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Virtual panel highlights why we need to work together to stop irregular migration

POSTED February 9, 2022

Virtual panel highlights why we need to work together to stop irregular migration

This International Development Week, Children Believe shares learnings from our project to mitigate the growing problem of irregular migration

By Brianne Binelli, digital content services manager, Canada

IDW panel during virtual event

 “My main motivation to get ahead has been my grandmother.” Héctor, a sponsored-child-turned-business-owner, confided during today’s virtual panel discussion on irregular migration that his drive in life comes from his grandma, who raised him. He added: “She’s 76 years old, so now I’m supporting her.”

Hector didn’t always believe staying in his home country of Nicaragua would be possible. He thought he’d migrate irregularly to Costa Rica, until Children Believe connected him to our multinational project, PICMCA: Preventing Irregular Child Migration in Central America. Hector is not alone.

Today’s panel discussion, held in partnership with the ChildFund Alliance and Canada World Youth, united representatives from civil society, government and youth to discuss the challenges of irregular migration, which is a growing concern made worse by COVID-19 and natural disasters, among other systemic issues, such as violence and employability.

Why is now the time to discuss irregular migration?

In Canada, one of the routes migrants take to seek a new beginning is via Quebec’s Roxham Road. This unofficial crossing marks the border of upstate New York and the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle municipality of Quebec. From 2017 to March 2020 it saw more than 50,000 people seeking asylum.

“Those who resort to irregular migration pathways, particularly girls and young women, embark on perilous journeys where they lack protection from harm and face sustained human-rights violations, trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Some never reach their destination,” Fred Witteveen, CEO, Children Believe, explained during the panel discussion.

PICMCA helped address this issue by strengthening child-protection services; working on increasing youth employability through the learning of marketable skills; and encouraging youth to take a leadership role in changing their future.

The five-year project surpassed most of its targets. It helped avert 180,000 vulnerable children, 620,000+ youth and an additional 483,000 adults, who are often the parents of these children, from choosing to migrate.

And, as world events continue to drive up the number of people irregularly migrating, panellists joined to discuss learnings and solutions.

Youth and host of IDW panel during virtual event

What tactics are needed to address irregular migration?

At Children Believe, María Isabel López, our country director in Nicaragua, noted what she’d learned through PICMCA. She cited the need to tap into multiple stakeholders and community leadership, youth leadership, affirmative action to ensure girls and young women are involved and multi-country initiatives, among other approaches as essential to address irregular migration in Central America and Mexico.

Cristina Oropeza, counsellor for Political Affairs, in the Embassy of Mexico in Canada, highlighted the importance of prevention in her work, noting the impact she’s seen by establishing a national child-protection system, among many other initiatives, including helping migrants born abroad get ID papers so they can go to school.

Collaboration was also a big theme of the day. “It’s extremely important we’re all working together so we’re not duplicating activities and of course leaving gaps,” said Dana Graber Ladek, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration in Mexico.

And, of course training — of both youth and their parents — and influencing change were big themes among the youth on the panel who benefited from PICMCA.

“We’re building the business and offering jobs. When I began my university studies, I didn’t think I could do both — work and study, but now I realize I can do it, and this is an example for others,” said Sonia, a 23-year-old entrepreneur. “I consider myself an influencer in this subject.”

Building a future of hope and positive change

Susan Ormiston, the award-winning CBC News senior correspondent, who moderated the event, shared her troubling experiences seeing unaccompanied minors at border crossings, adding to the conversation about the enormity of the challenges impacting the future of the world’s youth.

Stay tuned as Children Believe seeks new ways to collaborate and innovate, working to help more youth, like Hector and Sonia, realize the PICMCA slogan: “My nation is my heart.”

Hector valued that sentiment, telling today’s attendees, “My heart is in my country, with my grandmother.”

Watch the complete panel discussion

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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