The closure of international borders that has occurred in much of the world to contain the Covid-19 pandemic has had economic and social consequences that have affected the world’s population in many ways. In this context, women, girls and migrants are the most vulnerable groups and, therefore, the most exposed to insecurity and criminal violence.
Although this is a growing trend, according to the latest annual reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), the arrival of Covid-19 has led to a significant increase in trafficking people for sexual exploitation, as well as trafficking in migrant women and girls in the region.
In times of health emergency, border violence – militarization, insecurity in crossing areas or gender violence – as well as internal and / or local recruitment dynamics – perpetrated by gangs with varying degrees of organizational complexity – are demonstrations evidence of human commodification through smuggling and trafficking This, in turn, has been fueled by the deepening of a pre-existing complex socio-economic crisis in most Latin American countries.
Violent borders in the southern cone
Violence in its various forms is a structural phenomenon in Latin America. With 8% of the world’s population, the region is one of the most violent in the world, home to 41 of the 50 cities with the highest homicide rates in the world. Within this framework, borders play a key role in criminal violence, which in most cases is the result of interactions in organized crime.
Border regions are poorly controlled by states and are focal points for criminal violence. There, different types of transnational crimes converge, such as drug trafficking or the smuggling of weapons, wildlife or people, which tend to be juxtaposed, generating different manifestations and degrees of violence.
According to the Atlas of Violence (2018), Latin America has 36 borders and 155 border points, of which 30% have epidemic death rates. Several of them are concentrated in Central America (Guatemala-Honduras, Guatemala-El Salvador and El Salvador-Honduras) and in certain South American countries, such as the correspondents between Colombia and Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil , Colombia and Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, and Paraguay and Brazil.
In all of these cases, border violence is often motivated by drug trafficking and the expansion of transnational criminal organizations. These, in turn, converge at borders, diversifying their lucrative illicit activities through other crimes, such as human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, especially women.
Some of South America’s borders with the greatest criminal violence, including the sale of people, mostly Venezuelans, to Trinidad and Tobago, are the Delta Amacuro, human trafficking from Zulia to Colombia, the Aguas Blancas-Bermejo passage in Argentina or Rumichaca in Colombia.
Other cases include trafficking in women on the triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay and migrant smuggling networks that link criminal organizations in Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago with police and collusion. policy of both countries.
In this context, migrant women and girls are the main victims of physical and psychological abuse and human rights violations. However, in this scenario, the border management policies of the countries concerned are often only halfway, or dysfunctional or even non-existent.
The South American Breach
Irregular migration across international borders is a phenomenon about which little is known. In fact, official statistics – based mainly on the number of arrivals and / or migrants detained at the border – are limited.
Due to its nature and its dynamics (routes, authors, modus operandi), it is often juxtaposed with the crime of trafficking in human beings, when in reality they are distinct, although linked phenomena.
In addition to the limited knowledge, most reports tend to focus on Central America and Mexico, leaving the rest of the region in the background. Therefore, the smuggling of migrants in South America is a latent phenomenon, but very little known, as the true extent of the problem or the level of lethality involved in crossing illegal roads is unknown.
We do not even have a reliable knowledge of these routes or the profiles of victims and facilitators / perpetrators of irregular migration. Therefore, there is a need to generate more knowledge on migrant smuggling in South America, in order to define comprehensive policies that facilitate cooperation in terms of border security and information exchange, while respecting human rights. of man.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima
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