Collaborative Construction for the Reintegration of Returned Migrants


Imagine that you could make a proposal for any infrastructure necessity in your neighbourhood, or contribute to the design of a playground for children. Wouldn’t you feel that you live in a more inclusive place and your voice is being heard in your community? Now, imagine that returned migrants, no matter how long they have spent abroad, could be part of these participatory processes. It would help them to feel part of the community, right? 

Reintegration is a key aspect to repatriation/return migration. One of the factors that determine its sustainability is the social stability of communities receiving returned migrants (IOM, 2016). In that sense, IOM in El Salvador carries out construction initiatives for recreational purposes and social cohesion in the municipalities of Mejicanos, Zacatecoluca, Usulutan and San Miguel, where there is a high registered rate of returnees, but also of violence. These infrastructure projects represent safe places for recreation and coexistence in the returned migrants’ communities of origin, while supporting social stability.

Collaborative construction. Citizen participation has been a key in this type of initiatives, through community based infrastructures. Not only because people are allowed to have a say in the decision making process, but also because through community participation there is a better understanding of their needs and perspectives, which results in better designs and execution of the infrastructure projects. This is how we get more sustainable and participatory projects.

How do we manage to carry out these collaborative construction processes in successful manner? By using the three following key points:

  1. Citizen participation: we accompany the communities in their participation throughout the infrastructure projects. This participatory exercise is executed in coordination and through associations or communal groups, local government and national institutions.
  2. Listen to the community: the beneficiaries provide valuable information on concrete needs, risks and progress of the infrastructure projects, as well as new proposals to be taken into consideration.
  3. Civic monitoring: the community’s leaders have continuous access to the infrastructure projects and collaborate in monitoring and executing the construction. They communicate directly with IOM.

Furthermore, citizen participation is vital in all stages of the infrastructure project. These are all phases on the participatory infrastructure project:

  • First approach with the community to promote the project.
  • Identification and analysis of the community’s needs.
  • Selection and definition of the construction project with community inputs.
  • Community’s participation in the design phase (including the specific design’s needs).
  • Construction of the infrastructure project (including hiring qualified community members in construction, as well as the creation of administrative committees).
  • Use of the infrastructure project (administrative committees organize and execute community participation in the maintenance and management of the infrastructure project). 

Other actors are also part of the process. Local and national governments’ vision is very important to promote inclusive, safe and sustainable spaces, in favour of the community. 

This how together with communities and governments, we design and build communal houses, places for participation and recreation, parks and sport fields. As a result of this experiment, 450 families from San Miguel and 7450 from Usulutan, have beneficiated from collaborative infrastructure projects. This communities with high rates of returnees could enjoy better conditions for their reintegration.

When talking about infrastructure construction projects it is necessary to take into account the existing social fabric to create together with communities, a vision of equality, transparency and coexistence; especially in those welcoming many returnees, where there is a need of a sustainable a humane reintegration.


About the authors:

Camilo Mantilla is an IOM Program Officer for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. He has worked as a legal advisor and project manager for IOM in Central America and Colombia. Camilo is a lawyer with a Master in International Law from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Boston. Twitter: @camilomantillav

Ernesto Heske is the IOM Infrastructure Coordinator for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. He has worked as coordinator of IOM infrastructure projects in the Northern Triangle of Central America and is a Civil Engineer with a Master's Degree in Urban Planning from the University of Stutgart, Germany.


How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?

How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?
Categoria: Migration Governance
Autor: Laura Thompson


There is no doubt that the current pandemic has a broad humanitarian, social and economic impact in the short, medium and long term, which in turn may affect or delay the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at different levels and in various ways.

The most evident impact, obviously, is on Goal 3, which seeks to guarantee a healthy life and promote well-being. The pandemic has put enormous pressures on health systems not only in relation to the treatment and management of the virus, but also affecting the ability to care for patients who have other diseases and increasing the risk of complications in populations with compromised health states. The pandemic has given greater visibility to the importance of universal access to health systems regardless of people's migratory status. However, the pandemic will also have implications for other aspects of the 2030 Agenda.


Impacts beyond health

COVID-19 is also having a negative impact on the employment, economic and social situation of many households around the world, and on their ability to meet their needs, even the most basic ones. The economic crisis that the countries of the region are facing and the growing unemployment will be decisive in this regard, since apart from the pandemic, Latin America and the Caribbean reached an unemployment rate of 8.1% at the end of 2019, according to the International Labor Organization. And according to ECLAC projections, labor unemployment will rise to 11.5% in the same region, as a result of the contraction of economic activity by COVID-19.

Unemployment and the loss of purchasing power affect more severely migrant populations, since they are very often employed in the informal sector of the economy and have more precarious contractual working conditions, particularly women migrant workers. In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, informal work engages around 50% of the total number of people employed. The increase in unemployment will impact the scope of Goal 8 (on full and productive employment and decent work for all), but also Goal 1 (the fight against poverty), Goal 2 (the eradication of hunger, food security and better nutrition), Goal 5 (gender equality and empowerment of women and girls), and targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2, on trafficking and exploitation of people. ECLAC also emphasizes that Latin America and the Caribbean is already suffering a fall of -5.3% in GDP, the worst in its history.

Likewise, this pandemic could accentuate existing inequalities in societies, as well as the vulnerabilities of certain population groups, and consequently delay the achievement of Goal 10, which seeks to reduce inequalities between and within countries. In this context, migrants are one of those vulnerable groups that have been particularly affected by the pandemic and that are often left behind or forgotten in social protection and economic relaunch plans, or have limited access to them, either because of language barriers or because of their immigration status. All of this despite the enormous contribution that migrant workers make to the operation of essential basic services in many countries, as has become evident during this crisis.

Additionally, a decrease in the amount of international remittances is projected, which, according to the World Bank, would be reduced between 10% and 19.3% by 2020. Remittances are a fundamental component in the economy of some countries in the region, where they can amount to between 5% and 20% of the national Gross Domestic Product. A significant reduction in remittances would jeopardize the ability of many households in those countries to meet their most basic needs and their ability to invest in improving nutrition, education, and reducing child labor, among others, further emphasizing existing inequalities.

Finally, at the state level, due to the economic slowdown we are experiencing and urgent health needs, it is very likely that there will be a decrease in social spending or a reorientation of available resources, potentially at the expense of the more comprehensive vision contained in the Sustainable Development Goals, again affecting the scope of the transversal objectives of the 2030 Agenda.


Recovery and SDGs: the same path

But this should not lead us to pessimism and to think that we have lost the fight to achieve the SDGs. On the contrary, it is essential at this time to work together and forcefully to identify the additional difficulties that the current pandemic presents in achieving the 2030 Agenda. We must redouble our commitment and our efforts to ensure that the impact of the pandemic is incorporated into national plans and international assistance, as well as that the different realities and vulnerabilities of some specific groups are incorporated.

For this we must work from now on to ensure the universal attention of the health and education systems; in reducing remittance transfer costs (a topic included in Goal 10), as El Salvador is already doing, creating more resilient and inclusive cities in line with Goal 11 or strengthening forms of regular migration for migrant workers and decent working conditions (Goal 8).

The time is now: all organizations, governments and individuals have an important role in ensuring that the efforts for our Latin American region and the world to recover from the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are aligned with the 2030 Agenda and that we make sure we do not leave anyone behind.