Grupos Beta de protección a migrantes
Grupos Beta (Beta Groups) is a service by the National Institute of Migration (INM) of Mexico dedicated to the protection and defense of the human rights of migrants and are specialized in providing orientation, rescue and first aid, regardless of nationality or immigration status.
They are composed of officials from the the three levels of government - federal, state and municipal - who receive specialized training to rescue, protect and orient migrants in a vulnerable situation. In particular, they provide humanitarian assistance, first aid, migrant assistance, legal advice, guidance and information to migrants on their rights. They carry our recognition tours on the border areas with constant migratory flows, place risk prevention signs in strategic locations, manage orientation sites.
In order to fulfill their objective, these groups are located in areas of the national territory where they can strategically perform their functions. There are now 21 Grupos Beta within the Mexican government in the states of Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas and Oaxaca.
In 2016, Grupos Beta and the Mexican National Center for Disasters Prevention (CENAPRED) joined a capacity building program to reduce the vulnerability of migrants to disasters. CENAPRED and the Grupos Beta participated, as trainers, in the workshop Including migrants in disaster, prevention, preparedness and response, which took place in the cities of Tapachula, Tijuana and Mexico City in 2016 and was addressed to officials from different government departments and civil society organizations. The involvement of different stakeholders contributed to an improved understanding of roles and responsibilities of local actors, and in particular allowed for improved coordination among Grupos Beta and Civil Protection, as well as of Mexican authorities and consular corps of the migrants’ countries of origin.
To protect migrants, States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society need to understand risks and exposure to crises in regions, countries, and localities. They also need to understand the ways in which crises can affect people, including migrants, and their assets. The period before the onset of a full-scale conflict or natural disaster is a critical time to undertake efforts to protect and assist people, including migrants, and to secure essential resources and infrastructure.
Not all conflicts and natural disasters are entirely unpredictable. Conflicts may be preceded by various signs, including protests, xenophobic violence, and civil unrest. Local actors, close to the source of an impending conflict, and with the experience to interpret signs and events, may often possess the most timely and accurate information. They can be an important source of knowledge for others.
Understanding regional, national, and local natural disaster risks and overlaying this information with information on the location and characteristics of migrants can inform preparation and response efforts. As in conflict situations, local sources of knowledge may also be important. While many natural disasters occur with great immediacy, different regions, countries, and localities are prone to specific types of natural disasters. Those related to weather events often occur with some forewarning. Some are cyclical and recurrent and the warning signs will be familiar to those who have experienced them before. A number of early warning systems exist to forecast and monitor natural disasters and alert stakeholders and communities of impending crises.
- Early warning systems for natural disasters adapted and tested to reach migrants in multiple languages.
- Assessments to understand the potential effects of natural disasters on migrant communities and their assets.
- Inclusion of migrant characteristics in disaster vulnerability assessments by analyzing how factors, such as immigration status, language proficiency, or gender reduce access to information, resources, or protection.
- Community-based risk assessments that engage migrants in the identification of natural disasters, vulnerability, and capacities.
- Inclusion of migrants’ presence and vulnerability in early warning and early action mechanisms.
- Structures to share information on developing civil unrest or conflict.
States and other stakeholders have laws, policies, and programs on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response to reduce the impact of crises. Taking into account the presence of migrants, their vulnerabilities, and their potential needs in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response frameworks, including on disaster risk reduction (DRR), can promote resilience in the event of a conflict or natural disaster. Clear laws and policies on migrants’ eligibility for different types of assistance in the event of a crisis promote certainty. If the presence of migrants is not known or is inadequately incorporated in planning, stakeholders may overlook migrants in their responses. If stakeholders fail to appreciate factors that make migrants vulnerable, such as language barriers, isolated working conditions, irregular immigration status, or mistrust of authorities, responses may be ineffective. When laws and policies are unclear, responses towards migrants can be unpredictable and insufficient.
Migrants themselves and civil society may be in the best position to assist States and other stakeholders to appreciate the presence of migrants, their vulnerability, and needs. In this respect, involving migrants and civil society in the development of prevention, preparedness, and emergency response measures can be helpful. Such actions also build trust between migrant populations and State and non-State actors who provide protection.
Migrants and civil society also have capacities and resources that they can contribute to preparedness and emergency response. Their language abilities, first-hand knowledge of migrant populations, understanding of cultural norms within their communities, and ability to foster greater trust toward State authorities and other actors can be leveraged to create more comprehensive and effective systems and programs.
- Platforms to facilitate the engagement of migrants in the design and implementation of prevention, preparedness, and emergency response systems.
- Taking migrants into account in national and local frameworks on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response, including by recognizing migrants as a specific group with needs and capacities.
- Recruitment of migrants as staff or volunteers in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response mechanisms.
States, employers, recruiters and placement agencies, international organizations, and civil society have contingency plans and procedures to react to and mitigate the risks associated with crises. Many States of origin have contingency plans to assist their citizens abroad. If contingency plans do not exist, they should be developed during the pre-crisis phase to provide sufficient time to consider and test options.
Contingency plans should take into account and integrate migrants’ presence, potential needs, and capacities. Plans should anticipate migrants’ requirements for relocation, evacuation, communication, emergency shelter, food and non-food relief, health care, and psychosocial support. Plans should address ways to identify and respond to the needs of particularly vulnerable populations, such as migrant children, including unaccompanied and separated children, children of migrants in an irregular immigration status, migrant victims of trafficking, elderly migrants, and migrants with disabilities. Plans should also address the protection of migrants in detention. Contingency plans should be flexible, actionable, clear, and adapted to relevant regional, national, and local dynamics.
Involving migrants and civil society in the preparation of contingency plans can be particularly useful. Migrants and civil society can identify circumstances where targeted approaches are necessary to address the specific needs of migrants, such as language requirements. Employers and recruitment and placement agencies should be involved in contingency plans for migrant workers and their families.
Regularly updating and testing contingency plans can also be helpful to identify gaps and weaknesses in actions towards migrants and to ensure those charged with protecting migrants have the authority and capacity to do so. Joint contingency planning between emergency response actors and those working primarily with migrant populations can facilitate resource sharing and common understanding of risks, migrant populations, and local infrastructure. Contingency plans can include a crisis management structure that identifies responsibilities of different actors.
- Multi-stakeholder contingency plans to share resources and capacities to assist migrants, including by undertaking multi-stakeholder asset mapping exercises.
- Crisis alert systems that monitor crises in host States and direct authorities to act based on the intensity of the crisis, such as obligation to evacuate migrants.
- Evacuation plans that set out clear rules and criteria for carrying out evacuations, such as document requirements and eligibility for evacuation.
- Emergency drills involving migrants to test contingency plans and identify obstacles and challenges.
- Inter-agency contingency plans that take into account migrants’ potential needs in crises.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society often work with fewer resources than required. Each of these stakeholders has unique skills, resources, and strengths. Working together to build partnerships, entering into agreements, and establishing routine coordination improves collective responses towards migrants, and prevents duplication of efforts. Such arrangements are best entered into before the next conflict or natural disaster, when stakeholders have the opportunity to anticipate challenges and leverage unique skills and strengths. Joint planning and coordination maximizes resources, improves the effectiveness of responses, and fosters trust between stakeholders. Involving migrants and civil society, who have first-hand knowledge of the specific needs and challenges faced by migrants, can improve the effectiveness of efforts to protect migrants in countries experiencing crises, including at the local, national, regional, or international levels.
These arrangements may relate to a range of activities relevant to the needs of migrants during the emergency phase and its aftermath—from collection of data to information sharing, consular services to identity assessments, awareness-raising to strategic communication plans, provision of humanitarian relief and services to referral systems, capacity-building to evacuation and reintegration assistance, and much more. This may include coordination and information sharing among anti-trafficking experts and humanitarian assistance providers to ensure screening for trafficking and referral to appropriate services. Additionally, by developing systems to identify refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless persons, States can better ensure that these persons are appropriately referred to the available refugee and other protection mechanisms.
Stakeholders can often arrange in advance key services and resources that will be in high demand when a crisis hits, including transportation, shelter, food, health care, and timely and accurate information. Establishing and maintaining clear channels of communication between consular posts and relevant agencies of the host State is important. Such channels of communication could prove critical during crisis situations.
- Pre-arranged agreements among stakeholders, such as agreements between States and international organizations for identity verification, shared use of assets, family tracing, and deployment of experts and humanitarian personnel.
- Multi-stakeholder agreements for relocation and evacuation that set out roles and responsibilities of partners and provide guidance on allocation of costs.
- Cross-border cooperation on crisis preparedness, taking into account particular needs of migrants, especially at a local level for communities that straddle borders.
- Reciprocal consular assistance and representation agreements to address gaps in situations where States do not have a diplomatic or consular presence in a country or have limited capacity
Limited resources, funding, and technical skills can all affect the robustness of emergency and post-crisis responses. Understanding and assessing these limitations is a critical first step towards overcoming them. Stakeholders’ investment in their own capacity to improve emergency response and post-crisis recovery for migrants is critical.
Capacity building may relate to such varied areas as consular services, training for responders, resource allocation, funding mechanisms, insurance schemes, relief goods and services, border and migration management, and relocation and evacuation. Many of these areas are relevant for both the emergency and post-crisis phases. Stakeholders should also consider addressing potential reintegration challenges for migrants, their families, and communities, facilitating re-employment, income generation, and safe remigration, and supporting migrants to access outstanding wages, assets, and property left in host States.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society should assist one another to build and improve their capacity to respond. Undertaking advocacy, monitoring and evaluations, raising awareness, conducting training, sharing information, building research and knowledge, and supporting and learning from each other all help to improve collective efforts to protect migrants.
- Training and capacity building of stakeholders, such as on effective ways to access migrants and identify vulnerability and needs.
- Dedicated funding to protect migrants, including budget lines, loans, and funding platforms.
- Referral mechanisms that map rosters of experts who can address diverse needs of different migrants.
- Peer-to-peer exchanges for capacity building and learning on tackling challenges associated with protecting migrants.
- Training for consular officials, such as on collecting information on citizens and crisis management, including evacuation.
- Monitoring and evaluation of crisis responses that includes analysis of responses towards migrants.
In the immediacy of a conflict or natural disaster, migrants, like many other affected populations, will seek to flee to safety by relocating within the host State to areas unaffected by the crisis, across borders to States of transit as a temporary haven, or back to States of origin. Normal immigration processes are disrupted by crises and States may need to clarify how disruptions affect such processes.
Migrants may need support to reach safety. Identity and travel documents can be destroyed, lost, or left behind in the chaos or intensity of a crisis. Some migrants, particularly victims of trafficking or migrants in other exploitative situations, may have had their identity and travel documents confiscated. Yet others may have arrived in the host State without authorization and never possessed valid documentation.
Access to valid identity and travel documents is crucial for migrants seeking to cross international borders to escape harm. Migrants may be required to present such documents in order to flee to safety within the host State or to obtain assistance. States of origin depend on identity and travel documents to determine citizenship and to assist citizens to evacuate or return to their homes.
Migrants seeking safety may face barriers in meeting visa requirements, securing immigration exit visas, paying immigration fees or penalties for overstay, and fulfilling entry requirements (particularly in States of transit). Migrants’ ability to move to safety may be limited by visa and work permits that restrict them to particular geographic areas or employers. Waiving restrictions or lifting penalties for violating restrictions during a conflict or natural disaster can help save lives and improve migrants’ access to help.
In addition to dangers in a crisis that prevent all affected populations from fleeing (insecure areas, blocked ports of exit, destroyed transportation infrastructure), migrants in detention are particularly vulnerable. If custodians of detention facilities flee their posts, migrant detainees may be unable to get out of harm’s way and access humanitarian assistance.
- Waivers or exceptions to exit, stay, and entry requirements.
- Timely issuance of laissez-passer and replacement of other identity and travel documents.
- Deployment of consular assistance teams to borders, airports, or other transit points.
- Provision of temporary or humanitarian protection status for migrants.
- Evacuation plans for detention facilities and migrant shelters.
- Advocacy with and among States on keeping borders open to facilitate movement to safety.
In the collective effort to protect migrants caught in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters, there is no greater imperative than to save lives and alleviate suffering. Humanitarian assistance should be provided to people affected by a conflict or a natural disaster, including migrants, on the basis of need, without discrimination, and regardless of immigration status, nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, or other differentiating characteristics.
Some migrants, just as with affected citizens, may need assistance to address their particular needs and circumstances. Domestic workers and others working in isolated conditions, migrants in an irregular immigration status, and migrants in detention may require specific assistance from States, international organizations, and civil society. Some migrants may be unwilling to leave host States due to incapacitating financial burdens; they may owe money to recruiters or employers. Others may lack access to the necessary financial resources to leave, because their wages are withheld, their employers are unable or unwilling to pay for their return, or they work in exploitative situations. Pregnant women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly may face mobility challenges.
Migrants’ needs will not remain static during the shifting dynamics of a crisis. Organized criminal networks may take advantage of marginalized migrants in a crisis, exacerbating their vulnerability. A change in circumstances in a migrant’s State of origin may compel some people to seek asylum rather than return. Stakeholders should ensure access to asylum procedures in the host State or States of transit. States may consider providing migrants temporary and other forms of humanitarian protection during or in response to a conflict or natural disaster.
- Displacement tracking mechanisms to identify migrant movements and needs.
- Tailored assistance to migrants that take into account needs that may arise from gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, or other characteristics.
- Assessment tools to determine migrant-specific vulnerability and needs, including specialized screening for indicators of human trafficking.
- Targeted action to protect migrant children, including unaccompanied and separated children, and children with parents in an irregular immigration status.
- Services to trace and reunify family members and identify remains and missing migrants.
- Mobile response teams to reach and provide assistance to affected migrants.
- Separation of immigration enforcement from access to humanitarian services to promote access to life-saving assistance especially for migrants who fear authorities.
- Mechanisms to recover outstanding wages.
Certain stakeholders have mandates and unique skills to address the needs of different migrants. Referral procedures can help access these skills for those with particular needs.
Child migrants, for example, benefit from the assistance of actors versed in children’s rights and protection, including dedicated focal points in governments. Interventions targeted at domestic workers or victims of trafficking may benefit from the knowledge and experience of advocates and specialists on those populations. Civil society, such as migrant, grass roots, and faith-based actors, may be best placed to access migrants in an irregular immigration status. Consular officers and some international organizations may have the authority and capacity to assess identities and issue identity and travel documents. Host State local and national actors are often best placed to provide necessary services and international humanitarian actors should strive to provide assistance through local and national systems.
Stakeholders should establish referral procedures to ensure that those responding to the needs of migrants refer refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons to national and international protection mechanisms for those populations.
- Identification and rapid assessment of migrants with specific needs who require referrals to services and assistance.
- Referral of refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons to relevant protection mechanisms.
- Deployment of experts to host States to identify, assess, and address needs of migrants.
- Referrals to international organizations and civil society with specialized experience assisting victims of trafficking, children, and other vulnerable migrants.