The Border as a Bridge: Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean

Mauricio Garcian Duran, SJ

 Mauricio Garcian Duran, SJ / Issue 1703 / Published Date:12 April 2017/Last Updated Date:3 July 2020

The issue of migration has been emerging strongly in the last few years as a critical reality in the entire world; it is bringing up major challenges for national governments, for societies and their organizations, and for international institutions.1 The dynamics of globalization have created a paradoxical situation. While seeing a remarkable opening of national borders for the transit of goods and resources protected by economic agreements and freetrade treaties, we are also witnessing a rigid closure in regards to the crossing of people.

We find ourselves, therefore, in a situation where the world’s economic flows are free and protected by international economic agreements, while migratory flows are not protected; rather, they are vulnerable and subject to countless restrictive security policies that threaten human rights.

First, it is important to clarify that “migratory processes have their origin in a variety of causes. Some people emigrate because of the wage gap between the country of destination and the country of origin; others because they are aware of the living conditions in other countries or communities, due to poor governance in their own country, the lack of public services, the low expectations for personal betterment and social and environmental factors, or fear of violence and internal conflicts.2

So as to emphasize at the theoretical level the distinction between the causes, one usually refers to “migration” and “forced migration” as two separate phenomena. In practice, however, it is evident that the difference between the former and the latter is increasingly subtle and that the two phenomena are usually interrelated.

To provide an idea about the current status of “forced migration” worldwide, the Global Trends report published by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)3  informs us that, despite limits and restrictions, in recent years the overall figures related to displaced persons and refugees have been growing rapidly. In 2015, there were 65.3 million people who had been forced to leave their place of origin, either remaining inside their own country or fleeing to another country, which is an increase of over 5 million people from 2014.

These figures certainly have a direct relationship with the crisis prevailing in the Middle East which has generated a large flow of migrants towards Europe, and also indicate that the flows already existing are remaining constant, or even increasing.

Of these, we want to focus on the migratory flow in Latin America and the Caribbean and on the response given by the governments in relation to the globalization process being experienced on the continent.

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