IOM Survey Illuminates COVID-19's Impact on Migrant Population in Central America, Mexico

San José – Almost 60 per cent of those intending to migrate decided to postpone or cancel their plans due to the pandemic. Over 20 per cent of those already living as migrants are considering returning to their country of origin as soon as their economic conditions or the health measures adopted by their countries allow them to. About half of all migrants in Central America and Mexico lost jobs due to the pandemic. 

These are some of the findings brought to light this week in a survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). More than 1,600 people participated in this survey organized by IOM, which was launched in June to measure and understand the impact of the pandemic on migration plans.  

The survey also probed the socio-economic situation, physical and mental health and risk factors facing migrants from the region. 

While over half (51 per cent) of all migrants participating in the survey actually lost jobs due to the pandemic, only about 20 per cent of migrants are currently working – suggesting about a third of all migrants in the region fail to gain any employment at all during their sojourns.  

At the same time, four out of 10 migrants with jobs saw their working hours cut or saw their wages reduced. Almost half (48 per cent) of the participants indicated that their salaries and incomes were reduced due to COVID-19. 

Concerning access to health, virtually all migrants declared that they comply with preventive health measures for COVID-19. Less than 10 per cent suspected they may have contracted the disease at some point, yet only about a third of the latter resorted to health services. This finding reinforces the importance of guaranteeing migrants access to health services.  

The mental health of migrants also has been affected, the survey revealed, as more than half of participants said they have faced situations such as widespread fear of contagion, isolation, uncertainty, socio-economic consequences and concerns derived from the pandemic. One aspect of that concern had to do with being deceived or exploited when looking for job opportunities. Even so, most participants said they would risk taking a job abroad even without proper information. That demonstrates their continued high risk of becoming victims of trafficking. 

The survey collected 1,660 responses during June 2020 through an online questionnaire. Among those who participated, 45 per cent were men, 54 per cent were women – with the remainder identifying themselves as “non-binary.” Most respondents were between 26 and 45 years old. 

This activity was developed within the framework of the Mesoamerican-Caribbean Regional Program on Migration, with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the United States Department of State. (PRM) of the United States Department of State. 

Click here to read the full report. 

 Click here to see a Facebook Live briefing (in Spanish) on the survey’s release  

For more information, please contact Tatiana Chacón at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Tel: +506 8632 8527, Email: 

Date Publish: 
survey, central america, mexico, pandemi, covid, covid-19

UN Agencies regret the death of persons on the move in Latin America, and stand ready to accompany a coordinated regional response

Date Publish: 
15 / 10 / 2021

UN Agencies deeply regret the shipwreck in Acandí, Colombia, on October 11 of a vessel carrying around 30 people headed to Panama. Colombian authorities reported that three people lost their lives in the tragedy and another six, including three children, are missing.

Yet again, the incident shows the despair to which families with children have been driven, as well as the risks to which people on the move are exposed during their journey, seeking safety, protection of their rights, and looking for a better life, while crossing borders — often on irregular routes given the lack of routes for regular migration.

Although population movements across the Darien region are not new, their magnitude, risk levels, and precariousness have increased in the last months. Similarly, the profile of people following this route and the variety of nationalities have broadened, mainly including people from the Caribbean and South America, and people from other continents.

According to Panama’s National Migration Service, between January and September this year, 91,300 people crossed the Darien Gap. UNICEF has reported that, out of those people, 19,000 were boys and girls, half of them less than five years old. As of September, more than 50 people had been found dead on the Panamanian side of the Darien route. This situation demands that the countries and civil society stakeholders involved collaborate in taking actions to ensure that the people missing during these journeys are searched and identified.

Along the route, many people (particularly, women, girls, and boys) are exposed to risks and human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence, robbery, people trafficking, discrimination, extortion and kidnapping, among others. Most of these are committed by organized crime. Girls and women are particularly affected by the situation. Therefore, a response from a gender perspective is needed.

UN Agencies highlight the need to strengthen safe, regular, or organized migration routes to reduce the risk of death. Additionally, they call to strengthen the investigations against national and transnational groups and networks involved in trafficking, smuggling and related illegal activities. Furthermore, UN Agencies urge States to protect the rights of all persons on the move (particularly women, girls, boys, and others with specific protection needs), including the right to seek and be granted asylum. Similarly, they encourage States to ensure effective access to basic services, regardless of someone’s migration status, the reasons why a person on the move left their country of origin, their income level, or their travel conditions or circumstances.

Healthy economies and societies depend on well-managed human mobility to foster economic growth, reduce inequalities, connect diverse societies, and stimulate post-COVID-19 recovery.

The collaboration between the authorities of the countries through which these mixed movements of population transit is necessary for an effective and comprehensive response that ensures safety and dignity for people on the move on a regional level. UN agencies stand ready to accompany this process.

Joint statement by the regional offices of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), International Labour Organization (ILO), UN Women, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

For more information, contact: