43 percent of Central Americans have considered migrating in 2021, five times more than in 2019

Poverty, food insecurity, climatic phenomena and violence are listed as the main causes for migration

43 percent of citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have considered the possibility of migrating in 2021, a percentage that has skyrocketed in two years, since in 2019 only 8 percent of people considered it.

This was revealed this Tuesday in a report prepared by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the World Food Program (WFP) and the Civic Data Design Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, for its acronym in English), prepared through surveys of citizens of the three countries mentioned.

The work, however, has shown that a small fraction of citizens who have thought about migrating, 3 percent, have made concrete plans to leave their country and in 89 percent of the cases the United States was the intended destination. In this sense, they mostly cite family separation and the high associated costs as dissuasive elements to undertake this journey.

The price paid in human and economic costs to migrate is high. According to the report, an investment of about 2,200 million dollars (more than 1,950 million euros) a year is estimated to travel regularly and irregularly. An estimated annual average of 378,000 Central Americans have traveled to the United States in the last five years.

The report, supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Organization of American States (OAS), has shown that the majority of migrants, 55 percent, would have hired a smuggler to travel, at a cost of about $ 7,500 per person on average (more than 6,600 euros). Meanwhile, migration through legal channels has a cost of 4,500 dollars (almost 4,000 euros).

Poverty, food insecurity, climatic phenomena and violence are the main reasons behind migration. The report sheds light on the links between food insecurity and migration from Central America and shows that hungry people are three times more likely to make concrete plans to migrate than people who are not.

Food insecurity has seen a dramatic increase in Central America while the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty continue to make it difficult for families to feed themselves. In fact, the number of food insecure people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras tripled, according to WFP estimates as of October 2021, to 6.4 million, compared to 2.2 million in 2019.

“We are seeing an exodus from Central America because hunger and despair force many to migrate in search of a better life,” lamented WFP Executive Director David Beasley, who also alluded to the fact that “families are being separated and Communities are being destroyed as poverty, climate change and now COVID-19 have left many people feeling they have no choice but to go north. “

In addition, migratory flows were affected by violence and insecurity, as well as by climatic shocks, such as severe droughts in the Central American Dry Corridor and more frequent and stronger storms in the Atlantic. The devastating twin hurricanes that struck Central America in November 2020 contributed to the deterioration of the living conditions of populations that were already vulnerable.

ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION
While the report highlights the factors driving migration from Central America, it also presents governments with a plan to address its root causes, including initiatives that are linked to economic recovery, livelihoods, and food security for people who have more. likely to migrate irregularly.

“The repetitive cyclical patterns in the increase in Central American migration north clearly indicate that the time has come for a strategy that goes beyond the execution of unilateral actions, that recognizes not only the drivers of migration, but also the nuanced contexts that community strengthening policies should address in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras “, has indicated the president of the Migration Policy Institute, Andrew Seele.

In the same vein, the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, has urged “not to expect different results from the same actions.” “We have been implementing migration containment policies for years that have proven to be insufficient,” he added.

Thus, the work has proposed the expansion of national social protection programs that help alleviate poverty and eradicate hunger in populations at risk, something “key” to curbing migration.

For example, cash transfers are a “lifeline” for vulnerable people, as they allow families to meet their essential needs, he stressed.

The report also refers to school feeding programs, which “offer more than a plate of food.” “They support local agriculture and represent savings for poor families,” he added.

In addition, among others, he has recommended investment and development initiatives that are tailored to the needs of the community, giving people the option to seek opportunities at home. These include programs for small farmers to increase resilience to climate shocks, diversify crops and boost production, as well as job training programs for youth and women in rural and urban areas.

Finally, the report recommends that the United States and other countries of destination of migrants in the region expand legal channels for Central Americans, for example, increasing access to temporary employment visas so that irregular migrants prefer to use legal channels.

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