António Vitorino, Secretary General of the World Organization for Migration (IOM).
Migration is perhaps the main gear of coexistence and diplomatic relations in America.
Their challenges determine political balances, have an impact on societies and public services, modify economic ecosystems and, ultimately, are a crucial engine of change.
At the same time, the triggers for regional flows, of an unprecedented dimension in recent history, are a reflection of the failure of a model: violence, misery, social conflicts and, in an increasingly evident way, the climatic changes that "are introducing profound changes in the production system, especially in rural areas."
This is what António Vitorino (Lisbon, 66 years old), Secretary General of the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) points out,
visiting the Dominican Republic to participate in the XXVIII Ibero-American Summit.
Former Minister of Portugal and former European Commissioner for Justice, Vitorino defends that the migratory phenomenon, both in Latin America and the rest of the world, "is not a static photograph of a country", but "a process that requires the cooperation of all".
Collaboration is crucial, he stressed in a conversation with EL PAÍS, to protect migrants and fight the mafias.
The main regional migratory phenomenon is the Venezuelan one.
After years of exodus, what is the situation today?
The situation continues to be very worrying, there are more than seven million Venezuelans who have left the country, six million of them are in South America, most of them are in Colombia, almost 2.7 million, then comes Peru and we have countries like Ecuador, Brazil, Chile.
There are people who continue to leave Venezuela, although it is true that there are those who are returning, but in any case, migrants and refugees in the region continue to need emergency humanitarian support and integration measures in the host societies.
And that represents an overload for these societies, which requires that the support of the international community is also directed to those countries due to the pressure on social services, education or health.
Having said this, I would like to underline that the example of acceptance of the countries of the region is notable.
A multitude of Venezuelans have crossed the Darien jungle, between Colombia and Panama, one of the most dangerous territories in the world.
Now Haitians, Ecuadorians, Cubans have joined... How worrying is what is happening there?
We are very concerned.
The data we have shows that in 2021, 133,000 people crossed the Darién, which corresponds to the number of all crossings in the last decade.
And in 2022, 250,000 people.
It is a large number of people who are in a situation of enormous vulnerability, their lives are in danger.
Every day, every minute, we have reports of violence, of rapes, there is surely a criminal agent, perhaps more than one, and many people are unaware that crossing the Darién is totally dangerous.
Many unfortunately die on that journey.
Last year the most significant number of those who passed through the Darién were Venezuelans, this year things have changed a bit because of the Haitians, but there is also a growing number of Ecuadorians.
The passage of the caravans through Central America, the concentration of migrants in Chiapas and what happens on the northern border show that it is a challenge that transcends the decisions and actions of a country.
What we are seeing is a growth in the number of people who cross into Mexico after arriving from Central and South America and Mexico is currently under double pressure: from the south and from the north due to the difficulty of entering the United States.
Last year, 188,000 people passed through Honduras and now Mexico, which was traditionally a country of origin and transit, has also become a country of destination.
That is why the challenge for Mexico is very complex, because it no longer has to manage the situation at the border alone.
Tens of thousands of people gather in Tapachula, for example.
People who need everything, shelter, water, protection...
Starting with protection against mafias.
Everywhere, behind these massive movements there are transnational criminal organizations.
That is why cooperation between all the affected countries is necessary because migration is not a static photograph of a country, it is a process, and that requires the cooperation of all countries to protect the fundamental dignity of migrants and fight against mafias. .
We mentioned the United States.
This week marks the third anniversary of the application of the so-called Title 42, which allows hot expulsions... What expectations do you have regarding this measure?
The decisions that the courts have made are under appeal in the Supreme Court and from what I know we are a few days away from having the decision of the Court.
This will undoubtedly be very important to clarify the framework, because at this moment everyone is moving in uncertainty.
It is true that the US Administration has adopted a new admission modality, a quota of 40,000 people each month, Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians, which is undoubtedly positive.
But that is only a part of the migrants and we will have to see what the decision of the Supreme Court will be to understand what fate those people who are at the border will have.
The Caribbean Sea is often out of focus, but shipwrecks are becoming more frequent.
The Caribbean Sea is very dangerous, in 2021 we have registered 180 deaths and last year 349, which is a very significant increase, but it must also be said that both in the Mediterranean and here these numbers are only those that we can verify.
Unfortunately, when it comes to shipwrecks and drownings, many bodies are not even found and 60% of the confirmed deceased have not been able to be identified.
The global migratory panorama is today determined to a large extent also by the war in Ukraine.
What are the main challenges facing IOM in the short term?
There is a significant growth in the number of people who move for different reasons.
Due to conflicts, without a doubt, due to poverty, but there is an increasing number of migrants who are displaced by climate change.
Climate changes are introducing such profound alterations in the production system, especially in rural areas, that people have no more means of subsistence and move or because, for example, they do not have access to water.
And we're seeing significant growth in cities, in Africa, but also here in the Caribbean.
And that requires that we think about how to adapt to these changes, modifying the nature of agricultural production, making it more friendly to the environment but also building the resilience of those communities.
Because people don't want to move,
people are forced to move.
That agenda has fortunately been recognized at COP 27 and now we have to focus on what support the international community can bring to those communities especially vulnerable to climate change.