Migration & Immigration

Migration and immigration patterns present both challenges and opportunities for Latin America's governments, economies and people. The region's varying trends - ranging from voluntary migration for work to movement spurred by ongoing conflict and crisis - have as many consequences as they do causes.

On 20 May 2020, Canning House held an event to discuss these dynamics with a panel of expert speakers on migration in Latin America.

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Watch the event recording here!

Event summary

Following words of welcome from our CEO, Cristina Cortes, which touched on anti-immigration trends and possible impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Marcia Vera Espinoza of Queen Mary University of London opened the discussion with an overview of migration in Latin America and the situation for refugees in the region.

While the Venezuelan situation has captured the world's attention, she explained, Latin America has always been a region of migration - whether externally to the United States and Europe, or intra-regionally. She described her research into the difficulties faced by refugees and Latin America's unique refugee protection apparatus, and concluded by considering how Covid-19 may exacerbate the precarious position many migrants find themselves in.

During her talk, Marcia referred to a blog post by Gabriella Sanchez: read it here.

Download Marcia's slides

Diego Beltrand from the International Organisation of Migration provided insights from his experience as the IOM's Special Envoy for the Venezuelan Situation. Diego began his section by highlighting the profound vulnerability of Venezuelan migrants. From the danger of their journeys, often spanning multiple countries, to difficulty finding formal work and integrating into host societies, for many the situation is desperate. He emphasised the need for recipient countries to include their migrant populations in national plans, most especially during the Covid-19 crisis.

Diego moved to speaking about how the international community can, and is, helping to alleviate these challenges, including UN initiatives, the Quito Process, and an upcoming international Donor Conference. Most especially, he emphasised the need for continuing solidarity as the dimension of the crisis increases due to Covid-19.

Download Diego's slides

Our final speaker, Thomas Liebig from OCED, discussed the importance of socio-economic inclusion of migrants in Latin America, and the importance of the labour market in its achievement. Whilst for many migration is perceived as a temporary situation, Thomas explained that it is highly likely that many will reside in their host country permanently, making the prevalence of informal work and vulnerability unsustainable long-term. Employment barriers, such as perceived short-term risk, limited understanding of regulations, and lacking documentation have prevented the economic integration of migrant populations, which would benefit all in the long-term.

Thomas concluded by highlighting the risk of an increased public backlash against migrants in the context of Covid-19, and how important it is to be aware of past migration experiences to mitigate discrimination.

Download Thomas' slides

A selection of excellent audience questions followed our panel, covering a potential increase in irregular migration as borders are tightened due to Covid-19, the situation of Colombian migrants residing in Venezuela, and intra-regional efforts.

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