Cross-border populations, made up of individuals living close to the borders between two countries, face unique challenges in their daily lives. They are sometimes forced to cross borders regularly, for economic (geographical proximity offers employment opportunities in specific sectors or is more favourable), educational or health reasons (educational infrastructures and health services may be more accessible and of better quality on the other side of the border).
In general, crossing borders allows them to participate in exchanges, thus favouring the economic and cultural development of border regions. Unfortunately, this crossing is not always easy, as there are sometimes obstacles such as security checks, customs controls, health checks, visa requirements, instability, conflicts, etc., which do not affect people in the same way. Indeed, vulnerable populations within cross-border populations face additional challenges when crossing borders on a daily basis.
These vulnerable populations, such as women, unaccompanied children or the elderly, are more exposed to the risks of violence, exploitation or human trafficking when crossing borders. They need special security and protection measures to ensure their well-being and safety. This may also be due to language barriers, cultural differences or administrative obstacles that may make it difficult for them to cross borders, or even expose them to dangerous situations.
More specifically, every day of the week, thousands of children have to cross borders regularly or irregularly in order to benefit from their right to education. Conditions in their country of residence are not satisfactory and, for various reasons, they may be forced to study on the other side. One example is the case of Venezuelan children who have to use informal border crossings, known as trochas, to get to school. Located in the far north of Colombia, these are dangerous rural roads controlled by local armed groups, who often charge users to cross.
To address the difficulties associated with regular border crossings and to facilitate the safe transit of persons, some countries have introduced cross-border cards. These cards offer considerable advantages to their holders. On the one hand, they simplify administrative procedures, facilitating travel and reducing waiting times, thus speeding up cross-border travel. On the other hand, they give access to many essential services, such as education, health and social benefits, in the neighbouring country. They also promote cross-border trade and employment. Finally, cross-border cards strengthen social and family ties by facilitating regular visits and meetings between cross-border family members.
On occasion, IOM supports States, as in the case of El Salvador, in carrying out carding days to provide identity documents to these populations, especially children and adolescents2. These documents speed up the migration control process and also allow access to state services (health, education, food etc.) for children living on the other side of the border. They also enable migration authorities to more effectively protect children and adolescents from the crimes of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The card is free and mandatory. As these days are always successful, the country in question has replicated them, on the border with Guatemala.
These activities contribute to the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), in particular Goal 11, which recognises the importance of coordinated border management, promoting bilateral and regional cooperation, ensuring the security of States, communities and migrants, and facilitating the safe and regular movement of people across borders, while preventing irregular migration. In addition, Goal 4 aims to build on local practices that facilitate participation in community life, such as interaction with authorities and access to relevant services, by issuing all persons living in a municipality, including migrants, with registration cards containing basic personal data, although such cards do not entitle them to citizenship or residency.
El Salvador is recognised as a champion country in the implementation of the Global Compact and is taking and executing concrete measures such as the carnage projects to ensure its implementation at national and regional level in order to comprehensively address the governance of migration foreseen in other global frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda.
In short, cross-border populations who have to cross borders on a daily basis face specific challenge, in particular vulnerable populations. However, by facilitating these crossings with cross-border cards, we can improve their safety and quality of life, promote social and economic integration and strengthen links between border regions. It is essential to put in place appropriate policies and measures to ensure the safety, rights and well-being of these populations, especially minors, while promoting harmonious cross-border cooperation.