Why does discrimination against migrants increase during a crisis and how can its impact be reduced?

Why does discrimination against migrants increase during a crisis and how can its impact be reduced?

When a community or country is going through a crisis situation, whether due to political, economic, social or natural factors, antimigrant discourses, discrimination, hostility and abuse of human rights may increase.

Crises usually develop over time and have deep roots that require structural changes. However, migrants can be mistakenly seen as the generators of these problems, making the true causes of the situation invisible. This change or intensification of negative attitudes towards migrants occurs at different levels, which intertwine and reinforce each other: as a person, in a group, in media and social networks, and in politics and government.

The staff of organizations and institutions that must protect the rights of migrants during a crisis can also be biased by prejudices, affecting access to humanitarian aid, protection and rights. According to the IOM study "Migrants and their Vulnerabilities to Human Trafficking, Modern Slavery and Forced Labor", law enforcement agencies or prejudiced legislators against migrants are less likely to protect them.

The fear of irregular migrants being deported if they ask for help or employment during a crisis adds another layer of complexity. According to data from the International Labor Organization from the “Handbook of "Migration, Human Rights and Governance,” although the presence of irregular migrant workers is often tolerated in times of economic boom, it is likely that the pressures to expel them from the country increase during recessions.

For the provision of humanitarian assistance to migrants without discrimination in host countries, the guidelines of the Migrant in Countries in Crisis Initiative (MICIC) provide some recommendations to partners in different sectors based on good practices for the private sector, civil society and the diaspora:

For the private sector

  • Locate migrant workers;
  • Provide transportation, accommodation, health care, protection and communication to migrants and family members;
  • Coordinate with the team leaders of migrant workers to make sure that emergency and contingency plans are applied according to the needs of migrant workers.

For civil society

  • Ensure the dissemination of information on assistance for migrants through faith-based organizations, local leaders and other migrant-related entities.
  • Communication with local and humanitarian partners to identify gaps in assistance or coverage.
  • Use the various skills and competencies of CSOs to provide assistance according to the specific needs of particular groups of migrants, such as domestic workers and unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking, people with disabilities, among others;
  • Establish safe spaces and centers (for migrants in general and in particular for vulnerable migrants) where assistance can be provided in a sensitive and safe manner;
  • Contribute to the search for relatives, family reunification and the identification of missing migrants.

For the diaspora

  • Raise funds for humanitarian assistance
  • Facilitate the access of those responsible for the response to the registration and assessment of needs (based on trust created with migrants)
  • Act as mediators between migrant communities and the authorities;
  • Provide support based on their particular capabilities, such as translation services, cultural mediation and in-kind assistance.

Although there are guidelines for the care of migrants without discrimination during a crisis such as those just mentioned, the work against hate speech must be constant and transversal to reduce this type of rejection in countries of transit and destination, including ethical representation of migrants in the media and personal actions advocating for diversity and against xenophobia.

How do Venezuelans live in Costa Rica during the pandemic?

How do Venezuelans live in Costa Rica during the pandemic?
Categoria: Emergencies & Humanitarian Action
Autor: Guest Contributor

Currently, more than 5 million Venezuelans have left their country due to the complex socio-political context. Of those, at least 4 million are in Latin American and Caribbean countries, according to data collected from governments by the Regional Interagency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V).

According to estimates made by IOM Costa Rica, by the end of June,  29,850 Venezuelans approximately were in that Central American country. The socioeconomic situation, health, regularization mechanisms and other characteristics that affect integration in a host country were impacted by the pandemic.

To better understand this population, IOM Costa Rica implemented the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) to profile the Venezuelan population. This shows that the majority of the Venezuelans who took part in the survey were in the age range between 35 and 44 years; they were women (63%); they had university studies; and they were asylum seekers. In addition, most of them had been in the country between 3 months and a year and planned to stay permanently.

The DTM is a tool that can help policymakers to unravel mobility trends and outline current and future evidence-based scenarios so that the initiatives and strategy to assist both refugees and migrants, as well as host communities, can be planned with more information. These are some of the main findings of the study to understand the characteristics and needs of Venezuelans in the country:

  • Residence: 87% of those survey respondents indicated that they reside with another Venezuelan. Of these, 26% reside with a minor and 19% with an older adult. Most of them live in apartments.
  • Employment situation: At the time of the survey, most of the participating Venezuelans were unemployed (59%), and those who were working did so mainly in the informal sector. This is not a minor fact if we recall how it was said before that in general they have university studies.
  • Difficulties: Given the high unemployment rate, it is not surprising that one of the main difficulties indicated by the survey respondents was the lack of economic resources (78%), compared to other problems such as lack of documentation, lack of access to health, lack of food or water, among others.
  • Assistance: The surveyed population indicates that the main organizations that have assisted them are IOM (51%), UNHCR (44%), Alianza VenCR (31%), HIAS (23%), RET International (20%), the Jesuit Service (5%), among others.


The future of the mobility patterns of the Venezuelan population amid the pandemic

The regional profile of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean, recently published by IOM together with the Migration Policy Institute, indicates that, as a result of the new conditions brought about by the pandemic, Venezuelan refugees and migrants will be affected by food insecurity, limited access to health services and difficulty in finding work. On the other hand, there are different estimates of the number of Venezuelan returnees and there is no confirmed count of how many are moving through the region with the intention of returning to their country.

Although assistance to human mobility has many aspects, in the context of a pandemic, health care becomes a particularly important aspect both for the refugee and migrant population, as well as for their host communities, since ensuring all members of a society the necessary medical access has an impact that goes beyond the person being cared for. In some countries, working formally facilitates access to this type of services; but in the case of Venezuelans, as they are mostly in the informal sector (due in many cases to the lack of documentation or regular status), access to health is complicated despite it being a human right.

This publication also suggests that in parallel to the organization and efforts made by governments and civil society to address the problems that afflict refugees and migrants in the region in general, and the Venezuelan population in particular, it is necessary to have international support. This is important, among other aspects, to collect solid data to help formulate public policies, as well as to strengthen the positive aspects that migration can bring, for example, in its economic dimension.