• 06 August 2020

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    “The border is a point of transition, a temporary place that increases the vulnerability and difficulties facing migrants”

    A EUROsociAL+ expert explains the vulnerability migrants face at borders

    Bárbara Gómez, EUROsociAL+ project technician tells us about the dangers that migrants run at borders and how inequalities increase while they remain in this situation, particularly at the crossing between Mexico and the United States. She also speaks about how public policies are the key to guaranteeing a legal framework to protect the basic human rights of migrants.

    Clearly, we have abandoned the usual idea of seeing a border as a mere line that can be easily erased, to look at it, like the philosopher Eugenio Trías, as an authentic territory in which not only conflicts or cultural clashes, but also multiple exchanges and trade-offs are evident. Above all, a different conception of the “experience of the limit”.

    The flexibility of the mobility of people across these borders, added to the complexity of our current society, and the perennial problems of searching for opportunities due to poverty and social inequality in many countries, along with regional conflicts, has led to a migratory phenomenon that has itself increased to such an extent as to become a global situation. This reality has become more evident lately due to the latest events that occurred in the current context of the migration through Mexico where, in October 2018 a caravan began in which just over six thousand people came to Tijuana to seek asylum in the United States[1]. The focus on this event was sharpened by the continued strengthening of the south-west border of the United States, where the current president insists on building a border wall with Mexico, despite the Democrats’ opposition and refusal to approve expenditure for the wall.

    Over the last 12 years, migration in Mexico has started to change profoundly in terms of numbers, patterns and impacts, in other words, a significant transformation in the migration dynamics in this region of the country has occurred. This new dynamic has brought consequences of a social, economic and cultural nature to the different border cities and to the region in general.

    EUROsociAL+, the European Union programme run by FIIAPP, is watching the migratory phenomenon in the Latin American region, and particularly in the Central American region, and with a multidimensional approach, is also observing how migration is being managed in border areas, improving cross-border governance systems. Within this framework, it has overseen the preparation of a diagnostic study that focuses on all phases and stages of this phenomenon in a context of economic, social and political crisis.

    To this end, there were several questions to answer: What will happen to undocumented migrants arriving at the south-western border of the United States? How likely is it that they will decide to reside in the border region of Mexico as they are unable to cross the border or request asylum? Is the Mexican government prepared for this possible contingency?

    It was vitally important to analyse the initial situation in the border territories, which in most cases were not only forced to receive migrants from Central America unable to cross the border, but at the same time to receive all those who had been deported and were affected by the extremely strict migratory policies of the United States. The analysis started from this approach and how all this would affect a new organisation of the region, the public policies put in place for multilevel governance, regional cohesion and, therefore, for social cohesion as a response to the sense of belonging felt by such a heterogeneous group of citizens living on the border.

    The study, therefore, aims to understand the journeys experienced by the migrants, as well as their experiences during their temporary or forced stay in the border cities of this region. The analysis included both Mexicans who have been deported or returned from the United States, as well as men and women from Central America and the Caribbean.

    Mexico’s northern border includes the group of municipalities adjacent to the US border, on the assumption that this is where most of these events occur. Included in this area are 38 adjoining municipalities that belong to six states: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. It has now become a region with close ties to the United States; there are permanent exchanges of goods and services in both directions, as well as a huge flow of people who cross over in both directions every day. To mention just some interesting details. The Baja California border region has the highest number of immigrants (168,000); 38.4% of the population was born in a non-border region or outside Mexico. This percentage increases to over 50% in municipalities such as Tijuana and Tecate (Baja California). Baja California and Sonora have received most of the migrants deported from the USA. Jointly, 67% of the cases recorded took place in these two states. Men make up the vast majority of Mexicans repatriated from the United States, totalling 91% versus 9% women. However, the qualitative experience of this repatriation will not be the same for men and women, with the latter being the most vulnerable as, in most cases, they take their dependent children with them. But it is also notable that the vast majority of repatriation events involve young migrants; almost half are between 20 and 29 years old. Between January and October 2018, 9,348 minors (MENAS) were handed over to the Mexican authorities by their American peers, which represents 6% of the total.

    The journeys taken by migrants

    Also, it would not be entirely fair to present this work, which is sponsored by EUROsociAL+, only with statistical data. It is also only right to take into account the human dimension of all these experiences of “transition” that are exponentially increased by inequality.

    Devoid of rights, and even devoid of the right to possess rights, undocumented migrants are nowadays the clearest expression of the conscious deprivation of basic human rights for a whole human group. By excluding them from legality, the State places undocumented migrants outside the limits of the law, at the same time that it applies laws that systematically exclude them. In other words, the vulnerability of this group is largely caused by the denial of their right of access to justice, and EUROsociAL+ is working to change this situation. Access to justice is a key right, which acts as a kind of gateway for access to basic services such as health, education, housing, employment, and so on. But it also entails the defence of aliens detained or deprived of liberty, care for victims of gender violence and legal assistance for unaccompanied minors.

    Perhaps this ambiguous situation of being “outside the law” has led to certain situations of violence that migrants themselves suffer in their journey across borders. Without a legal framework that protects them, in no-man’s land, their lack of protection is greater and, therefore, their rights are weakened. One of the clearest examples of this form of violence is suffered by women.  Women are in a very vulnerable situation when crossing borders. And EUROsociAL+ is addressing precisely the differentiated effects of corruption on women, pursuing two phenomena that do not always intersect: corruption and trafficking. Added to this equation is a more variable one, migration, since most women who are trafficked are also migrants.

    At the border, migrants are at a crossroads between here and there, with their belongings in a backpack or in a plastic bag, and their dreams and hopes running high. In this border space, these people prefer information which is informal, which comes from family and friends, over any other source, to compensate for the extreme vulnerability of their border experience. Aware of this situation, EUROsociAL+ is also working so that this vulnerable group can fully exercise their right to access information; improving passive transparency with institutions that have the competence to manage this migratory phenomenon, but also a transparency that is active, promoting the exercise of these peoples’ rights to request basic information that can improve their lives in a country they do not know.

    The border is a point of transition, of transience, a temporary place that increases their vulnerability, the difficulties they face. Sharing such vulnerability allows them to create deep ties during their short stay at the border, while deciding whether to move on or establish their new residence in the transit territories. Either decision will push them towards the most disadvantaged aspect of inequality. Governments must not forget about borders and must use all the instruments at their disposal so that the effects of their public policies also reach the inhospitable territories that are often forgotten.

    Bárbara Gómez, Project Technician for the EUROsociAL+ Democratic Governance area at FIIAPP

    [1] The Colegio de la Frontera, Northern Mexico (COLEF), 2018.

  • 23 March 2018

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “They think it’s better to die than to stay at home doing nothing”

    Abdou Salam Moumouni is a police commissioner and head of the Special Investigations Division in Niger and was talking to us about people trafficking.

     

    The Commissioner is responsible for the fight against people trafficking and the illegal smuggling of immigrants and fake documentation into his country. He is working on the Niger JIT Project with his Spanish and French counterparts. The project, which will last three years, is funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP.

     

    What is the experience of working on and being part of the Niger Joint Investigation Team (Niger JIT) like?

    Being a member of the JIT is a pleasure for me due to my multicultural and multidisciplinary background. Contact with other nationalities, such as the French and Spanish, has enriched us and given us experience by providing new ideas and new ways and methods of working on investigations. At the personal level, the cultural exchange has also been very positive, both for me and for those who are enjoying the experience.

     

    In Europe there is a lot of discussion about migration and at times the points of view and policies of African countries are not taken into account. What are the views of the Republic of Niger?

    At that level, I can make two important references to legislation referring to the fight against people trafficking in Niger. One is an Ordinance that dates from 2010, and the other a law from 2015 that organises the suppression of people trafficking and smuggling. These two Nigerien texts are really more protective than suppressive because, in addition to suppression, they include protection for and coverage of the victims.

     

    It must be understood that there are ideas that reach the West, especially Europe, that make people think that Niger is a country that has absolutely no respect for human rights and the illegal trafficking of migrants. I think that it is quite the contrary, because, if we compare European legislation to Nigerien legislation, I think that we are more advanced in regard to coverage for the migrants who are the victims of trafficking or smuggling.

     

    The people whom we are looking for in our investigations and seek to suppress are not the migrants but the “passeurs”.

     

    Who are the passers?

    They are the people who plan the journeys of the migrants… and they are exposed to mistreatment and even prostitution. It is not easy to uncover these cases, especially when the migrants do not see themselves as victims and do not cooperate with the organisation in any way. They consent to be the victims of this offence. We are working to fight against these phenomena, by always protecting the migrants against the passers. These passers are sentenced to terms of imprisonment that are sometimes 15 to 20 years.

     

    When they are arrested, the passers go into preventive detention. In the case of the migrants, they are questioned about their situation and put into administrative detention if they are found to be in an irregular situation. They are treated in the most appropriate way possible so that they are cared for: their food and some basic needs are covered. Also, they are given access to their families or consulates and the media if they demand this. They receive visits and medical care and later on they are normally turned over to international organisations like the International Office for Migration (IOM) for voluntary return to their country of origin.

     

    In the case of asylum seekers, we have what we call the Directorate General of Migration, which is part of the Ministry of the Interior. We send them directly from the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST), through the International Office for Migration (IOM) or ACNUR, the UN High Commission for Refugees, so that they are taken care of and, if their application is justified, the State of Niger normally grants them asylum without any difficulty.

     

    Migrants sometimes do not know that they are part of a people trafficking network and they do not know that there is someone earning a lot of money from their suffering. Do you know of any cases?

    That is a difficult question, because there can be several answers. There are those who know that they are risking their lives, their dignity, their fortunes, and there are those who do not.

     

    In regard to the initial exploitation by passers, who profit from moving migrants, I can give you an example of a route between Burkina Faso and Niamey. Transport costs at most 5,000 CFA francs, which is less than 5 euros, but the migrants are willing to pay over 100 euros to travel this route. They know that it is cheaper, but the passers convince them that, if they take the official route through the police, with the cases of expulsion that occur these days, they will be expelled. So, the idea has spread but it is better to trust the passers than the police.

     

    For those who are more aware of what might happen to them, the end justifies the means. Some know that they are running a risk, but as there is a lack of job creation programmes, for example, they think it is better to die than stay at home doing nothing. Some do not know exactly what to expect because the passers make them believe that they are going to Paradise, that when they get to Europe there will be jobs waiting for them, that there are many vacancies just waiting for their arrival to be filled.

     

    In the case of those who are victims of trafficking, very often they do consent to it,for example, in the case of prostitution. There are some people who know that they’re going to have to be prostitutes but, sometimes, they were already obliged to do so in their own countries because they had no alternative.

     

    frontera-benin_web

     

    What do Nigeriens think of what is happening with migration and all the measures that are being implemented to prevent people from dying in the desert?

    When you say “Nigeriens”, public opinion in Niger includes those who are in the migrant trafficking business. Those who are in the business think that, to date, the state has done them considerable harm, since it has hampered their activities through repression and awareness raising. There are many who want to give up trafficking but they think that they have not found a social alternative for it.

     

    To know what public opinion in Niger is like, the answer is clear: if we look at the statistics there are very few Nigerians who are candidates for clandestine migration. However, there are many who ask why there are so many immigrants from CEDEAO countries in this type of situation, who even die in the desert. In these cases, for Nigeriens this situation has no justification.

     

    For the passers, however, it is justified because for them the arrival of migrants in Niger is a business, and stopping it is a blow to them. It’s logical, they are like a mafia.

     

    What are the measures that you think could prevent these people from making the decision to use this irregular system of migration?

    In the first place, the suppression machine is grinding; it’s what we do every day all over the country.

     

    The awareness-raising machine is also grinding but it’s necessary to continue raising awareness by telling people that they must find a job and not let themselves be killed or die in the desert or be exploited by passers. But specific development programmes are needed to create the greatest number of jobs possible for these people, for their individual fulfilment and social inclusion and to implement measures to prevent them from emigrating.

     

    In this sense, there are many European companies that are suffering and that can come and invest in Africa: Africa needs them. There are raw materials and skilled manpower on the African continent. There needs to be support for the African countries, thorough investment in the industrial sector, agriculture and training to prevent much of this voluntary emigration, as there are many graduates among the migrants to Europe.

     

    If an emigrant is, for example, an engineer, he is going to work in Europe in a job that is often far below his qualifications. If suitable conditions existed in Africa, I think that people of this kind would not migrate.

  • 11 June 2015

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    Posteado en : Opinion

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    Asylum and international protection

    On 15th and 16th June, a meeting is being held in Rabat on migration with these two key issues on the table: asylum and international protection.

    In recent months, the urgent need to manage migratory flows, an issue of vital importance for millions of people, has come to the forefront.

    It’s evident that, due to the continual crises of a diverse nature, both on the African continent and in the Middle East, we are currently seeing numerous examples of human beings who have left behind all they had in the hope of finding a better and safer life in neighbouring countries, or even in more distant and hitherto unfamiliar lands. The most recent tragedies in the Mediterranean demonstrate the magnitude of the desperation of these people, and the urgency of finding immediate and effective answers to this serious problem.

    Thus we are seeing countries in Europe, Africa, and other regions acknowledging the issue of migration as a central point on their policy agendas. Many of them have initiated actions to adapt and develop their migration policies to contribute concrete responses to the complex current situation. Examples of this are Mali, Morocco and Cape Verde, countries that have recently developed their national migration policies to respond to this phenomenon. This issue is also found at the heart of the European debate. The European Commission has presented its European Agenda on Migration, as well as preliminary proposals for a global intervention that improves the management of this problem.

    The FIIAPP is not on the sidelines in these debates. Ten intense years of continuous work in this area are testimony to its contribution through the Migration and Development programme, which supports national and international initiatives to facilitate the exchange of best practices and joint cooperation in this area.

    Specifically, the FIIAPP participates in the Rabat Process, the Euro-African Dialogue on Migration and Development, which provides a framework for consultation and coordination aimed at promoting the organisation of legal migration, fighting irregular migration and facilitating synergies between migration and development.

    Recently, as a consequence of the Fourth Euro-African Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development held in Rome in late 2014, the issues of asylum and international protection have taken on special importance and, therefore, today are priorities for the Rabat Process.

    Asylum and international protection, a central issue in the current context. 

    The multiple crises occurring at the moment are generating massive population movements. The area covered by the Rabat Process (North Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and the European Union) are directly affected both as a result of their own internal crises (the Ivorian, Central African, Malian and Libyan crises, and more recently the crisis in North Nigeria) as well as those of neighbouring countries (Eritrea, Somalia, Syria, etc.).

    One of the direct consequences of these crises is the considerable uptick in the number of refugees and asylum seekers requesting protection.

    It is in this context that the Rabat Process Support Project consortium, in which the FIIAPP participates, is organising on 15th and 16th June in Rabat a meeting on asylum and international protection, an event that will be co-chaired by Spain and Morocco.

    This thematic meeting will include the participation of national and international representatives and experts, and one of its goals is to promote spaces for collaboration and consensus on issues of asylum and international protection. It aims to identify lines of action that will make it possible to develop effective protection systems and strengthen regional cooperation in these areas and in the zone covered by the Rabat Process.

    Maxence Defontaine

    Communications Officer of the “Rabat Process” project

    More information on the Rabat Process and this upcoming meeting on this website: www.processusderabat.net.