Georgetown - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently completed its training workshop Reception and Reintegration of Forced Returnees in the Caribbean. The trainings were held online and in collaboration with the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. This workshop was designed to build the capacity of migration officials in the Caribbean to manage the reception and reintegration processes of persons forced to return to the region. The workshop included representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
In his opening remarks, IOM Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean and Chief of Mission for Guyana, Robert Natiello, explained that migration is a cross-cutting issue that requires several levels of cooperation for its management. According to Natiello, migrants who were forced to return to the region can often end up in vulnerable situations due to a lack of support networks upon returning and access to social welfare systems.
“Referral networks […] need to have the involvement of many actors, both government actors but also civil society actors, NGOs, churches, and of course family members and friends,” said Natiello. He explained that this workshop was designed to address these reintegration systems for forced returnees while developing the capacity of governments to respond.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of CARICOM IMPACS, Lt. Col. Michael Jones emphasized that the forced return of migrants to the region has had far reaching social implications on the development and national security of the region. ED Jones identified several key areas of implementation that needed to be enhanced to ensure the orderly reintegration of returning migrants such as, enhanced information sharing from key CARICOM Members States, standardization of procedures, public education, and social assistance programmes.
ED Jones also highlighted the importance for developing strategies to improve data management. He further noted that 4,323 involuntary return of migrants were registered in the region in 2018, and that this data was collected from only seven Caribbean countries. “The implementation of these proper data collection and information sharing can help to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of involuntary return migrants into society,” explained ED Jones.
Additionally, Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade, Hon. E.P. Chet Green noted that the workshop was an opportunity to form a “collective spirit” among participants to accept and address the realities of the processes involved in the reception and reintegration of forced returnees in the region. Minister Green also challenged participants to critically engage with all the factors surrounding the involuntary return of migrants, so that they could determine clear strategies and workable solutions while bearing in mind the similarities and differences of Caribbean societies. He also highlighted the importance of receiving such training during this time so that countries can be equipped to also receive voluntary returnees to the region, following the impact of the novel coronavirus in their countries of residence.
This training spanned two weeks, with three live online sessions that included participant and expert presentations. Expert presenters included IOM specialists Rosilyne Borland, and Claudette Walls, who focused on the human rights dimension of migration, and the implementation of good practices in reintegration, respectively. Meanwhile, migration specialist, Fabio Jimenez, also presented on the IOM, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees Policy Guide on Entrepreneurship, which covered the economic benefits of reintegration. Participants were trained to recognize that reintegration strategies must take into consideration the economic, social, and psycho-social realities that forced returnees face when returning to the region. The course also shared material that examined the real-life challenges that reintegration can have on communities and discussed ways through which these can be overcome to minimize rates of recidivism in the region.
Upon the completion of the course, participants were awarded certificates of participation from IOM. Additionally, a final report on the workshop, including priorities, conclusions and recommendations will be prepared and shared to participating agencies. This workshop is part of IOM Regional Program on Migration - Mesoamerica & the Caribbean, funded by the US Department of State Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration.