What is the Northern Triangle?
If one ever wondered, “What is the Northern Triangle?” it is a region comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. This particular region experiences growing migration due to chronic violence, government corruption and economic setbacks. Approximately 265,000 people have migrated annually in recent years, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and estimates determined that this number would double in 2019. The Northern Triangle is one of the poorest regions in the Western Hemisphere, with Honduras’, El Salvador’s and Guatemala’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita ranking at the bottom among Latin American countries. One can see these economic hardships as a direct consequence of decades of war and violence. Transnational gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Eighteenth Street Gang (M-18) plague the Northern Triangle with criminal activity and corruption. In addition to these factors, agriculture setbacks due to unpredictable weather contribute to this large migration.

The Northern Triangle’s Plans

With increasing migration from the area, the Northern Triangle is cracking down on existing issues. To address economic instability, the region implemented the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity which increased production and ensured public safety. Even though El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras mostly fund the plan, the Northern Triangle has experienced limited economic growth since its implementation in 2014.

When considering the question, “What is the Northern Triangle?” it is impossible not to mention corruption. To address growing corruption, each nation took a different route depending on what each one required. Officials addressed corruption quickly due to its setbacks on the economy. El Salvador caught and charged three previous presidents for embezzlement. Officials also created a plan to implement an international anti-corruption panel. In contrast, Guatemala appealed to the United Nations for assistance in establishing a group dedicated to prosecuting criminal groups. Together, they established the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) which has lowered Guatemala’s homicide rate immensely. Meanwhile, Honduras set up a corruption-fighting committee and implemented various sweeping reforms in 2016.

The Future of the Northern Triangle

Since many migrants are seeking asylum in the United States, recent U.S. administrations have varied widely as far as how to approach this challenge. Under the current Trump presidency, the administration decided to increase border security. President Trump cut down on America’s foreign for Central America and is holding back on funding until the Northern Triangle fully addresses this migration issue. The number of refugees and migrants will continue to increase until governments implement policies that reduce corruption and insecurity. Without intervention and aid, the Northern Triangle will make little progress in solving the root cause of violence, fraud and poverty within its countries.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Why are More People Trying to Cross the Border?
With America’s current politicians, U.S. border security is tighter than it has been in decades. In the spring of 2018, the Trump Administration introduced the zero-tolerance immigration policy to discourage migration into the U.S. The policy required detention of all individuals who crossed the border illegally, with or without children.  This resulted in the separation of children from their parents and their placement in shelters around the country. The U.S., however, halted the policy on June 20, 2018, due to widespread backlash.  The government has been letting thousands of held migrants go free because it lacks enough beds to hold them in detention facilities. However, these implementations have not been successful in deterring people from attempting to illegally enter the country. With the heightened security, why are more people trying to cross the border?

The Decrease in Mexican Immigration

The important thing to note with the changing migration patterns is the demographics of the people. Undocumented immigrants are no longer mainly coming out of Mexico, which is how it has been in the past. In fact, the number of people fleeing Mexico is on the decline.  Since 2007, the number of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. declined by 2 million. They now make up less than half of illegal immigrants in the U.S. This is due partially to the increasing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the increase in price for human smugglers, but there are other factors too.

  • The economy in Mexico has improved and Mexican employment opportunities are rising.
  • Fertility rates in Mexico have dropped significantly in the last 60 years, from seven births in 1960 to only 2.1 in 2019.
  • Not only are there fewer immigrants, but the Mexican immigrants that are crossing the border have higher education and are more fluent in English than the U.S. has seen in the past.  Mexico is undergoing a demographic shift and a technological transformation that is making it more habitable for its population.

With the decrease in Mexican immigration due to an increase in Mexico’s living conditions, why are more people trying to cross the border? As Mexico increases opportunities, immigration statistics are shifting to the impoverished Central Americans.

Increase in Central American Immigration

In Central American countries, over half of the population lives below the poverty line. The Northern Triangle of Central America, or NTCA, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has one of the highest homicide rates on earth and many consider this area to have some of the most dangerous countries. America is not the only country seeing a huge influx of these immigrants as well. Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica have seen a 432 percent increase in asylum applications, the majority coming from the NTCA.

Over 90 percent of the new illegal immigrants entering the U.S. is coming out of Guatemala specifically. Why are more people trying to cross the border? It is because of the challenges of poverty and violence in Guatemala.

  • About two-thirds of Guatemalan children live in poverty.
  • Over two-thirds of the indigenous population live in poverty.
  • The wealth distribution in the country is one of the most uneven distributions in the world. In fact, the top 1 percent control 65 percent of the wealth, and the top 5 percent control 85 percent. The economic elite is not indigenous either as most members have European heritage.
  • Guatemalans are itching to flee areas ridden with conflicts over land rights, environmental issues, official forced labor policies, gang violence, prostitution and human trafficking, and depressing crop prices that destroy farmers’ ability to make profits.

What the US is Doing to Help Guatemala

Fortunately, the U.S. is working to help improve conditions in Guatemala.  Traditionally, Guatemala and the U.S. have had a good relationship with a few disagreements over human rights and military issues. Guatemala has a strong trade system in place and the U.S. benefits by working to improve conditions there regarding security, governance, food security, civil rights, education, crime reduction and health service access for the people.

The U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America put in multiple initiatives including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Central American Regional Security Initiative and Food for Peace. The U.S.’s goal is to spur development in Guatemala and reduce the desire for illegal immigration into the U.S. The Trump Administration proposed to substantially cut funds for the country and to completely eliminate food aid. Congress shot down much of these cuts in the Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2018 and 2019. However, in March 2019, the Trump Administration did suspend all U.S. military aid in the country when the Guatemalan government misused armored vehicles that the Department of Defense provided to combat drug trafficking. The Trump Administration is still actively trying to cut or eliminate all U.S. aid to Guatemala and the NTCA, but Congress remains actively invested in the U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America.

– Gentry Hale
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Migration Crisis at the Border
The migration crisis at the United States-Mexico border is a deep-rooted issue affecting many people in the United States, both documented and undocumented. The quantity of media coverage about the topic makes it hard to separate fact from fiction. To shed light on the different aspects of this matter, below are 10 facts about the migration crisis at the border.

10 Facts About the Migration Crisis at the Border

  1. Climate Change and Migration: Climate change is emerging as a root cause of the crisis at the border. Increasingly, people have left their homes in Central and South America due to the food insecurity, poverty and unlivable conditions that climate change has created in these regions. For example, in the highlands of Guatemala, climate change has forced residents out of their homes after unseasonal frost destroyed their crops. Climate change drives migration both directly and indirectly — flooding or drought may physically force residents away in the same way that the negative social impacts of climate change may impact a resident’s decision to leave.

  2. Unaccompanied Minors: Between October 2017 and September 2018, the United States Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 396,000 people attempting to cross the border and more than 50,000 of these people were unaccompanied minors. The data for 2019 thus far shows an increase in the number of children under the age of 18 without a legal guardian or parent in the United States apprehended at the border. While still treacherous, border policy can be more lenient on individuals under the age of 18, possibly allowing a better chance at successful immigration.

  3. History of Immigration: The first instance of the United States placing restrictions on certain immigrant groups came with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The country has since continued to limit immigrants from certain countries, including most Asian countries in 1917 and Southern, Eastern and Central European countries in 1924, leading to the current attempt to limit Central and Southern American and Mexican immigrants. U.S. immigration policy prioritizes reunification of families, value to the U.S. economy, diversity and humanitarian protection of refugees.

  4. The Northern Triangle: The Northern Triangle of Central America, comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, accounts for the leading source of migrants who are fleeing Central America. More than 90 percent of these migrants will then attempt to cross the border between Mexico and the United States. Despite attempts to bring safety and stability to the Northern Triangle, the region still has high rates of crime and poverty; Honduras and El Salvador have among the highest murder rates in the world and around 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line in Honduras and Guatemala.

  5. State of National Emergency: The migrant crisis at the border prompted President Trump to declare a national emergency in February 2019, despite opposition from the majority of citizens in the United States. Declaring a national emergency allows a president to potentially bypass Congress to achieve their desired policy or funding. The U.S. remains in a state of national emergency regarding the border despite attempts from Congress to end the measure.

  1. The $4.5 Billion Emergency Spending Bill: In July 2019, President Trump signed a bill designed to provide financial aid to the border, allocating  $4.5 billion to humanitarian assistance and security. The U.S. government first introduced this bill in response to criticism of the treatment of migrant children at the border, but the bill will also provide increased health and safety standards for all people seeking entry into the United States.

  2. The Southern Border Communities Coalition: Founded in 2011 as a response to the ongoing pressures facing border towns, the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) is a diverse group of organizations, such as Frontera de Cristo (Agua Prieta, Mexico) and the Southwest Environmental Center (Las Cruces, NM), who have united to create a safer and more humane environment at the border. The SBCC comprises 60 organizations across Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. In May 2019, the SBCC released a document entitled A New Border Vision, an outline for action to improve conditions at the border.

  3. Domestic Violence and Asylum: In spite of recent attempts to limit asylum seekers, the United States will continue to offer asylum for victims of domestic violence. In 2018, then-Attorney General Sessions threatened this right, stating that the United States would reject asylum cases founded on domestic violence. While Session’s decision increased the difficulty of securing asylum on these assertions, undocumented victims of domestic violence can still be eligible.

  4. Undocumented Immigrants and Crime: Contrary to the popular narrative connecting immigrants and violence, undocumented immigrants make the communities they join safer. A 2015 study by the Cato Institute shows that documented United States-born citizens have a much higher crime conviction rate than both undocumented and documented immigrants. Arguments against immigrants often champion the association of undocumented people to violent crime, yet the facts increasingly show this association to be invalid.

  5. Why People Keep Coming: This final point is perhaps the most important of these 10 facts about the migration crisis at the border. The journey to the border is long, expensive and dangerous. Frequent instances of kidnapping, rape, assault and trafficking make getting to the southwestern border of the United States treacherous and arriving at detention facilities at the border provides a slue of difficulties and dangers as well. Undocumented migrants are not undertaking this daunting task because they want to, but rather because their circumstances force them. Their home situation has become unlivable and they seek to escape to a better life in the U.S.

These 10 facts about the migration crisis at the border show that this issue creates dangerous situations that threaten both society and human lives. To fight this problem, the public must know what is truly happening in the stretch of land that connects Mexico and the United States. 

– Elizabeth Reece Baker
Photo: Flickr

Safe and Voluntary Refugee Repatriation
Despite the constant divisive debates about whether to welcome refugees, they have protection under international law by the 1951 refugee convention, a multilateral United Nations treaty. It defines who people can consider refugees and outlines their basic rights, including access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. Despite the ever-present debates about acceptance, very little of it has actually been to talk about what happens when countries refuse asylum seekers including the problem of ensuring safe and voluntary refugee repatriation rather than returning them to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Refugees in the US

A country must ensure that refugees live in safety and dignity while it is processing their claims, and safety and dignity are also integral to voluntary repatriation. In 2020, the United States will only accept 18,000 refugees. This will be the lowest number of refugees that the U.S. resettled in a single year since 1980 when Congress created the nation’s refugee resettlement program. In light of such low acceptance rates, a national debate around safe and voluntary repatriation is crucial so that those a country turns away will have safe alternatives. Without debate, there is no clear answer to where those refugees should go, if not the United States.

Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

People often confuse the matter even more because they use the terms “migrants,” “refugees” and “asylum seekers” interchangeably, despite very different legal meanings and obligations. Amnesty International defines an asylum seeker as an individual who is seeking international protection whose claim a host country has not yet determined. In short, a country will not recognize every asylum seeker as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker. “Migrant” is a broad term that describes anyone who moves to another country for at least one year, for any reason.

“Repatriation” is when a person returns to their country of origin, whether it is because conditions have improved and they want to go home or because their host country has refused their request for asylum. According to the U.N. Refugee Repatriation Agency, safe and voluntary refugee repatriation requires not only the commitment of the international community to safely bring displaced people home but also the cooperation of the country of origin, which has to do the difficult work of reintegration and ensuring stability and safety.

So who will be the 18,000 refugees the U.S. allows in 2020? In 2019, refugees coming to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo far outnumbered those from other countries. D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees, followed by Burma (Myanmar) with about 4,900, then Ukraine (4,500), Eritrea (1,800) and Afghanistan (1,200).

Repatriation

As of November 13, 2019, a total of 1,439 individuals repatriated. ReliefWeb, an online news source for humanitarian information on global crisis and disasters, reported that approximately 14,700 refugees chose to return to their country spontaneously and by their own means. However, home countries and the international community are working together to help with safe and voluntary refugee repatriation.

The United Nations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Angolan government collaborated on organizing convoys for voluntary repatriation. Wellington Carneiro, UNHCR’s interim representative in Angola, stated that voluntary repatriation faced challenges like poor road conditions in the rainy season and the need to find suitable vehicles as a result. However, Carneiro assured that the operation, which he expected to finish by mid-December 2019, would fully guarantee the returning Angolans’ safety and dignity. While the international community’s collaborative work was a big part of the success of these trips, the Angolan government played the most important role. Paolo Balladelli, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Angola, highlighted this when he said that “the Angolan authorities have shown their solidarity by welcoming people, including children, who were at risk of life due to serious ethnic conflicts. The conclusion of this chapter demonstrates to Africa and the world that Angola is a good example of good international practices.”

Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Despite its rebranding as the “Rainbow Nation of Diversity” after the end of the segregationist apartheid regime in 1994, South Africa is still home to prejudice, hate and violence. These five facts about xenophobia in South Africa show that it is creating violence in the country, disrupting communities of refugees and other migrants. Hopefully, the government’s new action plan will help to change the sentiments of those involved in crimes against foreigners.

Foreigners in South Africa

Foreigners and migrants make up roughly 2.8 percent of South Africa’s population. The vast majority of foreign-born residents are from other African countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. After the fall of apartheid, South Africa‘s economy grew quickly. Job opportunities and relative political stability turned the country into an attractive location for many African immigrants fleeing conflict, poverty or political turmoil.

Over the past few decades, xenophobic violence against many of these immigrants in South Africa has become a common occurrence. These attacks, targeted at immigrant-owned businesses and homes, foreign nationals and refugees in South Africa. They are robbing them of their livelihoods and causing poverty and distress. Here are five facts about xenophobia in South Africa.

5 Facts about Xenophobia in South Africa

  1. Many South African citizens harbor negative attitudes toward foreigners due to fears about resource-scarcity. A survey by the Southern African Migration Project found that two-thirds of South Africans believe that African foreigners strain basic services. At least 29 percent of South Africans would like the government to prohibit immigration completely, citing crime, disease and job-stealing as justification.
  2. South Africa has a history of violent xenophobic attacks that devastate immigrant communities, divide families and cause a loss of homes and businesses. There have been attacks on foreign nationals since 2009. Foreign-owned businesses were being targeted, looted and burned. The attacks have provoked violent, nation-wide campaigns against foreigners, displacing, injuring and killing thousands. Outbreaks of violence since then, as recent as April of this year, reflect widespread anti-foreign attitudes in the country. On March 28, 2019, armed mobs of South Africans killed six foreign nationals and injured others in the city of Durban. The mob broke into the homes of foreigners and stole their belongings. Similar violent attacks have been reported in 2019. Many of the xenophobic attacks specifically targeted black foreigners, often stereotyping them as criminals, drug dealers and generally unsavory, untrustworthy individuals.
  3. Social media and political leadership may be contributing to xenophobia in South Africa. Prominent politicians, like current President Cyril Ramaphosa, have denied the existence of xenophobia. However, they relied on negative attitudes toward foreigners to drum up political support. In early 2019, Ramaphosa encouraged anti-foreign anger at a political rally by vowing to crack down on illegal migrants who enter their “townships and rural areas and set up businesses without licenses and permits.” However, the South African president recently tried to clarify this statement, condemning violent acts against foreigners and promising to protect South Africa’s immigrants. Analysts have warned against using xenophobia as a political weapon. One scholar argues that xenophobia is strengthened and sustained by the “failure of politicians, policymakers, media [and] intellectuals to problematize assumptions of similarity and differences and preconceptions of peoples and cultures.” Some argue that these assumptions produce inequalities and violence by enforcing narrow and exclusionary ideas of national identity.
  4. Several organizations are involved in the fight against xenophobia in South Africa. Lawyers for Human Rights has been working with vulnerable populations in South Africa for more than 35 years. It provides free legal services to both South Africans and foreign-born residents. The organization participated in the People’s March against Xenophobia in 2015. The African Diaspora Forum provides support to foreign nationals in South Africa by encouraging dialogue among South African-born citizens and immigrants in order to build trust and understanding. It also functions as a watch-dog organization, challenging xenophobic statements made by public officials and working to tear down discriminatory public policies.
  5. In March 2019, the South African government launched a National Action Plan to address xenophobic violence and other injustices in the country. The project aims to raise awareness of the issue of xenophobia in South Africa. It hopes to increase anti-discrimination efforts like protection for victims and legal counsel. However, skeptics accused the plan of missing a key part of the problem; the program has no plan to hold accountable those who have committed acts of xenophobic violence.

Xenophobia in South Africa is perpetuating violence and poverty. Many scholars and human rights activists agree that the government should be increasing its efforts to reduce xenophobia in South Africa to protect the physical and economic safety of all of its residents.

Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Central America
In 1928, the League of Nations conducted a three-year global study of sex trafficking of women and children throughout Central America, which concluded, “Latin America is the traffic market of the world.” Currently, Central America is the third-highest source of human trafficking. These 7 facts about human trafficking in Central America will explain the factors leading to this significant problem and what people are doing to combat it.

7 Facts About Human Trafficking in Central America

  1. Dangers During Migration: It is not always an easy decision to relocate one’s entire family to a new country, but rampant poverty, extreme violence and governmental corruption throughout Central America force families and children to flee for a more prosperous life elsewhere. Risky job prospects and economic opportunity abroad may tempt migrants, but the true danger of migration lies in the 2,000-mile trek from Central America to the U.S. On this journey, migrants are in danger of human trafficking for domestic servitude, forced labor or the sex trade. A report by UNICEF states, “These families must navigate a long, uncertain journey in which they risk being preyed upon by traffickers or other criminals.” To avoid detection by authorities, migrants and refugees take dangerous routes where they do not know their whereabouts and where others can take advantage of their invisibility.
  2. The Vulnerability of Children: Children are one of the most vulnerable populations to trafficking due to their immaturity and the ease in which others can overpower them. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), children account for three in every five victims of human trafficking, backed in large part by organized crime rings. The impact of child trafficking in Central America is far-reaching, with many risk factors leaving children susceptible. For instance, criminal gangs’ main operation is illegal adoption, which they can achieve through kidnapping and involvement of government officials. Street and orphaned children are especially vulnerable to trafficking into the sex trade, while others must work under dangerous circumstances in the agricultural and mining industries. In 2014, a report from the Department of Labor found ample evidence of the use of child labor in the production of goods throughout Central America, including bricks, coffee, gold and sugarcane.
  3. The Vulnerability of Women: Along with young children, women are another vulnerable population at high risk for trafficking, especially sexual exploitation. Traffickers traffick most females for prostitution, especially near the Guatemala-Mexico border, while they use others for stripping and pornography. These women are often irregular migrants who fall through the cracks and eventually suffer further exploitation in bars and brothels to local clientele. It can occur forcefully, with smugglers kidnapping victims or coercing them into prostitution. In other cases, women may have no other means of support, and with dependents at home, traffickers may lure them into the sex trade. Once they are involved, it is not easy to leave, as brothel owners may threaten violence or exposure if they sense that a worker is tempted to leave. Traffickers may send women internally or internationally and State Department officials have estimated that 10s of thousands of Central Americans suffer trafficking internationally each year. Large numbers of these victims come from Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
  4. Central America and Trafficking: Although human trafficking is a significant problem among Central American countries, none of them comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, which establishes human trafficking and related offenses as federal crimes with severe penalties. Through the TVPA, the U.S. Department of State ranks countries based on tiers, focusing on the country’s governmental efforts to comply with the TVPA standards. Mexico, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador rank as Tier 2, meaning they do not meet TVPA standards but are making significant efforts to combat human trafficking. Belize ranks as Tier 3 country, signifying it does not meet TVPA standards and are not making substantial efforts to comply.
  5. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS): The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has attempted to step in in the absence of action from Central American governments. In early 2019, the DHS developed a partnership with government officials from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador by signing a Memorandum of Cooperation, which concentrates efforts to combat human trafficking and stem the flood of irregular migration. Other initiatives are establishing, including combatting criminal organizations and gangs, addressing the root causes of human trafficking and smuggling and developing a proposal to tighten the region’s laws regarding trafficking. After a temporary halt of foreign aid being dispersed by the U.S. to the Northern Triangle countries, the White House resumed its support for the program by releasing $143 million in October 2019 to specific targeted efforts.
  6. The United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act: In July 2019, the U.S. took an additional effort to address the root causes of migration by passing the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act. This bill, which New York Representative Eliot L. Engel and Texas Representative Michael McCaul announced, passed unanimously through the House of Representatives. Because of the serious challenges that drive illegal migration to the U.S. and threaten the Northern Triangle’s stability, the act proposes a five-year strategy that prioritizes anti-corruption, economic growth and development and strengthening security conditions. Additionally, the bill authorizes $577 million in foreign assistance to the region for the 2020 fiscal year.
  7. The Polaris Project: Another organization working to stop human trafficking is the Polaris Project. Polaris’ work focuses on dismantling the networks that support human trafficking and sexual exploitation while boosting the international safety net. It acknowledges that its response must include a comprehensive understanding of migration, cultural context and gender norms. Not only does it engage in active efforts to combat the root causes of human trafficking, but it also recognizes the importance of supporting survivors in rebuilding their lives after the trauma they have endured. The organization operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline as well as the BeFree Textline to connect survivors with resources and support. Also, as 26 percent of the world’s trafficking victims are children, Polaris synchronizes its efforts with the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking as well as the National Network for Youth to support legislative efforts that increase protections for youth. Its combative efforts to end human trafficking by partnering with government officials and law enforcement are the crucial steps that are necessary for ending this exploitation.

The issue of human trafficking throughout Central America is a complex and nuanced one. A combination of political, cultural and socioeconomic factors contribute to a sense of desperation in Central America, forcing individuals to seek alternatives elsewhere. This environment creates a space in which traffickers can take advantage of the vulnerable. It is important that Central American countries work with one another as well as with international supports to combat human trafficking and promote a sense of safety and security within the region.

– Rachel Baum
Photo: Flickr

Where is the Northern Triangle?
With a long history of political and economic instability, the Northern Triangle has provided little reason for citizens to stay. Where is the Northern Triangle? This emigration haven lies in Central America and comprises of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Causes of Emigration

In short, the main emigration drivers in the NTCA involve political corruption (due to past wars and ongoing greed), economic instability (due to droughts and poor trade practices), gang violence (related to lack of educational and rehabilitation programs) and family matters (attributed to desired remittance and reunification with distant family).

The NTCA’s past, current and potential (up-for-office) political officials consistently squander the countries’ limited funds for personal advancement at the cost of its people. These authoritarian countries recently switched to democratic rule, but its leaders lack the experience and morale necessary to implement a well-running democracy. Low tax rates and lack of direction prevent subsidization of social, civil, health-related and educational programs and protection agencies vital to the NTCA’s transition to a safe, thriving region.

Since 2014, the U.S.A.’s Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has collaborated with the NTCA to fund over $315 million of specialized programs improving tax administration, youth workforce and public-private markets across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Efforts from the MCC help the 25 percent of youth who do not work or attend school in these countries. As of 2017, nearly 60 percent of youth who do work do so informally or unregulated by the government.

Crime Management, Informal Work and Gangs

Beyond educational and vocational pitfalls, these countries possess poor crime management. NTCA homicide rates have decreased since 2014, but they remain higher than the global average. The Atlantic Council reports 75 percent of NTCA citizens as doubting their judicial systems’ ability to protect them. This primarily stems from the nearly active gang violence and 95 percent of homicides that go unsolved in these countries. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, six children flee to the U.S. per every 10 homicides in the Northern Triangle. This leads to the separation of families and greater difficulty in establishing long-lasting labor practices in these countries.

Informal work is another causal factor of emigration as people search for better financial opportunities. The U.S. is such a major destination for these emigrants, it is no wonder many U.S. Americans might ask “Where is the Northern Triangle?” In fact, in the first five months of FY2019, authorities apprehended about 26,937 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) and 136,150 families at the U.S.-Mexican border, with nearly 47 percent of UACs and 49 percent of families, 25 percent of UACs and 38 percent of families and 11.5 percent of UACs and 9 percent of families coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, respectively. These emigrants inadvertently create financial burdens, safety threats and attention deficits in the U.S.

UACs pose a huge threat to U.S. borders because of their use by gang members. U.S. immigration legislation, like Obama’s catch-and-release policy and the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), allow gangs to get around policies involving UACs. Gangs make about $1,500 per smuggled child in border regions that they control and oftentimes convert UACs into gang members once they settle in U.S. territory. In return, alien-driven crime and the U.S. opioid epidemic continue to implode. Furthermore, transnational government corruption with cartel commerce continues.

According to U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA), the State Department gave Congress an incomplete watch-list of criminal Northern Triangle government officials as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 required. Thus, skepticism surrounds U.S. and NTCA political ties in criminal activity. Overall, government corruption and U.S. immigration policy loopholes remain pressing obstacles to boosting the workforce and prosperity of the Northern Triangle.

US Humanitarian Efforts

Fortunately, many U.S. humanitarian efforts positively impact life in the Northern Triangle. Notably, in the Plan Columbia (PC) of 1999, the U.S. gave Columbia $10 billion for economic and anti-narcoterrorist efforts. In return, Columbia acts as a key trader with the U.S. and a facilitator of progression tactics in NTCA. Similarly, the U.S. derived the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) of 2006 that supports Northern Triangle involvement in commerce and exposure to retail chains.

The U.S. also works with the Inter-American Development Bank to fund a billion-dollar improvement strategy written by the NTCA presidents. Within this strategy, called the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, the three presidents provide strategic pillars and action plans to put outside funds to effective use. Additionally, the U.S. works with Mexican and Northern Triangle governments through the U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act to improve security at the NTCA-Mexico border.

Outside of government action, several international organizations aid in Central American projects that chip away at NTCA poverty and political issues. Action Aid largely focuses on anti-poverty efforts in the NTCA. Care International, CHF International and Center for International Private Enterprise assist the NTCA with crime reduction and community support, youth education and empowerment and educated civilian political involvement, respectively.

Assistance from humanitarian groups and relationships with American countries help NTCA leaders impose more effective government policies and citizen-focused programs. With expertise and financial aid from more developed countries, the new democratic leaders can grow with the young workforce to build a long-lasting, more-trusting culture in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In return, a reduction in emigration, the ongoing gang turmoil and behind-the-scenes narco relations can help lead to a more sustainable Northern Triangle. Increased focus on the source of NTCA emigration and continued assistance might alleviate the inquisitive question, “Where is the Northern Triangle?”

– Caroline Bell
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Laos
Laos is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world and the poorest in its region. Poverty and low levels of education leave its residents vulnerable to diverse sorts of crime and one of the largest crimes the country faces is human trafficking. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Laos.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Laos

  1. Human Trafficking Numbers: Between 200,000 and 450,000 people in Laos fall victim to human trafficking each year. Labor migration within Laos’s geographical region has a link to trafficking as many natives leave in search of better employment opportunities.
  2. The Vulnerability of Girls: Girls aged 12 to 18 make up about 90 percent of trafficking victims each year. These young Lao women must drop out of school to make a living to sustain their families. The girls then willingly seek employment opportunities abroad.
  3. Migration to Thailand: The majority of human trafficking from Laos occurs when its people choose to move to Thailand. One of the reasons that Thailand is a destination is that it is close and shares a similar culture and language. Moreover, people in Laos tend to move to Thailand due to its higher economic standing. Since education levels in Laos are particularly low, its people often seek better lives and are naïve and vulnerable to criminals who trick and cheat them.
  4. Sex Trafficking and Forced Labor: The commercial sex trade and forced labor situations are the two most common types of human trafficking that Laotians face. Since young females are the main people migrating from Laos, traffickers often take them to countries like China to sell them as brides. Others receive false promises of high paying jobs but end up trapped in slave work.
  5. A Tier 3 Rank: These conditions have manifested due to the Laos government’s failure to meet the minimum standards to end human trafficking. In 2018, the U.S. downgraded Laos to a Tier 3 in terms of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA). Tier 3 is the worst rating a country can have.
  6. UN-ACT and Ending Human Trafficking in Laos: Human trafficking remains one of Laos’s most significant struggles, but positive headway has been developing over the years. Laos’s government has started to tighten its border security. The police force is now receiving training from organizations like the United Nations Action for Cooperation Against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT). UN-ACT has implemented the three P’s protocol including prevention, protection and prosecution, to deter human trafficking in Laos.
  7. Raising Awareness: Not only is awareness spreading through law enforcement, but it is reaching civilians too. Officials have launched campaigns to spread information about human trafficking at border crossings. This initiative educates individuals on what to look out for and how to avoid potentially dangerous situations while traveling.
  8. The Lotus Project: While the government has started to do its part, other private organizations have lent Laos efforts too. The Lotus Project, founded in 2008, has a mission to support and provide young Loa women with education. Since the Lotus Project’s start, it has been able to impact 80 families and keep those girls from falling victim to human trafficking.
  9. Lao Women’s Union: Lao Women’s Union is the country’s largest support association. Not only does it focus on trafficking victims, but also on domestic violence victims. To serve the women of Laos, the LWU is an active advocator for women’s rights and their ability to prosecute traffickers.
  10. Village Focus International (VFI): In Laos, there are three shelters for trafficking survivors and two of them are a result of Village Focus International. At the shelters that VFI established, girls receive safe accommodations, food, health care and emotional support to repower themselves. VFI has been able to aid over 500 lives over the years and is helping make Laos a safer country for its residents.

The people of Laos, and especially the young women who live there, face great dangers when seeking employment opportunities abroad. As expressed in these 10 facts about human trafficking in Laos, however, the country is making positive strides. Thanks to recent government efforts and groups like LWU, The Lotus Project and VFI, more Laotians are able to avoid those hardships or receive rescue.

– Ariana Kiessling
Photo: Flickr

 

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Mass Migration Out of Venezuela
Mass migration out of Venezuela has several determinants including high inflation, crime rates, food and health care scarcity and the violation of human rights by government forces. These crises are deteriorating living conditions within this Latin American nation, creating a strong push factor for its citizens. The mass migration out of Venezuela is a phenomenon of desperation and necessity, resulting in millions of Venezuelans fleeing from the struggling nation.

Where are Venezuelans Fleeing to?

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, as of May 2019, over 3.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country. This is around a 10th of the nation’s population. Of these migrants, around 464,000 are asylum-seekers, with the rest acquiring other forms of residency. The majority of these migrants stay in Latin America, while some flee as far as Southern Europe.

In Latin America alone, the highest concentrations of Venezuelan refugees are located as follows:

  1. Columbia: 1.1 million
  2. Peru: 506,000
  3. Chile: 288,000
  4. Ecuador: 221,000
  5. Argentina: 130,000
  6. Brazil: 96,000

Life of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants

The main goal of these migrants is to secure human rights in other countries. This is due to Venezuela no longer securing these rights within its borders. The United Nations recognized this motivation behind the mass exodus back in an August 2018 report and has since then been pressing Venezuela to address these concerns. As for other countries recognizing this humanitarian crisis, neighboring nations such as Columbia have built temporary refugee camps to house migrant Venezuelans.

Unfortunately, not all migrants receive legal residency in their countries of refuge. While some migrants obtain asylum or temporary legal residencies, some seeking refuge resort to illegal means, leaving them at risk of deportation. Whether illegal or legal, Venezuela migrants all may face potential hardships.

Across the board, people uproot from their homes in Venezuela, leaving behind everything they once had. Venezuelan refugees face unemployment and homelessness, as well as little to no access to basic necessities for survival. Venezuelan refugees are also particularly vulnerable to robbery and human trafficking. This risk amplifies especially as an illegal migrant, as those migrants may resort to contacting gangs in order to enter a region.

Intervention

To combat the potential hardships Venezuelan refugees may face, many organizations are stepping forward to alleviate struggles for migrants. Taking on health services, organizations like Project Hope are continuously reaching out to hospitals packed with refugees, such as those in Cúcuta, Colombia.

Project Hope trains medical teams, provides on-site doctors, supplies essential medicines and treatment care and provides numerous other forms of aid to assist refugee-filled health facilities across Latin America. The International Refugee Committee and UNICEF are other notable organizations providing medical assistance.

Organizations like Global Affairs Canada and the Pan American Development Foundation are helping with housing Venezuelan refugees and building shelters. For instance, shelters exist in Boa Vista, Brazil, and in other areas of great need. Given the sheer magnitude of Venezuelan migrants, proper housing proves to be one of the biggest challenges countries with refugee influx face.

While there are many organizations providing aid to Venezuelan migrants and refugees, one thing is clear: the best way to help these Venezuelan migrants is to help Venezuela as a country. So long as Venezuela is in an economic, political and humanitarian crisis, citizens will continue to flee it. The mass migration out of Venezuela is not an isolated event; it is a symptom of a much bigger problem plaguing Venezuela.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr