Solidarity: The reason why Central American migrants stopped their journey

 

Wilson, a 25-year-old Honduran, had recently started his journey towards the United States. On the night of September 7, Wilson was staying in a shelter for migrants in Ixtepec in southern Mexico. Ten minutes before midnight the earth started to shake so hard, fell out of his bed. “It seemed like the end of the world”, he recalls.

The 8.2 magnitude quake in Mexico was recorded as the strongest in the country’s history. Another Honduran immigrant, Joel, who was trying to cross irregularly into the United States, was flabbergasted by the sound of the earth moving, by seeing buildings crumble down and witnessing a person fainting in the middle of the street.

When the earth stopped moving, Joel, Wilson and other migrants were staying at the shelter. They started talking to  other people who had just arrived at the shelter and they had  bad news: the situation was critical. Hundreds of people were injured and remained under the collapsed buildings and the rubble. The group of migrants had the idea to stay and help out and shared it with Ernesto, one of the shelter’s coordinators. The next morning, they started assisting people.

Wilson, a member of the brigade.

“Migrants were the first to help”, that’s what the Mexican people of the affected communities from Ixtepec said. This brigade of approximately 30 people engaged in debris removal using their bare hands. They were digging through the debris of collapsed buildings to recover people’s belongings or to rescue the injured people they found. We only had two shovels that we found at the shelter, so we were taking turns to use these rescue tools. When one person was using a shovel, everyone else was using their hands”, explained Wilson. A woman noticed the men trying to help and immediately offered to lend them her tools in exchange for some help to clean her house, which had also been affected by the disaster.  

On September 19 Mexico was struck by a second earthquake. Wilson and most of the members of the improvised brigade were still helping to repair the damage caused by the first quake in Oaxaca two weeks earlier. Their hands were covered in blisters and wounds but with their simple tools they proceeded to help in those areas, that were hit the hardest.

“Migrants are abused and mistreated by some people. Unlike what most of those people  think, we are good people” - Joel.

Solidarity was the reason why every single member of this group of migrants postponed their trip. In their hearts and their minds, they were not thinking about anything other than staying and helping the Mexican people. According to Joel, a lot of people couldn’t believe that migrants were helping, but through their actions they showed that many negative stereotypes towards migrants are false. “They were amazed by the fact that we were migrants and that we were helping them, because we got to some affected areas that not even the Mexicans could get to.”

Most of the members of this brigade were forced to flee from Central America. They were in search of a better life and working conditions to help their families back home. Joel decided to take this journey to help his child, and because he was being threatened by organized crime. 

“The gangs in Honduras gave me 24 hours to leave the country. I had to go because if a gang member gives you 24 hours to leave, after 25 hours you’re dead.” - Joel.

Currently, Wilson and Joel are looking for a temporary job in Mexico to continue helping their families in their home countries. When it comes to assisting people, they won’t hesitate to do so.

 

Joel, another member of the brigade.  

 

 

 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.