5 key aspects on the migration of indigenous peoples

The number of people who decide to migrate is continually increasing. However, the experience of indigenous people has been systematically excluded from international migration frameworks. There is a generalized vision of indigenous peoples as communities deeply rooted in their territories and customs. However, more and more indigenous individuals and families are migrating from their territories as part of the dynamics of global migration.

The development of different States in the region is characterized by the non-involvement of indigenous peoples from a participatory and multicultural approach. This has led to a series of actions imposed on traditional local systems, which impact the culture, heritage and socio-economic opportunities of these communities. In many cases, the migration of indigenous peoples arises due to these cultural pressures and the new conditions of industrialized and globalized life.

Within this context, societies and States must consider the following points for multicultural work with these populations:

The correct way to address them: in terms of international law, Indigenous People should be understood as all the people who are consciously part of a common identity or culture. On the other hand, indigenous communities can refer to these groups of people, or the geographic areas where they are concentrated. Finally, indigenous territory is the extension of land that these people have in their countries of residence.

Human rights: Indigenous peoples are protected in three legislative areas: their universal rights, recognized by States or in international declarations; their rights as migrants, guaranteed by national or international laws; and their rights as indigenous persons guaranteed by national or international laws.

Diversity: all indigenous peoples are different in their culture, language, customs and traditions. Indigenous languages are an important factor in socio-cultural issues such as education, scientific and technological development, the biosphere and the environment, freedom of expression, employment and social inclusion. In addition, many of them have cross-border characteristics, which requires new analytical approaches and public policies that take into account the perspective of indigenous peoples in migration.

Causes of migration: Indigenous societies are seen rooted strongly in their territories and customs, which are usually located in areas rich in natural resources and far from urban areas or cities. However, the migration or internal displacement of indigenous people occurs due to multiple factors: mainly the need to escape from conflicts and persecution, the impacts of climate change, the dispossession of their lands and social disadvantage. Limited access of indigenous peoples to services such as education, health and employment opportunities is another factor that causes the mobilization of these people.

In Latin America, around 40% of all indigenous peoples live in urban areas, including 80% in some countries of Central America. In most cases, indigenous people who migrate find better employment opportunities and improve their economic situation, but they must move away from their traditional lands and customs, forcing them to face numerous challenges, including lack of access to public services and discrimination.

For 2010, a population of 45 million indigenous people was estimated in the region, and in 2018 there were 83,000 indigenous international migrants in 9 Central American countries, most of whom were women. It is important to emphasize that, although they stay far from their place of origin, identity traits and processes of resignification of identity are in constant movement to create a new sense of belonging.

Health: some of the health problems faced by indigenous migrant people are poor nutrition, a lack of access to medical services and a lack of health programs with an intercultural focus, leading to greater incidences of preventable diseases.

To summarize, within the countries, support for these communities is essential to cultivate an inclusive, multicultural and development-oriented society in which indigenous and non-indigenous communities benefit mutually. With this vision of intercultural coexistence, the migratory processes could become safer for these people throughout Central America.

In other words, to achieve this objective, society and institutions should be encouraged to change their methods of approaching indigenous peoples through more inclusive systems through intercultural dialogue, and thus avoid the imposition of forms of progress or attention without considering the unique characteristics of each group of people.

Recommended reading:

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs:

World Bank Report:

Cepal Report:

Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean:


How can Central American migrants become regularized in Mexico?

How can Central American migrants become regularized in Mexico?
Categoria: Immigration and Border Management
Autor: Guest Contributor

Thousands of migrants, asylum seekers and Central American refugees go north in search of better opportunities. Most of these people leave from Northern Central American countries (PNCA - Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador).

Some resort to irregular migration, exposing themselves to travel dangers and the restrictions that this implies if they manage to reach their country of destination. However, an IOM study in which more than 2,800 interviews were conducted showed that in NTCA 97% of migrants in transit make a great effort to obtain documents to regulate their stay in Mexico. In addition, between 59% and 70% of people would be willing to be involved in local education, employment or entrepreneurship opportunities, as an alternative to irregular migration.

Migrants who leave the NTCA when they reach the southern border of Mexico have 3 options to request their regular stay in this country:

1. Regional Visitor: allows a person to remain in Mexico for a period not exceeding 7 days in the States of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Tabasco. The card is valid for 5 years, has no cost and does not allow paid activities.

2. Visitor Border Worker: for nationals of Belize and Guatemala, allows entry to the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Tabasco. It is valid for one year and includes the right to perform remunerated activities. However, this option requires having a job offer in advance.

3. Visitor for Humanitarian Reasons: valid for one year with the possibility of renewal and is granted in the following situations:

  • Be a victim or witness a crime committed in Mexico.
  • Be an unaccompanied migrant child
  • Be an applicant for political asylum, recognition of refugee status or complementary protection of the Mexican State, as long as their migration status is unresolved.

The condition of a visitor's stay may also be authorized for humanitarian reasons when there is a humanitarian cause that necessitates its admission or regularization in the country. The requesting person has permission to perform paid activities.

For migrants who want to reach the northern border of Mexico, they can only continue their journey as irregular migrants. For them, the way to regularize their immigration status is through a Visitor Visa for Humanitarian Reasons, request a waiting number to be interviewed in the US and qualify for the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). They can also cross the border irregularly and present themselves to migration authorities in the United States, and be returned to Mexico, also under the MPP category.

Those who return to Mexico through the MPP can wait for their appointment and request asylum in the United States or in Mexico, or return to their countries of origin.

Mexico has the potential to offer job opportunities to migrants in programs like Sembrando Vida or projects such as the creation of the free zone in the border strip, the Mayan Train or the construction of the Dos Bocas refinery in the state of Tabasco. For this, the visa options and conditions of regular stay for NTCA migrants must be strengthened and refined.

It is also essential that governments and organizations continue to strive to address the structural causes that force people to migrate, offer alternatives and continue to seek and support mechanisms that promote an orderly and safe migration.


Resources for migrants:

*IOM has resources to help people find out about regular migration options. The migrantinfo.iom.int website provides information on regular migration channels and opportunities for local learning, work and entrepreneurship development. On the other hand, the MigApp mobile application provides information on protection, migration procedures and services.