Social Protection Support for Migrants in Times of Crisis – A Case of the OECS

Joint Press Release – The Caribbean has a long history of intra-regional movements for work, trade, leisure and following the impact of crisis, particularly in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States region (OECS). The displacement of 20% of the population of the island of Saint-Vincent from their homes following the eruption of La Soufrière is a stark reminder of the disruption that disasters can have on the lives of people in affected countries. Many concerned Vincentians chose to remain on the island, but nearby islands were open to receive displaced people. Other countries have experienced similar challenges, such as Dominica, where the devastation caused by Category 5 Hurricane Maria in 2017 left some people with no choice but to flee the country in search of food, shelter and work.

While OECS citizens enjoy free movement within the sub-region, in times of crisis, when people have lost everything, receiving assistance in another country through national welfare systems remains a challenge. In many countries, foreigners face restrictions limiting access to social protection schemes and benefits on the same basis as nationals. The OECS Commission continues to provide ongoing training to build the capacity of border officials to receive displaced persons. In 2020 and 2021, border officials from OECS Member States received training on managing cross-border movement during disasters. In addition, the OECS Commission has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to produce a toolkit on social protection response in emergencies.

With the frequency and intensity of climate-related shocks set to worsen in the Caribbean, climate- and disaster-related migration and displacement are becoming increasingly of concern to policy makers, raising questions about how to meet the critical needs of non-citizens in times of crisis. . The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the United Nations World Food Program collaborated to produce a report on the use of social protection in response to shocks in the Eastern Caribbean, with a focus on migration and displacement.

The new report provides an analysis of the regional social protection policy framework in the context of migration and displacement and identifies key challenges and gaps for non-nationals in accessing social support programs in the context of emergencies. Drawing on this analysis, the report identifies opportunities and offers recommendations for national and regional policy makers to strengthen migrants’ access to social protection. It also examines the risk management strategies that migrants face when faced with natural hazards and economic shocks in a foreign country. The recommendations build on lessons learned from national responses within the OECS to hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight the importance of policy and institution building, data management and monitoring. information, programs and delivery systems, and funding.

Among the main recommendations of the report is the development of standardized registration tools for people displaced by shocks when they arrive in another country and for referral to services, including social protection. Other proposed actions include the implementation of awareness campaigns for migrants and vulnerable groups focusing on legal protection and rights, education and medical care. At the regional level, the report highlights the need for policies that support diaspora remittances with reduced transfer costs, as well as exploring options to support migrant social protection through funding agencies. international.

The report was produced with the support of the United Nations Joint Fund for the SDGs. The program aims to reduce poverty and inequality and build people’s resilience through adaptive and universal social protection.

Joel C. Hicks