The movement of people in Latin America is towards the region itself

The walls that divide territories and countries must be observed with a critical perspective, from the point of view of fundamental guarantees.

The movement of people in Latin America is towards the region itself
Migrants can be seen camping on the Tijuana and U.S. border in Baja California, Mexico. Photo by Barbara Zandoval / Unsplash

From the physical, symbolic, palpable, and tangible point of view, walls everywhere are the same: messages of exclusion, division, confrontation, and means of discrimination. Wherever those that divide territories and countries are found, they must be looked at with a critical perspective, especially from a human rights perspective, said the director of the Institute for Legal Research (IIJ) of the UNAM, Pedro Salazar Ugarte.

At the opening of the last session of the International Congress on the Migratory Crisis in Europe and America in the Light of International Human Rights Law, held in a hybrid format at the Tijuana campus of the Universidad Iberoamericana, he added:

What we see in that cosmopolitan, culturally rich, and dynamic border city is also a postcard of the daily drama of millions of people who find themselves in the need, for different reasons, to leave their places of origin and undertake migratory journeys. "It is a reminder of the meaning of the work we do and the scope of the activities that academic institutions must carry out".

Meanwhile, the general director of the Universidad Iberoamericana Tijuana, Florentino Badial Hernandez, agreed that in this city we can appreciate the economic development, the multicultural encounter, and the dynamism that humanity is experiencing today, but also the main challenges facing the world: violence, poverty, violation of fundamental guarantees and exclusion symbolized by a border wall. "It is a city whose identity is built from the encounter of people of different cultures and nationalities; we have that richness, recognizing first and foremost that we should all enjoy the same rights and inclusion, for the simple fact that we are all human."

A round table 4, "The Venezuelan Exodus", Fernando Lozano Ascencio, director of the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research of UNAM, stressed that the perspective of south-north mobility has been surpassed. "There is a great change that has been taking place since before the pandemic, a migratory transition that consists of the movement of people in Latin America towards the region itself".

There is no traditional pattern of movement to the global north, such as in the United States, Canada, or Spain; today we cannot speak of migratory corridors in a precise manner either. The phenomenon occurs between equivalent societies, and, for example, from Haiti, there is mobility to nations such as Brazil, Chile, or Mexico, not only to the Dominican Republic or the American Union, as in the past, he added.

According to the Senior Protection Assistant of the Office in Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Emilio González González, Venezuela is the nation with the most forced displacements at present, only after Syria and Ukraine. This generates a strong demographic pressure in South America, in the Venezuelan border regions with Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil.

In the last 18 months, the host population has experienced difficulties and is beginning to suffer persecution; several of them are seeking protection, integration, or family reunification in North America, and we have witnessed a significant increase in land movements of this population. From eight thousand to 12 thousand asylum applications in Mexico in only three years, this is an important change.

Ligia Bolívar, an academic at the Catholic University Andrés Bello of Venezuela, explained that they leave that country for the following reasons: food and health system crisis, economic-labor situation, and insecurity. "I do not call them migrants, but people in need of international protection"; however, the receiving countries require them to have up-to-date passports and documents, visas, etcetera. There is a humanitarian emergency not recognized by the government of Nicolás Maduro and we will see following the outflow of people, a sustained increase.

In May 2021 there were approximately seven million migrants from that country in the world, which represents an increase of 24 percent compared to 2010. The preferred destinations are Colombia, Peru, the United States, Chile, Spain, and in eleventh place, Mexico. The Venezuelan diaspora has been caused by the deterioration of the economy and social fabric, rampant crime, and lack of hope for a near political change emphasized Lizbeth del Carmen Guerrero Ramírez, co-founder and director of Apoyo a Migrantes Venezolanos.

Luis Xavier Carrancá, from the Alaíde Foppa Legal Clinic of the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City campus, explained that Venezuelan mobility has brought new challenges, characteristics, and tensions to Mexico. There is talk of "safe, regular, and orderly" migration, but in policies and jurisdictional debate, this is false.

In reality, what has been done is to limit, restrict and discourage it through practices such as the denial or impossibility of access to the recognition of refugee status, the lack of protection for individuals, or the restriction of visas. In the attention to refugees "protection and guarantee of rights are not given".

Origin, transit, destination, and return

In a round table 5, "Migrant caravans in Mexico and Central American and Caribbean migration", Alethia Fernández de la Reguera, from the IIJ, recalled that this phenomenon has consolidated militarization, border control, and the effects it has on the most vulnerable populations. Mexico's migration policy is focused on arbitrary detention, which has a strong impact on access to international protection; civil society organizations that monitor migration stations even speak of them as "torturing spaces".

Mexico is a key factor in terms of migration, a nation of origin, transit, destination and return; it is one of the five countries with the highest number of migrants, with 10.7 million foreigners, said Ariadna Salazar Quiñonez, an academic at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City campus.

She mentioned the critical situation in Central America as a result of political instability, the presence of gangs, and even coups d'état. She also mentioned the worrying situation in certain regions of Mexico, where the risk faced by migrants is worsening. "The conditions of vulnerability favor exploitation, the slavery of the 21st century that generates huge profits: human trafficking".

Salvador Guerrero Navarro, director of the Alaíde Foppa Legal Clinic for Refugees, also of the Universidad Iberoamericana, emphasized that those who most request asylum in Mexico are from Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, that is, from Central America and the Caribbean. Before, the policies on the matter dictated in the US had indirect consequences in Mexico, but since a few years ago they are direct and there are agreements between both nations, the Mexican government is committed to being a kind of administrative containment; it is even said that Trump's wall was not made with bricks, but with executive orders and agreements with other countries.

Sharing visions

The violation of the human rights of migrants in Mexico is not an isolated situation, but what normally happens. Therefore, a communication campaign about that community and their rights is necessary; in addition, it must be ensured that the actions of the authorities are effective and permanent. "The culture of human rights must be for all of them, including judges. They are all obliged to provide maximum protection to this population," said Graciela Zamudio Campos, founder and executive director of Alma Migrante, on panel 7, "The northern border in the face of the Central American and Caribbean migratory crisis.

Tonatiuh Guillén López, from UNAM's University Program for Development Studies, said that experience shows that migration processes cannot be solved only by one country and one nation's migration policy, even if it is the United States. The great challenge is to move towards a regional understanding of the processes, as far as they reach, and from there to advance towards an appropriate international agreement, where visions, commitments, and definitions are shared, including policies on the refuge, and labor markets, and development.

Although migration in the context of mobility has been defined by the constant vulnerability that those who leave their countries experience throughout their transit, recently it has also been observed in the areas where they stay, mainly on the northern border of Mexico. They have become easy targets for organized crime and local criminal gangs. They are victims of "swindling, robbery, kidnapping, torture, rape, trafficking, homicides and femicides," said Chantal Lucero Vargas, professor-researcher at the Autonomous University of Baja California.

Pedro Ochoa Palacio, former Secretary of Culture of Baja California, referred to Tijuana as "the home of all the people", a city that has registered low birth rates, which contrasts with the high demographic indicators. It is a city that grows due to migrations, whether national or international: more than 50 percent of the population is not native. "Here we have the practice of welcoming those who arrive, those who pass through".

Fleeing violence

During the Colloquium there was also a round table 8, "Attention to migrants on the northern border, a view from academia and civil society organizations", where Roxana Rosas Fregoso, a researcher at the Northwest Research and Teaching Station of the IIJ, stated: it is the civil society organizations that are dealing with the attention of migrants, an activity that should correspond to governmental agencies.  The lack of coordination between agencies such as the National Migration Institute, the state DIF, and the state and national Human Rights Commissions has been highlighted in the face of the reality of a vulnerable group among the vulnerable: unaccompanied migrant minors.

Albertina Paoletti, from the Madre Assunta Institute, said that in 28 years of operation of that institution, approximately 37 thousand people have been taken in; "the women who have arrived come with the desire to cross the border and conquer the American dream". The migrants are not only looking for a better life; most of them leave because they no longer have conditions for survival. "Almost all of the single women with children who are in our home are fleeing domestic violence and mainly organized crime"; most of them are Mexican.

María Georgina Garibo, from the American Friends Service Committee, stressed the importance of providing information to this sector so that they know their rights and can defend themselves, in addition to encouraging solidarity practices. In each space, we invite the Tijuana society to join in the defense of the human rights of migrants, not in a logic of help, but of solidarity, that we never know who could be in that situation and that "it could be us".