Highlight 32/2023 – Crossing borders in Latin America and the Caribbean: New intraregional dynamics and the emergence of a hemispheric migration architecture
Adriana Isabella Gamboa Figueroa, 25 October 2023
Not so long ago, Latin American and Caribbean populations who left their home countries were commonly associated as migrants who would choose the United States, Canada or Europe as their preferred destinations to settle. In recent years, however, migration patterns have significantly changed. The fifteen years from 2005 to 2020 have seen a dramatic increase of international migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), from approximately 7 million to 15 million, making it the single region that experienced the most growth in terms of human mobility.
There are various drivers for migration. In a broad division, migration may arise from people’s prospects for the future and life aspirations – such as work family or study; or, for compelling and tragic reasons, such as conflict, crisis, persecution, or disaster.
In LAC, the shift in migration patterns can largely be explained by displacement crises, namely the Venezuelan exodus, which saw 6.4 million of its nationals relocated in the region -with Colombia and Peru receiving most of them: 2.9 million and 1.5 respectively. Notwithstanding, the phenomenon can more recently be attributed to a series of subregional free-movement agreements such as the Andean Migration Statute of the Andean Community, the Residency Agreement of the MERCOSUR, the Central American Free Mobility Agreement, and the Caribbean Community’s Single Market, all of which have encouraged a larger flow of intraregional migration.
An unprecedented growth of migration in any region poses serious challenges to the receiving countries, and even more when these pressures affect host communities that are developing nations, with limited capacity to provide its populations with welfare and basic services.
Given this situation, governments of LAC have established regional forums, including the 2018 Quito Process and the 2022 Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection to share information and coordinate common strategies or policies, in a hemispheric effort to jointly address the hurdles of the new migration dynamics. The initiatives have included refugee resettlement programmes, labour mobility and family reunification schemes, and regularisation processes in the region. While these judicious projects are to be acknowledged, considerable progress remains to be made.
Governments and host communities in LAC have a collective responsibility towards the migrants and refugees living in their territories. Regional collaboration, accompanied by the guidance of the competent specialised agencies -UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), should continue. Moreover, this unified work should be expanded to incorporate international financial institutions and development actors who will be able to contribute to the strengthening of capabilities of national infrastructure and services, thereby helping host countries be better prepared for immigrants.
International migration should not be solely deemed cumbersome. There is evidence of its prospects for boosting productivity, human capital development, promoting innovation and the creation of multicultural societies.
To capitalise on the benefits of the novel intraregional dynamics of migration in LAC, governments and non-state actors should take the opportunity to permanently hold the issue for discussion and understand the need for regional governance in the hemispheric migration architecture.
Adriana Isabella Gamboa Figueroa, Highlight 32/2023 – Crossing borders in Latin America and the Caribbean: New intraregional dynamics and the emergence of a hemispheric migration architecture, 25 October 2023, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.