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.


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.