The Latin America and the Caribbean region comprises one of the world’s broadest and most diverse continental migratory corridors and, at the same time, records the highest inequality indexes. Human mobility throughout the continent obeys structural causes including, alongside widespread social and political violence, excluding development models that displace entire communities forced to migrate due to a lack of decent living conditions.
Our region has long witnessed intraregional-migration, migration among transnational and cross-border communities, transit migration and settlement of migrant populations from African and Asian countries, as well as deportations, rejections, forced returns, and voluntary returns. Violence along the migration process and the absence of the rule of law generate new displacements and have other effects, such as families searching for disappeared or killed migrants, and that, to demand and have access to justice, are forced to migrate. In this sense, the criminalization of people living in contexts of mobility and the militarization of our territories increasingly restrict human mobility in Latin America and The Caribbean.
The risks and the ever-increasing violence against migrants during their journeys occur at a major scale, and are more brutal and barbaric in the region of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States. One ongoing tragedy is migrants and persons subject to international protection who are victims of crimes and human rights violations such as robbery, extorsion, kidnapping, torture, human trafficking, arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings and homicides on their transit through Mexican territory and the United States, most often committed by organized crime groups in collusion with governmental authorities. One example of this is the massacre committed against 72 migrants in San Fernando, in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, on August 2010. Despite being condemned by several international and regional organizations and groups, 3 this and other similar events continue to be unpunished.
What is concerning is that valuable initiatives in Central America, such as the Central American Border Control Agreement signed by Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua (CA-4), have suffered considerable setback as Nicaragua has included new requirements limiting the entry of persons from the other three countries parties to the agreement.
Moreover, collective expulsions of aliens4 have been reported and discriminatory and excluding public policies have been applied in The Caribbean, which have led resident migrant people in the Dominican Republic, as well as Dominicans of Haitian descent, to statelessness or to similar status. The lack of ratification of and accession to international treaties by Caribbean countries, such as the 1951 Refugee Convention of the Geneva Convention, the absence of proper national laws and comprehensive migration policies, makes it difficult to protect the rights of people in need of international protection. Additionally, environmental factors related to climate change and natural disasters determine forced migration and internal displacement in the region.
South America has assumed a position in favor of regional integration under a human rights perspective; nonetheless, regressive migration policies that affect mobility are starting to show, as the case of Argentina and its recent National Decree to modify the National Migration Law (Ley Nacional de Migraciones) and the case of Chile, where violations to immigration laws are equated to criminal offenses.
Migration from the region invites us to rethink transnational and extra-continental policies and actions, considering a multidimensional approach beyond government and corporate interests that result in workforce exploitation, and actions based on instrumentalized sociodemographic policies aiming to bring down the average age of the economically active population, finding new sources of income and reducing social pressure.
Immigration policies based on the control, detection, detention, and deportation of migrants, designed from a national security perspective and that comprise the externalization of frontiers based in militarization as a contention mechanism, have yielded, in addition to human rights violations, an increase in corruption and collusion of government authorities, as well as the criminalization of migrants and the promotion of xenophobia among locals. This policy, along with ineffectual economic investments and development projects, does not correspond to the reality of the region and is aimed at deterring and containing migration.
Because of patriarchal structures within societies and institutions in Latin America, people with diverse sexual and gender identities (LGBTTTIQ) and women in migration, face severe forms of gender violence, discrimination and violation of their rights, which affect their conditions in migration, access to their rights in terms of inclusion and access to international protection mechanisms.