Keys to address the labor exploitation of migrant populations in Central America

Solutions to address the labor exploitation of migrant populations in Central America
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Migrants face different challenges when they settle in their destination countries, including their entry into the labor force. Studies such as CEPAL (link in Spanish) indicate that irregular migrants are more likely to experience poor working conditions and be employed in low-skilled jobs. Including those who obtain a regular status, in some countries, migrants receive salaries below the average of nationals.

To better understand the labor conditions of migrants in Central America, the Central American Integration System (SICA), in conjunction with IOM and UNHCR, developed a baseline study on migration and displacement in the SICA region (link in Spanish), where they are addressed, among other issues, labor discrimination. The study indicates as a relevant finding that labor exploitation is often not conceptualized as a violation of human rights, but only as an administrative offense, which circumvents the corresponding penalty and facilitates the perpetuation of the issue.

According to the study, another consequence of the precarious work for most migrants in the region is the lack of access to social security. One the one hand, this is due to the economic cost involved, as they first need to obtain a regular immigration status which entails certain expenses. On the other hand, the more ‘informal’ that their employment is, the less likely it is to be connect to social security benefits.

The legislation and working conditions of people vary from country to country. To address the challenges of labor migration, the study by SICA, IOM and UNHCR (link in Spanish) proposes several courses of action so that states can collaboratively and comprehensively address the integration of this type of migratory flow including irregular migration, labor discrimination, social security and regional integration. Some of the actions recommended by the study are:

To discourage irregular labor migration

• Support countries in ratifying the ILO Migration for Employment Convention (No. 97) and the Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143), as well as adopting the ILO Migration Statistics Recommendations (No. 19).

• Analyze national labor markets to identify areas with deficits or surpluses of trained personnel.

• Strengthen the collection and exchange of information on the needs of labor markets, with approved regional variables.

 

To address labor discrimination

• Implement policies against discrimination and xenophobia.

• Strengthen instruments to ensure the protection of the rights of migrant workers.

• Promote mechanisms of social, labor, and cultural integration of migrants in destination countries.

 

To facilitate access to social security and the protection of migrants

• Support countries in the ratification of the Multilateral Social Security Agreement (link in Spanish).

• Promote internal legislation that protects migrants’ rights to social security.

• Design social security schemes that respond to the specific needs of migrants and their families.

 

To facilitate regional integration of labor migration

• Facilitate the exchange of labor migration information between countries in the region.

• Promote mechanisms (or include spaces in existing mobility agreements) that allow intra-regional labor mobility.

 

In addition to these key actions, the study includes contributions to address labor discrimination specifically with indigenous migrants and LGBTI + populations, who may experience a greater precariousness in their working conditions. This information can be accessed via this link (in Spanish).


Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'

Interviewing Rubén Sánchez, Director of 'Zanmi'
Categoria: Communication & Migration
Autor: Laura Manzi

‘Zamni' (2018) is one of the films that participated in the 2020 edition of the Global Migration Film Festival. The short film, which was selected to be screened at regional level by the Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, narrates the experiences and daily lives of four Haitian migrants in Chile and their integration process in the South American country.

In this interview, the young director Rubén Sánchez, tells what objectives and motivations guided him towards the creation of the short film.

Why did you choose young Haitian migrants as the protagonists of your work? Is there something in their profile that makes them different from other migrant communities in Chile?

What struck us is that the Haitian population here in Chile is the one that finds it most difficult to integrate into society. One of the main reasons is that they speak another language, the Creole language, and that is an even bigger barrier considering that Chilean Spanish has many idioms and tends to be spoken very quickly. Another obstacle to integration is the racism and rejection of some sectors of society towards the Haitian population: whether because of ethnicity, nationality, language or other prejudices. This leads to more segregation and not integration.

In the short film, there are many scenes that portray different landscapes: the sea, the forest, the city. What is the role of nature in the integration process of migrants?

Climatic conditions and landscapes can be a challenge for integration. For example, Haiti is very flat, there are no mountains and the climate is tropical. Here in Chile, nature and microclimates are quite diverse (the north has higher temperatures, the south is more humid and rainy, while the central zone is a mixture of these).
Nature, however, has also a symbolic purpose in the documentary. The mountain range, which characterizes the Chilean landscape, is the great frontier that any person faces to reach Chile. This justifies the scene that opens and closes the film and represents one of the protagonists in the Embalse del Yeso, which is a place here in Santiago, in the middle of the mountain range. We wanted to film those scenes there as a more oneiric way of representing this enormous wall that is like a border to cross in order to reach Chile, and that at the same time symbolizes the great wall that is in the cultural shock that the Haitian population faces.

‘Life is a circle. A perfect circle of which we are not a part': the protagonists in the film have jobs, go to school, learn Spanish. Then, what are the elements that continue to prevent their integration into the host community, this 'circle' from which they are excluded?

The cultural shock is big. If the host society lives this 'fear of the unknown', the Haitian migrant population in turn reacts and this generates a fear of the community where they live. The lack of integration is made difficult by prejudice and because initiatives that value cultural richness are not promoted. I think this is what we lack as a society: to be more educated. If there is no good education, there will be no people who cannot integrate; we still need to be educated and 'humanized'. I feel that in some way we are also 'dehumanized'. This is what the documentary wants to capture: to reflect on the humanity that we need, the humanity that we need to integrate others, to show that we are all really the same, we are all human beings and we all have dreams.

How much is the director visible in his work? How come are you interested in the subject of migration?

The issue of Haitian migration was, for me, a personal concern, because I live in one of the cities in Chile with the largest Haitian population. I used to witness daily this rejection of the Haitian population in the eyes of the people, in comments that were exchanged by whispering in the bus when I went to the university. I was worried about that.
Also, before I enrolled in audiovisual communication, I studied social work, and had many courses on the migration issue and related social policies. I did a lot of research on Haitian migration, which allowed me to capture the central idea of the short film. During the shooting process, I had the opportunity to meet these young people (Haitian migrants), to live their culture, to taste their food. I was filled with a culture that I didn't know, I was filled with knowledge, with a new experience. I wish this documentary could reach more people, change who we are and cultivate our humanity.