Many countries in the developing world have large migrant populations, usually from within the region. Often times, these migrants work in low-skilled jobs. While some may have work permits, others may well have entered illegally, overstayed a visa, or been trafficked into the country. They generally do not have the same rights as citizens.
South Africa, Brazil, and Costa Rica — all destinations for migrants from the region — sought to make the lives of immigrants a little better in 2009.
South Africa has struggled to cope with refugee and economic-migrant flows from its highly unstable neighbor, Zimbabwe, in recent years. An estimated 2 million Zimbabweans are in South Africa. Last year South Africa received worldwide attention for its citizens' shocking attacks on Zimbabwean and other African migrants.
But this spring, the government announced it was granting 12-month permits to Zimbabweans residing in South Africa illegally. It also lifted its visa requirement for Zimbabwean citizens.
In August, years of ministerial discussions culminated in South Africa and Zimbabwe signing an agreement to promote safe labor migration between the two countries. The agreement starts with farm workers in one province but is expected to be rolled out nationally.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Brazil launched a legalization program aimed at the country's estimated 200,000 Bolivian migrants, many of whom work in sweatshops in Sao Paolo. Those who entered Brazil before February 1, 2009, can apply for a two-year residency permit that upon expiration can be converted into permanent residency.
Costa Rica, which attracts thousands of migrants from Nicaragua, passed a broad migration law that makes human trafficking a criminal offense. Those convicted can face sentences of six to 10 years. One lawmaker noted that the law seeks to improve conditions for Costa Rica's migrants.