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The crisis beyond the border
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The crisis beyond the border | OP-ED

Migration is a problem when in the countries of origin there is no hope for those who decide to flee to try to improve their living conditions.

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The reasons for migrating are the same. Well, I am referring to those who are forced to do so. Those who are between life and death.

The discussion in the United States and other countries is about how to prevent avalanches of migrants, but the real problem is not at the foot of the border, but beyond. In the places of origin of those who prefer to leave everything behind.

A study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirms the first sentence of this analysis: “Every year, thousands of people leave their homes in Latin America, the Caribbean and other regions to try to secure futures that have become virtually unattainable in their countries of origin. Economic dispossession, lack of access to education and employment, violence and other structural and personal factors have motivated people from all over the world, but primarily from Central American countries, to seek a new life in the United States or other countries in the region”.

This is obvious, but it needs to be reiterated. The real solution is to improve the living conditions of individuals and communities. And the factors outlined by the IOM have been recurrent. In Latin America, the political and security reasons are historical. Civil wars and dictatorships have provoked the migration of millions of people. In each country, internal migration and forced displacement have depopulated rural areas and overpopulated cities.

Others chose to flee. Yes, to flee their countries because the risk of losing their lives is immense.

The other reason, the one that matters the most, is the economic situation, which translates into poverty, state neglect, hopelessness for the new generations and very few opportunities for progress. The problem is that where they travel to is not very different. The difference is that they will be able to earn an income that allows them to send scraps home to their families. Many end up doing trades they did not do in their places of origin.

They arrive with little education, no knowledge of the language (English, in the case of the United States) and a terror of interacting with someone who does not speak Spanish. They end up living among their fellow countrymen in the same conditions, isolated from development and without much expectation of change.

They have already reached their desired destination, those who were able to, but first they had to face all kinds of risks to their integrity. How desperate are they in their countries that they expose themselves to any danger to leave the past behind?

The IOM recalls its own study in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Central American Integration System, released in 2019. What is revealing about the research is the comparative causes of migration. While 40 or 50 years ago it was political conflict and exclusion, recently it is violence and lack of employment. In the end, it is the same thing: economic and political problems.

Then, as now, the motivation is to improve living conditions at any cost. Some manage to do so with a lot of effort. Others survive amidst xenophobic gestures.

Migration is part of the very condition of societies. But, in the case of Latin America, the only way to stop the waves that today expose their lives in dangerous journeys to reach their destination is for countries to improve the living conditions of their people and for there to be a real political opening so that they do not kill each other over ideas. That is the challenge for the next generations.

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