Together: extra-regional migration in South, Central and North America and the need for more coordinated responses – World


1. Summary

This study aims to provide a comprehensive and detailed analysis of mixed migratory movements from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean across South America, Central America and North America – often referred to in the region “Extraregional migratory flows”. Through a combination of key informant interviews and desk research, this report provides information on: profiles of people on extra-regional displacements; the extent of their access to adequate information before and during their journey; migratory routes and the means they use; the contraband economies and the dynamics associated with these movements; the impacts of COVID-19 on migration trends and on the experience of people traveling along this route; the risks and needs faced by refugees and extraregional migrants; the humanitarian response they can count on; national and regional migration policies and legal frameworks that apply to these migratory flows; and the changes they are likely to undergo in the near future.

In recent years, the journey of refugees and extraregional migrants across the Americas has started to gain more attention. Although there is some literature on their profiles and routes, it does not allow a comprehensive understanding of these mixed migratory movements. The analysis included in this report aims to complement existing knowledge and understanding of extra-regional migration and to contribute to better responses by authorities and humanitarian actors.

Main conclusions

• The economic impact of COVID-19 has led to an increase in the desire to migrate, as there are now fewer economic opportunities in many countries of origin. Smugglers took advantage of rising demand to raise prices.

• Likewise, thousands of Haitian, Cuban and African refugees and migrants are leaving the primary destination countries in South America – mainly Brazil, Chile and Uruguay – due to deteriorating economic conditions and are undertaking trips to South America. the North.

• While out-of-region travelers find it easy to get information about smuggling services, practical information that would allow them to move across countries more safely and easily is not. with less dependence on smugglers. Language is also a significant barrier to obtaining information related to access to services, humanitarian aid, asylum procedures and legal advice, making people on the move even more dependent. smugglers.

• The Darien Gap, a wild forest area between Colombia and Panama, remains the most difficult part of the trip: it is a particularly hostile environment to cross, riddled with dangers such as theft, rape, murder, dangerous wildlife and a difficult terrain of mountains, valleys, swamps and rivers.

• In the first months of 2021, with frequent and prolonged suspensions triggered by a pandemic of boat travel to reach the main departure point in the Gap, thousands of refugees and extraregional migrants were stranded for weeks and weeks. months in the western Caribbean region of Colombia, waiting to continue their journey.

• After successfully leaving Colombia, large groups of several hundred refugees and extra-regional migrants arrived at migrant reception stations on the Panamanian side of the Darien region in a short time. The authorities’ responses did not meet the needs.

• Extraregional displaced persons also face significant protection risks beyond the Darien region and in general throughout their journey through the Americas. These risks include extortion and kidnapping, often linked to corruption networks involving smugglers, police officers and immigration officials.

• Changing policies and closing borders amid the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in longer journeys and more severe economic hardship due to rising prices for contraband.

• Many different actors are involved in the facilitation of irregular displacement across South, Central and North America, including transnational criminal networks, local criminal groups and members of local communities in transit points across the country. search for a source of income.

• Coordinated efforts among countries in the region to adequately manage these mixed migratory flows are still in a very nascent phase, with only one joint program currently operating between Panama and Costa Rica. Recent regional policy conversations seemed to focus on tackling smuggling rather than meeting the needs of extraregional people on the move.

• The limited assistance available to refugees and extraregional migrants is largely provided by humanitarian organizations and other civil society actors, but the needs far exceed resources and capacities.

• Those on extra-regional displacements, in particular Haitians, report discrimination and racism on the part of the authorities and the host society in Mexico. Mexico is both the transit country in which they stay longer but also more and more often their final destination.


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