Swisscontact at the forefront of preventing Irregular Migration and Supporting Returned Migrants.

Luis Fernando02.04.2024
Swisscontact leads social and labor integration of returned migrants in Guatemala, we offer sustainable solutions to irregular migration. Skills development, psychosocial support, coaching, certification and much more for a promising future.

Irregular migration poses economic, social and political challenges that unfortunately affect Guatemala and many other countries. Every year, thousands of individuals are forced to leave their homeland in search of a better horizon, facing dangers and uncertain circunstances along the way. Approximately 75,000 people are returned to Guatemala annually from countries such as the United States and Mexico, (375,000 in the last five years, according to IGM, 2024), underscoring the magnitude of this challenge and the urgency of addressing it. Preventing migration involves the implementation of measures and policies aimed at comprehensively addressing the underlying causes that drive people to leave their country in search of a future with greater opportunities for personal and family development.

Against this backdrop, since 2016 Swisscontact has been offering practical solutions and support for returnees to achieve their reintegration into society and the Guatemalan labor market and in El Salvador. Recognizing the potential of these returnees for local growth, we seek to leverage their skills as a source of income.

"So far in 2024, we have delivered more than 30 certifications endorsed by the Technical Institute of Training and Productivity (Intecap), which will allow returnees to undertake or integrate into the labor market," says Joel Peñate, Coordinator of the NUOP Guatemala project.

But with New Opportunities, migrants not only obtain certification of the skills acquired abroad, but also get support for business incubation and technical assistance for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), thus ensuring a comprehensive and sustainable reintegration.

Solutions adapted to the reality of this population

It is essential to understand that returned migrants face significant challenges upon returning to their countries of origin, such as lack of income, social disconnection in their community and difficulty adapting to a different environment. However, many of them return with technical skills or ventures developed abroad, without knowing how to apply them in their homeland. In this context, Swisscontact plays a key role by offering certifications in a variety of areas, ranging from construction to gourmet cooking, providing concrete opportunities for job reintegration and entrepreneurship.

It should be noted that studies on migration ensure that migrants return to the same locality from which they departed to their international destination. This has led to the perception that return is an integral part of the process (IDB 2019), marking, what could be called the end of people's migration project; seen this as the return to their place of origin (generally permanently), with the purpose of reintegrating into the local dynamics.

Facilitating people in these circumstances to establish trusting relationships and open up to receiving support to reintegrate into daily life is a complex process that requires an in-depth analysis of the social and labor reinsertion that Swisscontact has been carrying out over the last six years. Guatemala is undoubtedly one of the countries with the largest number of migrants in the United States, Mexico and Canada. Faced with this challenge, we offer, through New Opportunities, the certification of skills acquired abroad, as well as support for the development of entrepreneurship and technical advice for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), thus ensuring a comprehensive and sustainable reintegration.

"The New Opportunities Project has facilitators in the field, who provide detailed information about the project and how it contributes to the integral wellbeing of returned migrants, in addition to promoting the certification of labor competencies. We are in the process of training six cohorts in entrepreneurship simultaneously in Totonicapán and Quetzaltenango," said Joel Peñate, Coordinator of the NUOP Guatemala project.

Support customized to the needs of migrants

Many returning migrants come back with technical skills or ventures developed abroad, but do not know how to apply them in their homeland. This is where Swisscontact plays a key role by offering certifications (and re-qualification) in a variety of areas, from construction to gourmet cooking, providing tangible opportunities for job reintegration and entrepreneurship such as:

  • Drywall and Ceiling Panel Installer.
  • Carpenter
  • Ceramic floor and tile installer
  • Electrician of popular type housing
  • Industrial electrician
  • Metal Structural Welder
  • Construction Worker
  • Landscape Planter
  • Everyday Cook
  • Gourmet Cook
  • Acrylic Nail Sculptor
  • Automotive straightening and painting, among others.

New perspectives for human mobility in the region

Swisscontact, aware of the importance of addressing the root causes of irregular migration, is also involved in prevention efforts through its participation in innovative programs designed to improve economic opportunities in the country. In 2024, it launched the new Perspectives for Returnees through Social and Professional Integration program, which seeks to offer viable and sustainable alternatives to migration, focusing on the social and professional integration of people in mobility situations.

Initiatives such as the improvement of interpersonal skills, psychosocial support, vocational training, community engagement, leadership and participation are key to social reintegration. In parallel, economic reintegration services such as skills certification, re-qualification, skills upgrading, financial education, job brokering/coaching, business model incubation and business acceleration are being considered.

By highlighting Swisscontact's work and achievements in Guatemala, it becomes evident the positive impact that a community and individual-oriented intervention can have on the lives of migrant returnees and irregular migrants. The institution remains committed to its mission to facilitate the effective and sustainable reintegration of returned migrants into their communities, demonstrating that, with the right support, it is possible to overcome the challenges of irregular migration and build a brighter future for all.

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras
Perspectives for Returnees through Social and Professional Integration
This programme aims to improve the social and occupational integration of migrants who have returned to their home countries and individuals vulnerable to irregular migration.