Migration in the Caribbean: An opportunity to boost development

Around 3.7 million Venezuelans have left their homes in recent years amid a complex political and economic landscape, resulting in the largest number of refugees and migrants in the region during the past decade. About 2.7 million are currently residing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Although international attention has been largely focused in borderline countries, the islands of the Caribbean are receiving a significant number of this influx. Many arrive after facing highly dangerous routes by land as well as by sea, this migratory dynamic increases the degree of vulnerability to exploitation, human trafficking and abuse.

As the outflow remains high, the Caribbean has an opportunity to benefit significantly from the integration of this population in an adequately and regulated manner by the adoption of policies at all levels that promote the access to social services, education, labour markets and cultural integration.

“Migrants are productive members of society, generally. There are a lot of migrant success stories. Migrants contribute to society. So, we will try to strengthen the capacity of host communities and integrate migrants and support the government,” said Robert Natiello, IOM’s Regional Coordination Officer for the Caribbean.

According to Peru’s National Superintendence for Migrations, 90% of Venezuelan migrants have technical or professional studies, which contributes positively to the sectors.

The integration of this population can bring economic strength as well as increase contributions to social security payments and other public services to the host country. They can reactivate economies in several ways: by bringing innovation, ideas and investment as well as by bringing new, diverse skills and experience.

Several initiatives have already been undertaken in the Caribbean by partners and host governments to improve integration:

  1. Facilitating access to medical services, including specialized services to support cases of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and victims of trafficking, and providing psychosocial support and counselling service.
  2. Advocating for accessible work permits to Venezuelans to promote economic self-sufficiency and to reduce exploitation.
  3. Engaging in consultations with relevant authorities on the inclusion of Venezuelans in existing public livelihood programs and enabling access to public services.
  4. Offering learning spaces to primary- and secondary-age migrant and refugee children.
  5. Sensitization activities on international refugee protection for workers in public sectors.

As events continue to develop, it is key to remember that refugees and migrants are rights holders, and their economic and social integration represents a potential boost at national and regional levels alike. Although change can be daunting, history has proven that people and countries can find strength in diversity.


What makes migrants vulnerable to gender-based violence?

Categoria: Migration and Gender
Autor: Jacinta Astles

An increasing number of women are migrating independently from Central America and the Caribbean. Women represent 58.9 per cent of migrants from Caribbean countries and 50.3 percent from Central America. Moving abroad offers a range of potential opportunities and challenges, which are impacted by a person’s gender in complex and multifaceted ways.

Gender and migration are intersecting factors that mutually affect each other. Migration can have positive and negative effects on migrants depending on their individual characteristics and conditions. Likewise, an individual’s gender influences their experience of migration, including the risks and vulnerabilities involved in their journey.

Migration has the potential to create positive outcomes and contribute to women’s empowerment. It can open opportunities for: higher income, asset ownership, self-esteem, decision-making power and new autonomy. On the other hand, gender and migration can intersect to produce negative outcomes, such as multiple forms of discrimination, exploitation, and stigmatization. Migration may also offer women and girls an opportunity to escape situations of gender-based violence in their countries of origin.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is an umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between males and females. It may be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial and/or psychological. It can occur in public or in private and individuals of all genders can be victims. It disproportionately affects women, girls, and those of diverse gender identity or diverse sexual orientation (LGBTI) persons because of underlying gender inequalities. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.

GBV can be a factor that drives migration from countries of origin. According to a report by Support Kind (2018), GBV perpetrated by family members, gangs and drug traffickers forces many women, girls, and LGBTI individuals to leave El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. GBV, particularly sexual violence, is used to maintain control over territories and populations, as gang members punish women, girls and their families for not complying with their demands. An average of less than 10 percent of GBV cases in the region result in convictions. As they are unable to gain protection in their countries, many women, girls and LGBTI individuals migrate in search of safer living conditions.

Migration does not cause GBV. However, during their journey, some migrants face situations where they are more vulnerable to violence. Numerous factors influence a person’s risks and vulnerabilities throughout their migration journey. Alongside gender, a key factor is whether the migration route is safe and regular.

Unsafe or irregular migration routes increase the risks of GBV, including human trafficking. Migrant women, girls and LGBTI individuals are disproportionately targeted by human traffickers. According to the 2019 Trafficking In Persons Report, traffickers in the Caribbean target migrant women, particularly from Jamaica, Guyana, and the Dominican Republic. In Costa Rica, LGBTI persons, particularly transgender Costa Ricans, are vulnerable to sex traffickers. Women and girls from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and other Latin American countries have been identified in Costa Rica as victims of sex trafficking and domestic servitude.

At their destination and for those who return to their countries of origin, other intersecting factors, including a migrants’ financial insecurity, awareness of their legal rights, and language abilities influence their vulnerability to GBV.

Gender norms and unequal power relationships are the root causes of GBV against women and girls as well as men and boys and those of diverse gender identities. Perpetrators seek to exploit inequalities in order to exert power, coerce and deceive their victims. Recognizing these causes is central to developing effective interventions.

One of the strategies put forward by the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) addresses both gender inequalities and GBV through national labour laws, employment policies and programmes. This approach recognizes the independence, agency and leadership of women and seeks to reduce their vulnerability by increasing their access to labour markets.

According to the GCM, countries must ensure that the human rights of women, men, girls and boys are respected at all stages of migration, that their specific needs are properly understood and addressed and that they are empowered as agents of change.

These initiatives should be complemented by measures that support victims and ensure the effective prosecution of crimes.

A human rights-based and gender-responsive to migration governance is crucial for reducing GBV. Ensuring that the lives of all migrants are protected, and they have access to justice reduces their vulnerabilities and alters the culture of impunity in which perpetrators believe they will not face punishment.

GBV can cause short, medium and long-term physical and mental health consequences for survivors. Understanding how gender intersects with migration and addressing the root causes of GBV through a gender-responsive and human rights-based approach will create greater equality and human dignity throughout the region.