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.


How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?

How will COVID-19 affect the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda?
Categoria: Migration Governance
Autor: Laura Thompson

 

There is no doubt that the current pandemic has a broad humanitarian, social and economic impact in the short, medium and long term, which in turn may affect or delay the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at different levels and in various ways.

The most evident impact, obviously, is on Goal 3, which seeks to guarantee a healthy life and promote well-being. The pandemic has put enormous pressures on health systems not only in relation to the treatment and management of the virus, but also affecting the ability to care for patients who have other diseases and increasing the risk of complications in populations with compromised health states. The pandemic has given greater visibility to the importance of universal access to health systems regardless of people's migratory status. However, the pandemic will also have implications for other aspects of the 2030 Agenda.

 

Impacts beyond health

COVID-19 is also having a negative impact on the employment, economic and social situation of many households around the world, and on their ability to meet their needs, even the most basic ones. The economic crisis that the countries of the region are facing and the growing unemployment will be decisive in this regard, since apart from the pandemic, Latin America and the Caribbean reached an unemployment rate of 8.1% at the end of 2019, according to the International Labor Organization. And according to ECLAC projections, labor unemployment will rise to 11.5% in the same region, as a result of the contraction of economic activity by COVID-19.

Unemployment and the loss of purchasing power affect more severely migrant populations, since they are very often employed in the informal sector of the economy and have more precarious contractual working conditions, particularly women migrant workers. In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, informal work engages around 50% of the total number of people employed. The increase in unemployment will impact the scope of Goal 8 (on full and productive employment and decent work for all), but also Goal 1 (the fight against poverty), Goal 2 (the eradication of hunger, food security and better nutrition), Goal 5 (gender equality and empowerment of women and girls), and targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2, on trafficking and exploitation of people. ECLAC also emphasizes that Latin America and the Caribbean is already suffering a fall of -5.3% in GDP, the worst in its history.

Likewise, this pandemic could accentuate existing inequalities in societies, as well as the vulnerabilities of certain population groups, and consequently delay the achievement of Goal 10, which seeks to reduce inequalities between and within countries. In this context, migrants are one of those vulnerable groups that have been particularly affected by the pandemic and that are often left behind or forgotten in social protection and economic relaunch plans, or have limited access to them, either because of language barriers or because of their immigration status. All of this despite the enormous contribution that migrant workers make to the operation of essential basic services in many countries, as has become evident during this crisis.

Additionally, a decrease in the amount of international remittances is projected, which, according to the World Bank, would be reduced between 10% and 19.3% by 2020. Remittances are a fundamental component in the economy of some countries in the region, where they can amount to between 5% and 20% of the national Gross Domestic Product. A significant reduction in remittances would jeopardize the ability of many households in those countries to meet their most basic needs and their ability to invest in improving nutrition, education, and reducing child labor, among others, further emphasizing existing inequalities.

Finally, at the state level, due to the economic slowdown we are experiencing and urgent health needs, it is very likely that there will be a decrease in social spending or a reorientation of available resources, potentially at the expense of the more comprehensive vision contained in the Sustainable Development Goals, again affecting the scope of the transversal objectives of the 2030 Agenda.

 

Recovery and SDGs: the same path

But this should not lead us to pessimism and to think that we have lost the fight to achieve the SDGs. On the contrary, it is essential at this time to work together and forcefully to identify the additional difficulties that the current pandemic presents in achieving the 2030 Agenda. We must redouble our commitment and our efforts to ensure that the impact of the pandemic is incorporated into national plans and international assistance, as well as that the different realities and vulnerabilities of some specific groups are incorporated.

For this we must work from now on to ensure the universal attention of the health and education systems; in reducing remittance transfer costs (a topic included in Goal 10), as El Salvador is already doing, creating more resilient and inclusive cities in line with Goal 11 or strengthening forms of regular migration for migrant workers and decent working conditions (Goal 8).

The time is now: all organizations, governments and individuals have an important role in ensuring that the efforts for our Latin American region and the world to recover from the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are aligned with the 2030 Agenda and that we make sure we do not leave anyone behind.