Effective Reception & Reintegration Services for Returning Mexican, Central American Migrants Reduce Re-Migration Pressures, Improve Outcomes
WASHINGTON — As activity at the U.S.-Mexico border has shifted from illicit crossings by Mexicans to increasing numbers of Central Americans, including families and unaccompanied children, seeking humanitarian protection or better opportunity, the nature and scale of repatriations across the region are changing.
U.S. deportations to Mexico continue at substantial levels, while the numbers returned by both the U.S. and Mexican governments to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are increasing. Between fiscal 2012-2018, the United States carried out approximately 1.8 million repatriations of Mexican migrants, and the United States and Mexico together accomplished 1.4 million returns of migrants from the three Northern Triangle countries.
The Trump administration is increasing arrests and removals of Mexicans and Central Americans and has decided to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans and Hondurans, making it more urgent for countries in the region to develop successful reception and reintegration programs that meet the diverse needs of returning migrants.
A new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report, Sustainable Reintegration: Strategies to Support Migrants Returning to Mexico and Central America, draws on fieldwork and interviews with government officials, researchers, representatives of civil-society and international organizations, as well as returning migrants, to highlight promising strategies and pressing challenges.
Mexico, which has long experience in serving returning migrants, and the three Northern Triangle countries exhibit different levels of capacity and degrees of implementation in their reception and reintegration programs, with recent progress in reception services most notable in Honduras and El Salvador. Most migrants deported to these four countries now receive basic reception services in a welcoming and safe environment where they are informed of follow-up reintegration services available in their destination communities.
Despite this progress, returning migrants face common challenges in all four countries. Among them: Difficulty obtaining the official ID that allows returning migrants to access reintegration services, limited awareness and geographic distribution of these services, difficulty matching returning migrants’ skills with labor-market needs and barriers to reintegration posed by social stigmatization and employment discrimination.
The report offers recommendations for governments, international organizations and civil society to strengthen reception and reintegration services, and ultimately reduce pressures for re-migration. Among them:
- Preparing migrants for reintegration prior to their return. Collaboration between repatriating agencies and those responsible for reception can improve migrants’ access to reintegration services. Establishing reintegration-focused consultations with migrants in removal proceedings, for instance, would allow consular officials to identify their needs and skills prior to return, making it possible to connect them with appropriate services.
- Issuing primary identification documents from abroad or upon reception. Having an official ID increases migrants’ access to reintegration services and information and fosters feelings of belonging to their origin countries.
- Grounding reintegration services in migrants’ cultures. Reintegration services that tap into migrants’ cultural roots can help provide sustainable economic opportunities and foster a sense of belonging after return.
- Raising awareness about the needs and contributions of returning migrants. Public information campaigns by government and civil society can improve returning migrants’ access to services and reduce stigmatization.
“Improving reception and reintegration services is a valuable long-term investment for both destination and origin countries,” the authors conclude. “Services that help returning migrants find their footing in local communities and obtain better livelihoods in the long run hold the potential to reduce repeat illegal migration, while enabling countries of origin to benefit from the skills and assets migrants have acquired abroad.”
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/sustainable-reintegration-migrants-mexico-central-america.
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels.