Address, XVII Regional Conference on Migration

Date Publish: 
Monday, June 18, 2012 - 16:00
Robert G. Paiva, Regional Director for Central and North America and the Caribbean, International Organization for Migration

Mr Javier Carrillo Silvestri, Director of the National
Immigration Service of the Republic of Panama;

Honourable Representatives of Member States of

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to begin by expressing appreciation for the
opportunity to inform you about the primary results of the projects
implemented by IOM in the region that are linked to the work of
RCM.   I will only mention some of them since – as
you will see upon reviewing the list – it would be impossible
to describe all of them on this occasion.

On behalf of IOM, I would also like to congratulate the
Government of Panama as President Pro-Tempore of the XVII Regional
Conference on Migration for organizing this Conference.

The selection of the topic “Security within the Framework
of Human Rights and Mixed Migration Flows” reflects the high
priority of these topics for countries in the region as well as the
links between them.  At the same time, this reflects a reality
faced in the region in recent years, which is characterized by a
significant increase in criminality rates.  In view of this,
it is natural that governments are ready to develop and

 strategies and actions to address the situation. 
However, it should be highlighted that any action should be guided
by the principle that every migrant – regular or irregular
– has human rights that should be respected and

IOM shares the objective of the RCM to advance towards
practical, consensual and comprehensive solutions to address these
challenges.  We recognize that it is no easy task to manage
migration in a comprehensive manner, with full respect for human
rights and, at the same time, ensure public security and the
personal security of migrants and nationals.  This is
especially true today, considering that migration flows in the
region are of an increasingly mixed nature; that the number of
victims of trafficking in persons is increasing; that violations of
the rights of migrants are more and more frequent; and that
organized crime groups are busily involved in committing crimes at
the expense and in detriment of migrants.

Perhaps the most complex of the above-mentioned challenges are
those posed by organized crime for the security in the region in
general and the security of migrants in particular.  In
Central America alone, according to the Commission of Heads of
Police Forces, an increase of more than 300% was recorded in the
number of identified cases of migrant smuggling, and an increase of
close to 400% was recorded in the number of identified cases of
trafficking in persons, in 2009-2010.  

In light of this reality, IOM has committed to contributing to
efforts to prevent and combat the most serious crimes, especially
those perpetrated by organized crime groups within the sphere of
migration, and to facilitate protection and assistance to migrants
who are victims of such crimes.  As a result, we are carrying
out a number of specific projects.

Since 2010, for example, IOM is implementing a comprehensive
project called the “Regional Programme on
Capacity-Building for the Protection and Assistance to Migrant
Populations in Vulnerable Situations in Mesoamerica”

with support from the Government of the United States.  The
four primary actions under this regional project are:

  1. Designing and implementing a mass communication campaign to
    prevent the risky migration of unaccompanied boys, girls, and
    adolescents in the trans-border region of San Marcos, Guatemala and
    Chiapas, Mexico;
  2. Supporting the II Meeting of the Regional Coalition Against
    Trafficking in Persons, to be held in Panama;
  3.  Holding a Regional Inter-Agency Seminar in Costa Rica to
    discuss issues relating to migrant boys, girls, and adolescents in
    the region and challenges in protecting them; and
  4. Programmes for the reintegration of migrants in vulnerable
    situations in three cities in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and

In addition, IOM is executing two projects that are broad in
scope, with the aim of building capacities in countries in the
region to develop comprehensive strategies oriented toward
combating and preventing trafficking in persons – one in El
Salvador, with funds from Canada, and another in Belize, financed
by the United States.   Both projects include
awareness-raising, training, and technical cooperation in the legal
and public policy spheres.

Furthermore, IOM is currently executing a project in Mexico,
also for technical cooperation in the legal and public policy
spheres to combat trafficking in person, with funds from the United

With regard to migrant smuggling and improving border control
and security, IOM is executing a project in Belize – again,
financed by the US Government – to establish an
inter-connected cross-referenced system for entry, exit, and stay
of persons, providing software and equipment for use at all points
of entry into Belizean territory.

To prevent more serious crimes against migrants and provide
protection and assistance to victims, IOM is also carryout out the
following activities:

  1. A small assistance fund for migrants in vulnerable situations
    provides resources for their return and reintegration, as well as
    for emergencies; this is funded by the US Government.
  2. A specific project to prevent abduction of migrants in transit
    through Chiapas and provide assistance to migrants victims of
    abduction, financed by the Government of the State of
    Chiapas.  IOM is also executing a similar project at national
    level with financial resources from the Mexican Federal Government
    as well as  IOM’s own funds.
  3. In Panama, we are implementing a project – with support
    from the US Government – to prevent the recruitment of
    migrants by Colombian criminal groups.

The topic of mixed migration flows is the other the other focus
of this meeting’s theme.  These flows also pose
significant challenges for the region, especially in regard to the
irregular movement of large groups of migrants in highly vulnerable
situations, some of whom come from very remote and different places
of origin and cultural contexts.  The significant diversity of
such flows, the characteristics of the migrants, and the wide array
of protection and assistance needs pose immense challenges.

Clearly, the management of mixed migration flows is not equally
complicated in all cases.  Factors such as nationality,
language, and involvement in organized crime often complicate
management.  Thus, obviously extra-continental mixed migration
flows are usually more difficult to manage than regional mixed
migration flows; not so much in terms of the actions required to
manage them but in regard to what can really be done.  For
example, if no real possibility exists of issuing travel documents
and returning extra-continental migrants, the management models
established in regulations of the countries in the region simply
cannot be applied.  Thus, it is understandable that countries
in the region are especially concerned about these migration

Based on IOM’s experience, we recognize that an essential
first step in addressing mixed migration flows in a comprehensive
manner is establishing mechanisms to identify particular assistance
and protection needs of migrants in especially vulnerable
situations.  Therefore, in partnership with UNHCR and through
consultative and participatory processes involving the RCM member
States, we have promoted the development of regional guidelines for
the identification and referral of migrants in vulnerable
situations, within the framework of a project financed by the US
Government.  The guidelines themselves have already been
presented to you this morning by those who led the way in
developing them, that is, the Member States of RCM.

The management of mixed migration flows, however, cannot be
limited only to identifying needs and providing assistance and
protection.  The comprehensive management of such migration
flows calls for lasting and sustainable solutions.  In order
to contribute to this, IOM is currently developing the following
five principal initiatives:

  1. Within the above-mentioned framework of the regional project
    financed by the US Government, we are planning, in collaboration
    with the Mexican Government, a meeting in the context of the RCM of
    immigration authorities from Member States of RCM and consular
    authorities from some primary countries of origin of
    extra-continental migrants.  We are sure that it is only
    through the active involvement of authorities from the countries of
    origin of these migrants that lasting solutions will be found.
  2.  We continue to implement an on-going project in the
    region, financed by the US Government, to ensure the resettlement
    of refugees in the United States.
  3. In Guatemala, we are executing a project, with support from the
    US Government, to facilitate lasting solutions in addressing mixed
    migration flows of Guatemalan migrants returning to their country
    of origin.
  4. In Panama, we are executing a project at the southern border to
    facilitate the management of mixed migration flows, including
    persons seeking international protection who arrive there
  5. In Canada, we are about to initiate implementation of a pilot
    project – with funds from the Canadian Government – for
    the voluntary assisted return and reintegration of migrants from
    any region in the world, including this one, who have been denied
    refugee status or have withdrawn their asylum application.

Our experience in the region enables us to clearly see the
magnitude of the challenges related to security, human rights, and
mixed migration flows facing countries in the region.  We are
sure that solutions to address these issues will not be found by
one country alone, nor will they be based on traditional
approaches; and solutions need to be found urgently.  Clearly,
one of the greatest threats for the region in terms of migration
and security is that organized crime groups incorporate crimes
against and at the expense of migrants into their daily criminal
actions.  Under no circumstances should this be the rule
rather than the exception.  Criminals should receive the clear
message that countries in the region are joining efforts to combat
crime and are willing to fight united, with equal commitment, to
promote the security and human rights of regional and
extra-continental migrants irrespective of their migration

On behalf of IOM, I would like to reiterate our commitment to
continue actively supporting you in implementing strategies and
actions you consider needed and that contribute to orderly and
humane migration management promoting security in the region and
providing practical, lasting and comprehensive solutions for
regional and extra-continental migrants included in mixed migration

Thank you.

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