Migrant Youtubers

 

They have created new ways to express themselves, have fun, relate to others, and even new ways of living. Some of them publish videos on a monthly or weekly basis, but the most active ones, publish videos almost every day. The list of issues they talk about is huge, from fashion to videogames, they achieve to capture the attention of their hundreds to even thousands and millions of followers. I am talking about Youtubers, people who have innovated the forms of information and entertainment, especially for young people.

Many Youtubers have become very popular and received recognition in their cities, countries or at a global level. This has led to many communication and media experts criticizing the concept of fame over the last few years. Most Youtubers used to be ordinary people, who one day just decided to record themselves and post videos about their daily lives or their personal opinions on the internet. Using this channel, they gained the same or even greater influence on their perspective audiences as traditional famous artists.

The relationship between Youtubers and their subscribers is quite remarkable! According to a study by Google, 4 in 10 Millennial subscribers say their favorite Youtuber understands them better than their friends. 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities. This close relationship gives YouTube content creators the opportunity to influence the lives of young people. The same study indicates that 70% of Millennials believe that YouTube creators influence and shape culture. 

The contributions of Youtubers to migration:

The Youtuber phenomenon has one particularly interesting characteristic: most of them are migrants! For many of these Youtubers, talking about their experience in their host country has become a popular topic for their videos. They talk about cultural differences and similarities, new traditions they learn about, their general experiences as migrants.

They confirm that migrants are not only strong, resilient, compassionate and dedicated, but also creative. Hundreds of Youtubers tell their stories on how they arrived in their host country through creative videos. These clips show their best side, the best of their culture and the ties they create with the people who welcomed them with open arms. Their videos indirectly inspire the fight against xenophobia and discrimination.

Alejandro Velasco is one example of those migrant YouTube influencers. He is from Mexico and he went to Chile to pursue his Master’s Degree in 2012. Through his “Un Wey Weón” project he has created a series of short videos on his experience as a Mexican living in Chile. These clips have gone viral and they have been broadly relayed through the main Chilean media channels.

His YouTube channel has more than 15.000 followers and his Facebook account has over 80.000 followers. Alejandro highlights all the linguistic and cultural differences between Mexico and Chile. His videos have helped to bring Chilean people closer to the Mexican culture and vice versa.  

#IamaMigrant Challenge

Just like Alejandro, there are plenty of other migrant Youtubers who are playing a key role in combatting xenophobia and discrimination against migrants. The impact they have on young people is what makes their videos profoundly valuable in building more inclusive societies. Fully aware of this opportunity, the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean launched a campaign for migrant Youtubers. 

The #IamaMigrant campaign is intending to combat negative discourse against migrants through the creativity of migrant YouTube influencers, who are digital ambassadors of their countries of origin. To participate in the campaign, Youtubers have to create a video in which they tell us about their migration experience based on three objects. This is expected to increase sensitization and empathy for other migrants living in the perspective of host countries.

Erika Sinning, a Venezuelan citizen currently living in Canada, was one of the first Youtubers to join the campaign and she told her experience as a migrant based on a pair of shoes and her cellphone. In her video, Erika tells us:

“Migration is like a second chance at life, because you migrate to improve your life, but also to make progress and evolve as a person”

Alejandro Velasco, “Un Wey Weón”, shared his experience by using a Mexican hat, a picture of his family and all the bags of dried hibiscus flower he was able to bring from Mexico. So far, his I am Migrant campaign video has already reached more than 23.000 views on YouTube.

We hope that many other YouTube influencers will join this campaign and continue to foster a positive message about migrants. For further information on the #IamaMigrant Challenge click here.

 

 

 

  About the author:

Jean Pierre Mora Casasola  is a communicator in IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean. He has served as a consultant in different social organizations and in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). He holds a Degree in Advertising from the University “Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología” (ULACIT), and he is currently getting a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations at the same university.  Twitter: @jeanpierremora 

 

 


Extortion is Causing the Expulsion of Migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America

Extortion is Causing the Expulsion of Migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

In cases of forced displacement, extortion is often mentioned as one of the main causes. However, extortion is located within a cycle of violence, such sexual violence, murder, etc., and it is difficult to identify a single incident of extortion as the sole reason for leaving a country.

Although its definition varies depending on national legislation, extortion can be understood as the use of threats, intimidation and other acts of violence to obtain actions or goods from another person against their will, as defined by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Environmental Funds (REDLAC), in a special bulletin dedicated to this issue and upon which this post is based.

In the context of migration, kidnapping and extortion go hand-in-hand, as smugglers often extort money from migrants by threatening to kidnap their relatives. Extortion can also be committed in the other direction: relatives of migrants who have already arrived in another country are extorted by smugglers, demanding money from them so as not to harm the family member who has already migrated. This can often lead to persecution in communities of origin and destination.

In Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the serious issue of personal insecurity fuelled by drug trafficking and corruption has marked the region as one of the most violent on the planet, according to Amnesty International. In this context, extortion schemes demanding payments from local markets and small businesses are commonplace in gang-controlled territories. However, depending on the country, there can also be extortion demands  placed on homes, such as in Guatemala, where this accounts for 55% of extortion complaints.

There is also a difference between the type and impact of extortion experienced by men, women, children and the LGBTIQ+ population. In this sense, when women are extorted for money, threats are often combined with the intimidating possibility of sexual violence. According to the REDLAC bulletin, the bodies of women, adolescents, and girls are treated as territory for revenge and control while children are being increasingly recruited as rent collectors, among other functions.

Migrants are often also extorted by people who are not part of criminal groups but who take advantage of their vulnerable situation to turn a profit, such as locals who demand payment to cross private land rather than using routes with criminal gangs, or transporters who demand money from irregular migrants in exchange for not reporting them to immigration authorities. The same situation has been reported with employers who, on pay-day, threaten to report migrant workers for an irregular migrant status.

There are currently no figures on the number of people displaced or forced to migrate due to extortion in northern Central America, as this is part of a generalised climate of violence; however, some organisations locate this crime as one of the main reasons for migration from areas or even from the country.

 

Extortion during the pandemic

In the bulletin of the Network of Latin American and Caribbean Environmental Funds (REDLAC) which examines extortion as a trigger for internal displacement and forced migration in northern Central America and Mexico, some relevant points were also made about how extortion has adapted to the context of COVID-19:

  • In El Salvador, COVID-19 has reduced the income of gangs, but they have not lost territorial control. Some gangs have established restrictions, such as allowing one individual per family to make food purchases, to reduce the risk that a gang member may become ill and not be able to access medical care.
  • In Honduras, the paralysis of the transportation and informal trade sectors, generally common sectors for extortion, has registered a decrease in cases of extortion due to the pandemic. However, there have been reports of threats of retroactive charges once commerce resumes, house-to-house tariffs, and road ‘tolls’, and scams executed by gangs. Food distributors are frequent victims of extortion when entering communities.
  • In Guatemala, extortion has not stopped either, although at the beginning of the pandemic some maras (gangs) granted ‘pardons’ in their communities. However, national agencies predict that when the restrictive measures end, there will be an increase in other crimes and that extortion will return as a greater threat.
  • Mobility restrictions increase the risk of people being trapped in violent environments, making it difficult to seek support in other territories and countries. Despite this, many people seek and will continue to seek irregular migration options, despite the dangers of the pandemic, in order to leave the high-violence, low-income contexts in which they live.