More and more Latin Americans are migrate within the regionexpelled from their countries of residence for structural problems such as job insecurity, lack of opportunities, racism and other causes related to discrimination based on gender, age and sexual diversity. This phenomenon of massive entry and exit of people between Latin American countries, explains Pablo Ceriani Cernadas, a specialist in migration issues, is one of the most striking characteristics of the last ten years. “There is no precedent in the region for so many people leaving in so few years for other countries on the continent,” he explains.
The lawyer, expert member of the United Nations Migrant Workers Committee and research professor of the Specialization in Migration and Asylum from a Human Rights perspective at the National University of Lanús, also explains that The main migratory processes in the region are Venezuelan, Haitian and what is defined as the Northern Triangle of Central America. “Venezuelan displacement is quantitatively very important,” remarks the specialist. 80% of Venezuelans, he says, move to another country in Latin America.
For Ceriani Cernadas there has been another important change in recent years: the worsening of the conditions in which migration is generated, with very high margins of precariousness and irregularity. Something that the “exchange of policies” and “the contradictions of the discourses of more migratory control” end up reinforcing, by making the phenomenon invisible. “When the entry of people is restricted or prevented for the sake of security, immediately what happens is that the State loses control over that reality,” says Ceriani Cernadas.
What is the main cause of the migration crisis in Latin America?
Care must be taken in thinking of a single causality. There is usually a complexity, a multi-causality where the structural problems of the region are found in terms of job insecurity, lack of employment opportunities and racism; and then how that relates to issues of gender, age and sexual diversity. Little by little environmental issues also appear. We can speak, for example, of structural conditions of social and institutional violence in certain Central American countries, which would explain the displacements in the last 20 years in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. But if one only focuses there, it is omitted that there is another series of issues such as structural discrimination against the indigenous population or the Afro population or for reasons of gender.
What are the most significant migratory processes that are taking place in Latin America?
The three great main challenges due to the depth they have, the number of people who leave and the conditions in which they migrate are the Venezuelan, the Haitian and what happens in the Northern Triangle of Central America. The Colombian migration process also has an important presence. Venezuelan and Colombian migration have greater diversity in terms of social classes that move. Finally, from time to time the Nicaraguan problem of migration to Costa Rica comes and goes due to political conflict.
How has migration and its motives changed over the last few years?
There are historical moments of great migration due to political violence, such as in the 1970s in South America and the 1980s in Central America due to armed conflicts. The 90’s were closely linked to the deep deterioration of living conditions, Ecuador and Argentina are the main examples. The great change of the last 10 or 15 years is that more and more people migrate within the region. Today the vast majority of South American migration is to another country in South America. To a large extent because of the Venezuelan displacement because quantitatively it is very important: 80% move to another South American country. There is no precedent in the region for so many people leaving in so few years for other countries in the area. The other big important change is that exponentially increased the conditions of precariousness and irregularity in which the migration is generated.
What produces this precariousness and irregularity that you speak of?
One of the immediate impacts of the increase in migratory irregularity is to have less visibility of this phenomenon. That is one of the classic contradictions of the discourses of more migratory control. The entry of people is restricted or prevented for the sake of security and immediately what happens, when you have a more structural reality of people who need to pass the same way, is that the State loses control over that reality. You no longer know who enters your country or where they go. If he stays, if he continues, if he needs protection or if eventually, statistics generally do not show it, he would be a potential threat.
In which countries is gender-based violence a reason for girls, women and dissidents to migrate?
In the region where it is most documented is in the Northern Triangle of Central America. In two senses: on the one hand there is the gender violence in the family and on the other gender violence within the dynamics of the maras, women as almost sexual slaves of certain maras leaders. This is fairly quantified in the statistics produced by the United States (Migrant Protection Protocols). In principle, the majority of people who receive some protection and asylum are women migrants due to gender-based violence. In South America it is less documented as a cause, although it is obviously a cause. What there are are indicators of a growth in gender-based violence in transit, as usually happens every time the migratory route is made invisible and a lot of actors begin to act, exercising different forms of violence.
What do you think of the migratory policies of the countries of the region, which ones are more permeable so that there is more or less illegal migration?
It’s a policy swap that go from one extreme to another. Mexico has the main statistics worldwide for immigration detention, fighting head to head with the United States. They have more than 100,000 people detained per year. Even tens of thousands of children who are deprived of their liberty for administrative reasons. At the other extreme are those who recognize that migrating is a human right. The only region where migrating is recognized as a human right is Latin America. The first country in the world to do so is Argentina. Then Uruguay, Bolivia, Guatemala and Ecuador did. In December 2002, the Residency Agreement for Nationals of the Mercosur Member States was approved, which was and continues to be a key tool to facilitate the residence of South Americans in South American countries, beyond the fact that each country gives it a specific scope. different.
What did the decree that Mauricio Macri signed in 2017 on the immigration law mean?
It was the most anti-democratic reform in Argentine history in this matter. Reform a law without going through Congress, without any political or social dialogue; more than the Residence Act of 1902, which at least passed through Congress.
Do you think that the DNU exposed xenophobia and crystallized racism in some political speeches? How do these discourses operate in the region?
On the one hand there is racism and on the other the forms of structural discrimination as a cause of mobility. In this sense, xenophobia is not only thought of as the fact that migrants are bad, they are a danger, but also in terms of discourses of nationalist meritocracy, that we nationals supposedly have more rights than those who were born elsewhere. That discourse of the legitimization of inequality by nationality or by whether or not you have a role goes much deeper by race, class and gender. That is where there is a fairly complex combination that tries to legitimize not only the process of inequality, of restrictions on access to law, but even the legitimization of multiple forms of violence against these actors.