What is a migration crisis and how to address it integrally

Qué es una crisis migratoria y cómo atenderla integralmente

A migration crisis is short for “crisis with migration dimensions”. A migration crisis can generate population movements within or outside the borders of a country. This may occur suddenly or gradually, and is affected by migratory movements prior to the crisis, as well as changes in subsequent migration patterns. The term migration crisis describes complex and generally large-scale migration flows, as well as the mobility patterns caused by a crisis that often lead to considerable vulnerabilities for affected people and communities, and pose serious migration management challenges in the longer term.

Migration crises have several faces, so when using the expression, you can be referring to international migrants who are affected by a crisis when they are in their destination country, or you can refer to the migratory flows resulting from the instability and protracted conflicts in a region, among other possible scenarios.

To respond effectively to the different scenarios of a migration crisis, IOM developed the Operational Migration Crisis Operational Framework (MCOF) in 2012, in order to support affected communities in accessing their fundamental rights of protection and assistance. The framework is based on international humanitarian and human rights legislation, and humanitarian principles. It also combines humanitarian activities, recovery and transition to development with migration management services as a cross-cutting priority.

MCOF has 3 pillars:

Pillar 1- The phase of time, that is, before, during and after the crisis.

Pillar 2- The 15 sectors of assistance, from humanitarian to development to address the migration crisis and its consequences in the short, medium and long term.

Pillar 3- Associations and coordination, which are necessary with the relevant actors, sector groups coordinated by OCHA, and established United Nations systems.

For a comprehensive approach to a crisis, the assistance sectors (pillar 2) are implemented in the before, during and after, which implies varying the focus and activities according to the needs of each phase of time. The 15 assistance sectors are as follows:

1. Camp management and displacement mapping, to provide decent living conditions for displaced persons and migrants on the move, facilitating effective assistance and protection in temporary accommodation (transit centers, shelters, reception centers, collective centers, formal and informal camps, etc.). Data processing and dissemination is essential for effective assistance (IOM developed a tool called DTM).

As an example, according to the Strategic Binational Plan MOCM Costa Rica - Panama (2017-2019), to address the presence of large groups of migrants stranded in small communities located near border areas and the problems that this entails (both at the level of access to services and the risk of xenophobia), two specific actions were presented in this assistance sector: 1) In the pre-crisis phase, develop guides and strengthen the capacity of governments and partner organizations; and 2) During the crisis, “support [in] the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection to migrants in transit. Follow up and monitor the movement of migrants and their needs.”

2. Shelter and non-food items, to address the needs of temporary accommodation and non-food items of people affected by the crisis. Assistance includes the coordination of logistics, technical support and the relevant distribution of both the infrastructure and non-food items.

3. Transportation assistance for affected populations, since it is of the utmost importance that there is an entity responsible for providing safe transport, within or outside the borders. Transportation will be necessary in evacuations, resettlements, repatriation and returns, among others.

4. Health support, necessary to save lives and to prevent communicable diseases during the crisis and movement. In the region, the plan between Costa Rica and Panama put this assistance section into practice before the crisis through the development of the capacities of governments and partner agencies in preventive health care and migrant health, development of instruments, and the strengthening of a network of experts in health emergencies.

5. Psychosocial support, to support and protect affected populations to reduce psychosocial vulnerabilities and promote community resilience, including fostering community resilience and feelings of belonging.

 6. (Re)integration assistance, which seeks to end the situations of displacement of people affected by the crisis by supporting durable solutions and reintegration. This assistance is also provided to migrants voluntarily returned to their countries of origin. Citizen participation, listening to the community and conducting civic monitoring are key actions for a successful reintegration of returning migrants.

7. Community stabilization and transition, necessary to lay the foundation for durable solutions. Peacekeeping and sustainable development can include the creation of short-term jobs and promoting socio-economic initiatives, although it will always depend on the needs specific to each population. This assistance is given to local governments and community to face socio-economic and political changes after a crisis, restoring stability and security in vulnerable communities and preventing future forced migrations.

8. Disaster risk reduction and resilience building, with actions aimed at reducing and mitigating the risk of displacement and increasing the resilience of communities to face disasters while contributing to achieve sustainable development.

The current MOCM 2017-2019 of the Dominican Republic, facing an environment characterized by ethnic tensions and with the presence of recurring natural events that affect the population, raised the improvement of precarious housing and repair of community infrastructure.

9. Land and property support, with actions to assist governments and communities to address land and property issues, thus preventing future forced migration, allowing work on durable solutions to continuous displacement and also facilitating return and reintegration.

10. Counter-trafficking and protection of vulnerable migrants, since, particularly during crises, affected people consider taking high-risk routes and methods of migration, leaving them vulnerable to organized criminal groups. It focuses on actions that offer protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants, victims of trafficking, abuse and exploitation and especially unaccompanied migrant children during the crisis.

11. Technical assistance for humanitarian border management, oriented towards actions that support states in strengthening their immigration and border management capacity. In the case of the current MOCM in Mexico, for example, to address the migratory flow peaks that periodically occur and that sometimes exceed state capacities and address the flows during the crisis, the document proposes to provide registration systems for displaced populations that move through border checkpoints.

12. Emergency consular assistance, which implies supporting states to offer efficient consular services during the emergency. In addition, to provide nationals of other countries caught in the crisis, the issuance of emergency documents and safe-conduct documents to help alleviate their needs, especially during the crisis, where for fear of possible deportations, people may decide not to access attendance points.

13. Diaspora and human resource mobilization, to involve the capacities and financial resources of the diaspora as support in the reconstruction of communities in situations when possible.

14. Migration policy and legislation support, that is, actions to support states, communities and individuals to build or strengthen inclusive migration policies. It also proposes effective and humane migration management in crisis situations, and fulfill the responsibilities to protect vulnerable mobile populations affected by the crisis.

15. Humanitarian communications through activities that support the creation or reinforcement of two-way communication channels with the communities. It is essential that useful information exchange channels be generated both for the affected communities and for the humanitarian actors, so that they can adjust their actions according to the needs expressed directly by the population. The messages must have intercultural considerations that reject xenophobia and discrimination.

Extortion is Causing the Expulsion of Migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America

Extortion is Causing the Expulsion of Migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

In cases of forced displacement, extortion is often mentioned as one of the main causes. However, extortion is located within a cycle of violence, such sexual violence, murder, etc., and it is difficult to identify a single incident of extortion as the sole reason for leaving a country.

Although its definition varies depending on national legislation, extortion can be understood as the use of threats, intimidation and other acts of violence to obtain actions or goods from another person against their will, as defined by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Environmental Funds (REDLAC), in a special bulletin dedicated to this issue and upon which this post is based.

In the context of migration, kidnapping and extortion go hand-in-hand, as smugglers often extort money from migrants by threatening to kidnap their relatives. Extortion can also be committed in the other direction: relatives of migrants who have already arrived in another country are extorted by smugglers, demanding money from them so as not to harm the family member who has already migrated. This can often lead to persecution in communities of origin and destination.

In Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the serious issue of personal insecurity fuelled by drug trafficking and corruption has marked the region as one of the most violent on the planet, according to Amnesty International. In this context, extortion schemes demanding payments from local markets and small businesses are commonplace in gang-controlled territories. However, depending on the country, there can also be extortion demands  placed on homes, such as in Guatemala, where this accounts for 55% of extortion complaints.

There is also a difference between the type and impact of extortion experienced by men, women, children and the LGBTIQ+ population. In this sense, when women are extorted for money, threats are often combined with the intimidating possibility of sexual violence. According to the REDLAC bulletin, the bodies of women, adolescents, and girls are treated as territory for revenge and control while children are being increasingly recruited as rent collectors, among other functions.

Migrants are often also extorted by people who are not part of criminal groups but who take advantage of their vulnerable situation to turn a profit, such as locals who demand payment to cross private land rather than using routes with criminal gangs, or transporters who demand money from irregular migrants in exchange for not reporting them to immigration authorities. The same situation has been reported with employers who, on pay-day, threaten to report migrant workers for an irregular migrant status.

There are currently no figures on the number of people displaced or forced to migrate due to extortion in northern Central America, as this is part of a generalised climate of violence; however, some organisations locate this crime as one of the main reasons for migration from areas or even from the country.


Extortion during the pandemic

In the bulletin of the Network of Latin American and Caribbean Environmental Funds (REDLAC) which examines extortion as a trigger for internal displacement and forced migration in northern Central America and Mexico, some relevant points were also made about how extortion has adapted to the context of COVID-19:

  • In El Salvador, COVID-19 has reduced the income of gangs, but they have not lost territorial control. Some gangs have established restrictions, such as allowing one individual per family to make food purchases, to reduce the risk that a gang member may become ill and not be able to access medical care.
  • In Honduras, the paralysis of the transportation and informal trade sectors, generally common sectors for extortion, has registered a decrease in cases of extortion due to the pandemic. However, there have been reports of threats of retroactive charges once commerce resumes, house-to-house tariffs, and road ‘tolls’, and scams executed by gangs. Food distributors are frequent victims of extortion when entering communities.
  • In Guatemala, extortion has not stopped either, although at the beginning of the pandemic some maras (gangs) granted ‘pardons’ in their communities. However, national agencies predict that when the restrictive measures end, there will be an increase in other crimes and that extortion will return as a greater threat.
  • Mobility restrictions increase the risk of people being trapped in violent environments, making it difficult to seek support in other territories and countries. Despite this, many people seek and will continue to seek irregular migration options, despite the dangers of the pandemic, in order to leave the high-violence, low-income contexts in which they live.