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:


Responding to hate speech against migrants in social media: What can you do?

Responding to hate speech against migrants in social media: What can you do?
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

"We all have to remember that hate crimes are preceded by hate speech." This is how Adama Dieng, UN's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, starts the Stopping Hate Speech video. "We have to bear in mind that words kill. Words kill as bullets", he continued.

To speak about hate speech it is necessary to refer to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The article stresses the importance of freedom of expression, but it also calls attention to the responsibilities that come with it. 

The United Nations has recently launched the "UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech", to strengthen UN actions that address the causes of hate speech, and the impact this discourse has within societies. Among other measures, the strategy includes monitoring and analyzing data, using technology, and engaging with new and traditional media. It also encourages more research on the relationship between the misuse of the Internet and social media for spreading hate speech, and the factors that drive individuals towards violence.

Just like the UN must assume responsibility, traditional media oulets also face challenges in guaranteeing that the information they offer on migrants is conscientious and data-based (here are some recommendations on how to do this).

But beyond these institutional responsibilities, the reality is that thousands of people publish hate filled content on their social media every day, sometime explicitly calling for violent actions against migrant populations and other vulnerable groups. What can each of us do to fight back against this content?

  • Speak up against hate: Silence and apathy can be taken as acceptance. Comments on social networks are more than just words, and should not be seen as harmless, especially when social networks are a source of information for migrants and contribute to their experiences. According to the Department of Justice of the United States, "insults can escalate to harassment, harassment can escalate to threats, and threats to physical violence." Intervening assertively is important both in the digital world and in face-to-face situations. However, it is necessary to assess the risk in each context to avoid dangerous situations.
  • Create positive content: To counteract the weight of hate speech, it is necessary to create and share empathetic information. According to Cristina Gallach, High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda, to combat this problem, we must present images that appeal to the best of us, and focus on powerful and universal messages that unite us through our shared values.
  • Avoid sharing sensational videos and photos: Even when it is to criticize this type of content, sharing it will increase traffic to the channels and users that broadcast negative media.
  • Report on the platform: Each social network has its own guidelines on which content is acceptable or not not. While there are teams dedicated to verify this information, in many cases it is necessary to report it for it to be seen. Facebook continually checks if there are new vulnerable populations that should be included in their protected categories, and on previous occasions, migrants have fit within this group. According to the Facebook hard questions blog:

"When the influx of migrants arriving in Germany increased in recent years, we received feedback that some posts on Facebook were directly threatening refugees or migrants. We investigated how this material appeared globally and decided to develop new guidelines to remove calls for violence against migrants or dehumanizing references to them — such as comparisons to animals, to filth or to trash. But we have left in place the ability for people to express their views on immigration itself."

There is a whole discussion about whether social media companies are the ones who should define, in their own platforms, what constitutes freedom of expression and what constitutes hate speech, but that is material for another blog. Here you can see what kind of content to report in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

  • Report to the authorities: When there are personal threats to the physical integrity or the lives of others, it is time to report the situation to the competent authorities to intervene. Since the digital world moves faster than changes in laws, there may be "holes" in the regulations that will hinder intervention. Documenting hazardous materials through screenshots and collecting as much information as possible about the aggressor before they close their account will be useful for the reporting process. Platforms and companies can also be reported if they spread violent content. For example, a few months after the massacres in two mosques in Christchurch (New Zealand), the Australian government approved new legislation against spaces that do not quickly eliminate "violent and abominable material".

“We need to use the verb to become a tool for peace, a tool for love, a tool for increase social cohesion”, said Adama, later in the video. Let’s speak up against hate speech.