Millions of migrants travel between South and North America in search of a better life. The countries of the region want to make legal immigration easier and crack down on people smugglers.
Despite the initial difficulties caused by the uninviting of the authoritarian states of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, numerous countries in the region agreed on a joint declaration on migration at the America Summit.
“The economic crisis triggered by the corona pandemic and the political unrest in authoritarian countries have led to record numbers of people migrating,” said US President Joe Biden at the Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Los Angeles. “No nation should bear this responsibility alone”.
The “Los Angeles Declaration” was considered the greatest success at the three-day meeting in California. In view of the large migration movements between South, Central and North America and the Caribbean, the states want to work together more closely in the future. The aim of the joint declaration is to improve living conditions in the countries of origin, to facilitate legal labor migration and to step up the fight against gangs of people smugglers.
“Safe, orderly and legal migration is good for all of our economies,” Biden said. “But a large part of the migration is unacceptable. Through coordinated actions with our regional partners, we will protect our borders.” Because of the large number of migrants from Latin America on the southern border of the United States, Biden is also under domestic political pressure.
Seeking asylum in Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador
Although many migrants want to go to the USA, other countries have to bear a disproportionately greater burden. Colombia has taken in 1.8 million Venezuelans, and half a million people from the crisis state are now living in Ecuador. In Mexico last year 131. people applied for asylum, 220 percent more than in the previous year. This makes Mexico the country with the third most asylum seekers worldwide.
With the Los Angeles Migration Declaration, the countries in the region now want to spread the burden on more shoulders. The US, Canada and Mexico announced programs to allow seasonal workers to enter legally. The United States pledged to 20.000 accept refugees and facilitate family reunification for migrants from Cuba and Haiti.
Colombia and Ecuador want to grant the numerous migrants from Venezuela residence and work permits, and Costa Rica has promised the Nicaraguans in the country something similar. The US government released 314 millions of US dollars for humanitarian aid and development projects in those countries that have taken in large numbers of migrants. At the same time, the fight against criminal organizations that profit from the misery of the migrants and bring them to the USA for horrific sums of money is to be intensified.
“The Los Angeles Declaration and the initiatives announced are encouraging steps towards better protection of people in the region who are forced to flee their homes,” said Rachel Schmidtke of Refugees International. “Now the heads of state and government must translate these commitments into concrete results for the displaced.”
Dispute over dealings with Cuba
Because of violence and poverty, many people in the region are leaving their homes and looking for better living conditions elsewhere. Around six million have left the crisis-ridden Venezuela alone and settled primarily in neighboring Colombia and other South American countries. Hundreds of thousands of people make their way to the USA from Central America every year.
The summit was overshadowed by the dispute over the disinviction of the authoritarian presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Several heads of state in the region expressed their solidarity with those who had been invited and boycotted the meeting. US President Biden also had to listen to criticism of his decision in Los Angeles. “I regret that not everyone who should be here is here today,” said Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández. “We would have wished for a different America summit: the silence of the absent accuses us.”
Biden wanted to use the meeting to give new impetus to relations between North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. As China’s presence in the region grew, the US government sought to make concrete offers to its southern neighbors. The White House announced investments in the training of doctors and nurses in the region. Through an “American Partnership for Economic Prosperity”, the USA wants to strengthen supply chains, simplify investments and create jobs in the field of renewable energies.
“There’s no reason why the Western Hemisphere can’t be the most forward-thinking, democratic, prosperous, peaceful and secure region in the world,” Biden said. “We have unlimited potential. We have enormous resources and a democratic spirit that stands for freedom and opportunity for all.”
It remains to be seen what will become of the noble intentions. “At the end of the day, summits are all about rhetoric. It takes more than a few days of meetings to really make a difference for safer migration, stronger health systems and more economic growth and prosperity,” wrote Council on Foreign’s Shannon O’Neil relations “Success depends on what comes next.” (dpa)