and operation more effectively.