Security, reconstruction and peace

Joining forces for integration

How can migrants and refugees be integrated in a sustainable way? New strategies to address this are being developed in Mexico.

© UNHCR

Together with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), GIZ is working around the world to combine acute humanitarian aid with development cooperation. In Mexico, the joint work is special – cooperation between the international organisations makes it possible to redefine integration and put it into practice in order to promote lasting peace. 

Almost 80 million people are living in displacement – more than one per cent of the world population, according to the latest report from the UNHCR. This is more people than ever before. These are refugees who travel thousands of kilometres, enduring extremely arduous journeys to find protection from war, violence and displacement, along with migrants in search of better living conditions. The situation is emotional and tense as prospects are uncertain in most cases. In Central America alone, hundreds of thousands of people flee their home country. Mexico, as an increasingly important host country, grants asylum to many of the refugees and also provides migrants with an attractive place to live. At the same time, integration poses major challenges: how can it be achieved?

Innovative ideas and long-lasting solutions are called for, as Mexico is also faced with major social and economic challenges arising from the coronavirus pandemic. A joint project by UNHCR and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has set itself the goal of giving refugees and migrants prospects and strengthening Mexican host communities at the same time. The project commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is part of the Tackling the Root Causes of Displacement, Reintegrating Refugees special initiative. It supports UNHCR with mobilising development stakeholders and contributing to the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018, the compact aims to improve and further develop international protection for refugees. In this context, the concept of the nexus (Latin for ‘connection’) of humanitarian aid, development and peace (humanitarian-development-peace (HDP) nexus) is seen as groundbreaking. Thus, in addition to acute aid measures, solutions are developed that contribute to sustainable integration and thus promote peace. This three-pronged approach provides a platform for better coordinating various stakeholders and aid measures, pooling their services and thus creating a reliable aid network. UNHCR and GIZ, as international partners, show how this principle can be implemented in practice in Mexico. This type of collaboration serves as a model for improving refugee protection and meeting the increasingly complex demands of aid measures. 

© UNHCR

Recognising needs and thinking holistically

When refugees and migrants arrive in southern Mexico, they are first registered in the system. In the past, this registration system could take up to 30 days. Now, thanks to optimised bureaucratic processes, it can be done within 24 hours. The improved registration processes relieve the burden on the municipalities, but above all on the people themselves and create a sense of security. The quicker the registration, the sooner they will receive reliable information on whether they will be granted asylum or another residence permit. After that, UNHCR targets some of the refugees and asylum seekers for resettlement in the central, economically strong states, where there are more opportunities to find work and thus better chances of successful integration. ‘UNHCR's humanitarian expertise and GIZ's experience in local integration complement each other perfectly and create an enabling environment for inclusion and integration,’ explains Alexander Taha, project coordinator at UNHCR Mexico. A stable network of local stakeholders can be built up more quickly thanks to GIZ and its existing connections to the Mexican Government. 

This is necessary, because the situation is challenging for Mexican society as a whole. A concept is thus being developed at the economic, cultural and social level that includes all vulnerable migrant groups as well as Mexicans from host communities. This concept is taking shape with involvement from and in collaboration with local government, civil society and the private sector. Thanks to its long-standing experience in community development, GIZ can provide crucial advice to local stakeholders on how to better integrate refugees and migrants into the labour market and cultural life. The HDP nexus therefore combines acute humanitarian aid with long-term development cooperation and peacebuilding. ‘The partnership between UNHCR and GIZ in Mexico is a great opportunity to test out what form the nexus of humanitarian aid, development and peace can take in displacement contexts. The Global Compact on Refugees stresses that long-lasting solutions for refugees can be better achieved when different stakeholders work together. This is precisely the path we are following in Mexico,’ says Taha.

© UNHCR

Meeting challenges together and sharing knowledge 

The project is operating in a total of eight countries worldwide. Mexico is seen as a pioneer in the further development of long-lasting solutions towards successful integration. Mauritania joined last year, and the experience gained from the close cooperation in Mexico is put to direct use there: employees from the two organisations have been working closely together since the start of the project planning stage and it is obvious that only by working together will we be able to approach the ambitious goal of improving the lives of all those in need of protection who are forced to leave their homes – whether that involves building infrastructure, counselling or integration. Working together helps to broaden the impact of UNHCR and GIZ. Successful approaches and findings can therefore be used across organisations and countries and thus reach more people. 

Last updated: January 2021