Venezuelan resilience: 5 tips from migrant to migrant

Venezuelan resilience: 5 tips from migrant to migrant

As of March 2019, Central America, North America and the Caribbean reported more than one and a half million Venezuelan refugees and migrants in countries of the region. One and a half million people who are learning to adapt to other scents, tastes, climate and lifestyles.

Some migrants in vulnerable conditions suffer from post-traumatic stress when crossing to a new country, but most will develop resilience skills, the capacity to resist, absorb knowledge, adapt and recover from the adverse effects of their transfer efficiently.

This is the case of Robinson Fereira:

Since Robinson was 23 years old, he imagined sharing the music of his native Venezuela outside his country. First, he thought of countries like Switzerland, France and Spain, but life moved him elsewhere

In Venezuela, the rental contract was about to expire. Robinson and Mariana, his wife, had to look for a new space, but no matter how hard they tried the conditions were difficult: the leases were very high, the places very small, and they were required to pay up to six months in advance in dollars, a currency that, for more than 10 years, has not been easy to acquire in Venezuela.

Before going through the ordeal of looking for a place to move, they evaluated the option of migrating in search of another future: one that offered a property with rent in accordance to the economic reality of the country, but also one that offered job opportunities, savings capacity and personal security.

"First, we tried to emigrate to the United States with the legal residency process, but it became complicated at the time. Then, at the invitation of one of my wife’s relatives, we made an exploratory trip to Panama, and that visit to this beautiful country was enough to decide that it would definitely be where we would make our life," Robinson said. On January 18, 2015, they departed from Maracaibo, Venezuela to Panama.

The adaptation process took a while, some things were complicated: open a personal bank account, get a good job as a music teacher, or find a downtown rental at a good price. But little by little, they succeeded.

Robinson and Mariana crossed paths with IOM through "Pianistmo", the first piano recital performed by Fereira’s students in Panama. Among the audience was none other than the Panamanian Roberto Delgado, musical director of Rubén Blades, and who recently invited Robinson to record in the new production "Salsa Big Band", an album that won two Latin Grammys and a Grammy Award.

Robinson considers himself very fortunate that in his early years in Panama, as a piano teacher and offering home classes, he was able to enter Panamanian homes to see how they are from the inside, in a private and familiar space.

"Without a doubt, you grow, you become strong and you learn to manage more and better resources every day, to cultivate good relationships, those that add good energy, respect and inspiration to your life," Robinson acknowledges.

We asked him what advice he would give to another Venezuelan migrant and Robinson shared the following ideas.

1. Investigate everything in relation to the country you choose as a destination, the more information you have, the better you will be able to move.

2. Create a life plan, at least for the first year in your new home.

3. Get your residence and work permit as quickly as possible, being a regular makes things much easier.

4. Open yourself up to new possibilities, do not believe that what you have is best. Every country and culture has its traits and its achievements, so if you plan to take that step it is better to have an open mind and be flexible, do not be afraid to adapt, do not be resistant to learning. Nothing bad happens if you learn another language, or if you add some phrases and expressions from the jargon of that new place to your vocabulary, you do not look bad, you're not ridiculous. It's just your mind doing the same as when you were a child, simple adaptation, survival.

5. Make friends in your new country, do not lock yourself in a bubble with other Venezuelan countrymen.

Contributor: IOM Panama

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.