Comprehensive, Strategic Regional Approach Is Urgently Needed to Address Rising Migration from Northern Central America
The high-level North and Central American Task Force on Migration, of which the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is a partner, recently issued important recommendations for filling key governance gaps and promoting better coordination of the often-disjointed response to migration in the region.
The recommendations stress regional responsibility sharing and outline specific ways to improve regional mechanisms, support development and protection strategies by involving civil society and expanding labor and protection pathways for refugees and migrants.
“Rising pressures on borders and asylum systems, the diversification of migration flows and the increasingly hemispheric nature of human movement across the Americas all make evident the fact that policymakers must fashion a collaborative regional approach to managing migration from and through northern Central America,” MPI President Andrew Selee, who is a Task Force member, said today. “The limits of unilateral approaches have been laid bare, and the United States, Mexico and Canada must work collaboratively with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras on short- and longer-term solutions to address the drivers of migration and bring legality to increasing migration from the region.”
The Summit of the Americas that will gather political leaders from across the hemisphere in Los Angeles on June 6-10 and the upcoming North American Leaders Summit that Mexico will host offer platforms to deepen the migration dialogue, Selee added.
Key among the 70 recommendations in the Task Force’s summary report:
- A comprehensive, strategic, regional approach is urgently needed to address migration from Northern Central America. No one country can deal with the complexities of migration challenges on its own. The Task Force calls for the creation of a new North and Central American Council on Migration with the full participation of migrant communities, civil-society organizations, indigenous peoples, donors, financial institutions and the private sector. Based on the model of the Arctic Council, this new council would bring a fresh approach to coordinating concrete actions among the many institutions in the region and offer a new platform, as many leaders have called for, to engage key stakeholders on an ongoing basis to address the deep-rooted causes of migration.
- Governments in Northern Central America must address the political, economic and institutional drivers of migration. There are no quick fixes to address the many causes of migration; fundamental political, institutional and economic change is necessary. Other governments in the region are strongly encouraged to support these efforts.
- The United States, Canada and Mexico must increase legal channels for Central Americans to migrate – through both labor migration and protection pathways. Central Americans are migrating through irregular means because there simply are not enough legal pathways to accommodate current migration flows in an orderly and predictable manner.
- All regional actors—from Central American governments to donors, international NGOs and financial institutions—must find ways to support the active engagement of civil society and indigenous communities to address the drivers of migration, support migrants and returnees, and advocate for substantive policy changes. Civil-society actors, including faith-based organizations, are playing a valiant humanitarian role in the region but are under threat and under-resourced while having to fill gaps by providing services that governments cannot or will not provide.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who recently passed away, was a founding co-chair of the Task Force, along with Lloyd Axworthy, Chair, World Refugee & Migration Council and former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mayu Brizuela de Avila, former Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs; Julieta Castellanos, former Rector, National Autonomous University of Honduras; Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica; Silvia Giorguli Saucedo, President of El Colegio de México; and Cardinal Álvaro Ramazzini, Bishop of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Task Force members include a broad range of civil society, business and academic institutions, with MPI’s Andrew Selee and Doris Meissner serving as members.
Created through an initiative of the World Refugee & Migration Council in partnership with the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, El Colegio de México, MPI and the Inter-American Dialogue, with support from the government of Canada, the Task Force issued evidence-based recommendations that promote responsibility sharing across North and Central America on six key issues:
- Humanitarian protection in the region, particularly for women and children who are at greatest risk.
- Co-responsibility and cooperation for managing migration, focusing on enhancing regional approaches to migration in the region.
- Institutional frameworks and domestic political considerations, including rule of law, governance, corruption and accountability.
- Investment in long-term development to address violence and gangs, poverty and inequality, and the impacts of climate change.
- Strengthening legal pathways for migration as an alternative to irregular migration, including private sponsorship, family reunification and labor migration.
- Integration of refugees and migrants into receiving countries.
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The North and Central American Task Force on Migration is a non-governmental forum of academics, civil society and business leaders, and former policymakers in dialogue with current government officials created to facilitate a broadly driven solution dialogue among the countries involved in the crisis of migration and forced displacement in the region. For more on its mission and membership, click here.
MPI’s participation in the Task Force represents just one facet of its work on the region. Through its Building a Regional MigratNion System project, MPI has articulated a new approach to managing regional migration centered around four pillars: effective humanitarian protection systems, targeted legal migration pathways, professionalized migration management and informed investments in development and governance in countries of origin, transit and reception.