Thorny journey after migrant's life-changing dream

In 2021, Latin America and the Caribbean region experienced an unprecedented level of migration, with a record high number of asylum applications entering Mexico. The increasingly severe spiral of violence and poverty in their homelands has prompted migrants to embark on this arduous journey, even though they know that behind the life-changing dream, there are dark areas.

Migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and the Caribbean pass through Chiapas state, Mexico, to reach the US on September 2, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
Migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and the Caribbean pass through Chiapas state, Mexico, to reach the US on September 2, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2021 will see a series of "sad records" regarding the issue of migrants in Central America. Migration from Central America has been described by UNHCR as an "unprecedented" high over the past year, with nearly a million people displaced from their homes, due to lack of job opportunities, gang violence, devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

Mexico, a transit country for migrants making their way to the US, recorded a record high number of asylum applications in 2021, with more than 130,000 applications. Not stopping there, the case of a truck carrying illegal migrants overturned in Mexico in December 2021, killing at least 54 people and injuring more than 100, is considered the largest tragedy of death for migrants to occur in the country since 2014.

Behind the dreams of reaching the "promised land" like the US or Mexico, is the darkness of cruel reality. Panama's National Immigration Service has warned of the arrival of many children in the flow of migrants transiting through the country. Specifically, Panama recorded a recently discovered group of migrants, that are about 20% children, mostly under the age of 5.

Currently, about 900 migrants are living in Panama, waiting for the opportunity to continue on their way to North America. Of these, more than 400 are living in difficult conditions in the jungle.

Poverty, violence and natural disasters are the main reasons why people in Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have been trying to come to the US for several years, despite the dangers from drug gangs, criminals, wild animals and harsh natural environments. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic was a “drop that filled the glass”.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in 2021, Latin America will be the region most affected by inflation. Low and uneven vaccination rates against COVID-19 are but one factor that has left Latin America behind other regions on the economic recovery journey.

In the context of a serious migration crisis in the Americas, US President Joe Biden has not been able to fulfil his commitments in solving the migrant problem. In May 2021, President Biden raised the immigration limit for the fiscal year 2021, from 15,000 to 62,500. But in fact, by the end of the fiscal year 2021, the US had only received 11,411 migrants, which is the lowest number of resettled refugees in history. Currently, the US is focusing on a series of projects to help socio-economic development in order to create a "wall of prosperity" in Central America, with the desire to stem the flow of migrants in the very place of origin.

The economic recovery path of Latin America is still arduous as the COVID-19 pandemic aggravates long-standing problems. Building Latin America into a truly stable living environment is the core factor in persuading people to abandon the arduous migration journey and stay in their homeland.

Translated by NDO