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Migration In the Caribbean: Current Trends, Opportunities And Challenges

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1. Introduction

1.1 Executive Summary

Main Findings of this Working Paper

• In 2007, the Caribbean emigration rate was four times higher than Latin America’s overall emigration rate. The Caribbean emigration rate has somewhat slowed, but the region nevertheless remains an area of net emigration. Guyana and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines show the strongest emigration movements: 9.65 and 9.6 per 1000 people respectively were emigrating in 2013. Of the countries included in this study, the only confirmed2 net recipients of migrants are Antigua and Barbuda and Suriname, with immigration rates of 2.23 and 0.57 per 1,000 respectively for 2013 (CIA World Factbook, 2015).

• In absolute terms, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti have the largest diaspora communities: over a million emigrants each, with most living in the United States (World Bank, 2015). Guyana and Haiti are, in absolute terms, the primary countries of origin of intraregional migrants. In relative terms, Guyana and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have the most emigrants. Respectively, the emigrant population is 58.2 per cent and 55.5 per cent the size of the population living at home (World Bank, 2015).

• Over half of total Caribbean migrants to the US, Europe, and Canada are women. Furthermore, migrants are predominantly of productive and reproductive age. Cubans form an exception – the largest group of Cuban migrants is aged 45 and over (Thomas-Hope, 2000).

• Most Caribbean States grant citizenship at birth (jus soli), but this right is restricted in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Suriname.

• The Caribbean islands are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events and global climate change – events and processes that can cause internal displacement and set in motion emigration processes. Haiti and the Dominican Republic are amongst the world’s countries most vulnerable to climate change: they occupy the third and eighth place on the Global Climate Risk Index (Kreft et al. 2015).

• In 2001, 59.5 per cent of Dominican Republic migrants in Spain were classified as unskilled3.
By 2010, this percentage had dropped to 44.6 per cent (CEPAL, 2011, p.53). The drop represents both stricter selection (IOM, 2012), as well as the increase of skilled migrants from the Dominican Republic. By 2009, there were 129,669 Dominicans living regularly in Spain (CEPAL, 2011).

• The number of work permits awarded by Spain decreased by 463 per cent between 2008 and 2010 (IOM, 2012); however, the number of Dominican Republic migrants travelling to the EU – mostly to Spain – only dropped by 38 per cent in the same period.

• A total of 64.7 per cent of the total diaspora community of the countries included in this study is registered as living in the United States, representing 9.3 per cent of the total US immigrant community. Suriname is an outlier with only 3 per cent of Surinamese emigrants living in the United States (World Bank, 2015).

• In 2000, Dominican Republic migrants in the United States were found to be twice as likely to be unemployed as United States citizens, to be earning 65 per cent of the average US income, and 28.3 per cent of them living in conditions of poverty (CEPAL, 2007). These figures may signal the existence of a significant gap in economic opportunities between migrants and US born population in the United States.

• Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are unique in that the proportion of their immigrants in high-end positions is higher than the proportion of local born. In Barbados 25.8 per cent of the local workforce holds a high-end position, against 28.4 per cent of immigrant workers. In Trinidad and Tobago, these figures are 21.7 per cent and 26.9 per cent respectively (Fraser and Uche, 2010).

• High immigration flows, together with high emigration flows, has radically changed the ethnic composition of Belize. In 1980, the Mestizo population represented 33.4 per cent of the population, with 40 per cent of the population being Creole. In 2000, the Mestizo population had increased to 50 per cent and the Creole population had diminished to 25 per cent (ILO et al., p.16).

• Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic contradicts a general tendency that Caribbean intraregional migrants possess secondary or even tertiary education (Fraser and Uche 2010).

• 37 per cent of female Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic is economically active, and over 50 per cent of Haitian immigrants has less than four years of formal education (ACP Observatory on Migration, 2014, p. 16).

• Haiti is the Caribbean country most dependant on remittances. In 2014, 21.1 per cent of its GDP was derived from remittances. Jamaica (15%) and Guyana (11%) follow (World Bank, 2015). In absolute amounts, the Dominican Republic receives most remittances:
USD 4.65 billion in 2014. The Dominican Republic is followed by Jamaica (USD 2.26 billion), and Haiti (USD 1.95 billion). Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Trinidad and Tobago are net senders of remittances.

• It is believed that remittance flows toward the Caribbean countries could be up to 50 per cent higher if the money sent through unofficial channels was accounted for (World Bank, 2015). The contribution of remittances to the GDP of most Caribbean states is increasing slightly over the years (ibid).

• Of the countries in this study, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominican Republic, Guyana,
Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago have specific anti-trafficking laws. Only Cuba,
Haiti, and Suriname have clauses in their legal framework that allow for the asylum of refugees. The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Suriname have legislation prohibiting the employment of immigrants in sectors that can be filled by the domestic labour market.

Key Trends Identified in this Working Paper

• Migration patterns from Latin America to Europe have always been driven by linguistic and colonial ties, but migration to Europe is no longer as significant as it once was. The exception is Spain, as it continues receiving immigrants from Latin America – including the Dominican Republic. In general, Europe has become the place for return migration, mostly of retirees and to a lesser extent of second generation migrants.

• In the 1960s the United States replaced Europe as main migrant destination, and remains the main destination for Caribbean migrants. Suriname forms an exception as it does not have a significant diaspora community or current migratory flows to the US. Canada is becoming increasingly popular for migrants from the English speaking Caribbean, and currently houses around 143,000 Jamaicans, 101,000 Guyanese, 76,000 Trinidadians and 11,000 Vincentians.

• Brazil has become a new destination for Haitian migrants. In 2013, the number of refugee applications increased by 600 per cent (Marcel and Stochero, 2013). The leading Brazilian presence in the UN mission in Haiti might be a reason (ibid).

• Historically, large economic projects or industry booms, such as the construction of the Panama Canal and the growing tourist or petrol industries in certain islands, have attracted Caribbean migrants overseas. It is expected that such future developments will continue to have similar pull-effects, especially impacting the smaller islands of the region (Thomas-Hope 2015).

• Although a number of Caribbean nations are evidently affected by epidemic amounts of violence – the Bahamas, Belize, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago all have murder rates of between 25 and 42/100,000 people (UNODC 2014) – its relation to migration has not been sufficiently investigated. Violence might play a significant part as a push factor.

• There is also a growing presence of extra-regional immigrants, mostly Asian and African, into the region, both regular and irregular. Approximately 200,000 Chinese nationals are smuggled into the region every year, accompanying the increasing economic relationships between CARICOM and China (ACP Observatory on Migration, 2014, p.15). Some extra-regional migrants intend to use the Caribbean as a transit region, while others intend to stay. There is a lack of in-depth studies on the topic.

• Return migration of retirees to the Caribbean is a trend that has gained force in recent years, with the return of a large number of migrants who left in the 1960s (CEPAL, 2012). Some Caribbean emigrants also return to the Caribbean for private education for their children, or are second-generation migrants. However, migrants from Cuba and Haiti tend to become long-term stay or permanent migrants, not opting for return.

• Environmental vulnerability, related to the depletion of local natural resources, extreme weather events, and global climate change, will play an ever increasing role in internal displacement and international migration in the Caribbean.

• Although unskilled labour migration still exceeds skilled migration, the proportion of skilled labour migration is increasing. There is a higher intensity of qualified migration in the Caribbean than in Latin America (IOM, 2012).

• There are three major irregular migration movements in the Caribbean:

»» transit region for South Americans, and to an ever increasing extent Africans and Asians;

»» intraregional irregular migration toward richer countries; and

»» irregular migration from the Caribbean to the United States.

➣➣It is suspected that the total size of irregular migration is exceeding the size of regular migration flows.

• There is great concern for the trafficking of especially minors and young women to islands with a large tourism industry (Thomas-Hope, 2005). This irregular migration flow is expected to continue for as long as anti-trafficking laws are not sufficiently implemented and enforced, and for as long as conditions in countries of origin do not improve.