Migrants in Countries in Crisis: what to do?

 

Recent events such as the Tohoku Tsunami in Japan, floods in Thailand (2011), Hurricane Sandy in the United States, and conflicts in Libya and Yemen are some examples of crisis situations in which migrants are among the most affected populations. Language and cultural barriers, restrictions to mobilization, irregular status, loss of personal documents, limited access to support networks and discrimination, are factors which may affect migrants during crisis. Moreover, in some unfortunate cases migrants remain excluded from the official protection mechanisms.

In this context, Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative (MICIC) was launched in 2014, and led by the United States and the Philippines. The initiative promoted broad and inclusive evidence-gathering and facilitated series of consultations, which resulted in the development of a set of principles, guidelines, and practices intended to provide guidance to States in order to better protect migrant in crisis situations. 

MICIC Initiative proposes 10 principles to States on how to prepare for and respond to crisis in ways that protect migrants during the time of crisis:

  1. First, save lives. Respect for the inherent humanity and dignity of migrants means all possible efforts should be taken to save lives, regardless of immigration status.
  2. As human beings, all migrants are entitled to human rights. At all times, the human rights of migrants should be respected.
  3. States bear the primary responsibility to protect migrants within their territories and their own citizens, including when they are abroad. Host States and States of transit have responsibilities towards all persons within their territories, including migrants, regardless of their immigration status.
  4. Private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society play a significant role in protecting migrants and in supporting States to protect migrants.
  5. Humanitarian action to protect migrants should be guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.
  6. Migrants are rights holders and capable actors, resilient and creative in the face of adversities. They are not merely victims or passive recipients of assistance. While crisis affect individual migrants differently, they have the capacity to take charge of their own safety and wellbeing and should be responsible for doing so, provided they have access to the necessary information and support.
  7. Migrants strengthen the vitality of both their host States and States of origin in multiple ways. Migrants provide for and contribute to their families, communities, and societies. Positive communication about migrants promotes tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, and respect toward migrants.
  8. Action at the local, national, regional, and international levels is necessary to improve responses. Local authorities and non-State local actors, including local communities and community leaders, are particularly well placed to understand and address needs during crisis.
  9. Partnerships, cooperation, and coordination are essential between and among States, private sector actors, international organizations, civil society, local communities, and migrants.
  10. Continuous research, learning, and innovation improve our collective response. Regular assessments and evaluations of past experiences in protecting migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters can inform planning, preparation, and responses.

MICIC Initiative also provides guidelines and practices, which will be addressed in our next blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about this issue, the report is available here: GUIDELINES TO PROTECT MIGRANTS IN COUNTRIES EXPERIENCING CONFLICT OR NATURAL DISASTER

 

 

   About the author:

Jean Pierre Mora Casasola is a Communications Specialist at 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 

 


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.