Gloria Rendón Toro

Gloria Rendón Toro has acted as an expert for several MIEUX Actions in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, she is part of the team working on Costa Rica III, an Action aimed at reviewing the current Protocol for Special Migration Situations. She is based in Barcelona where she coordinates the City Council’ s Service Centre for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees.

In this edition of Expertise, she shares with us some reflections about her recent mission, the complexity and multidimensional nature of migration and how signing up as an expert for MIEUX has helped her to renew her approach to day-to-day work.

MIEUX: As one of the experts involved in the new Costa Rica III Action, you recently travelled to the Northern and Southern border regions of Costa Rica to undertake an assessment of the needs and challenges faced by the personnel of the Special Migration Situations Team (ESME) in their everyday work. Can you give us three highlights from the trip?

There would be many more things to mention, but for the purposes of this article, here are my top three:

First of all, in Costa Rica, I was able to verify a phenomenon that replicates itself on a global scale: the resilience and strength of migrants and refugees. I saw their desire to succeed despite the negative experiences they have lived through. This made me reflect on the importance of putting human life above all else and not forgetting that it should be everyone's responsibility to avoid more suffering.

Secondly, it’s worth mentioning the flows of Asian and African migrants and refugees who have been making their way to the United States and Canada for years. These flows are not very visible but nevertheless constant across Central and South America.

Last but not least, the conversations we held with public officials, civil society and migrants reaffirmed the importance of developing migration policies through a multidimensional and multilevel approach to address more diverse and complex migration challenges, as the Government of Costa Rica is striving to do.

MIEUX: Costa Rica is dealing with an upsurge in volumes of transit migration flows since 2014. Can you assess the similarities and contrasts between the approach that Costa Rica is following in dealing with this phenomenon and what we have experienced in Europe since 2015?

Expressed in terms of comparative percentages, Costa Rica is the country in the region that receives more migrants, both permanent and transit, and the government is managing the inflows through a comprehensive approach to human rights. In times of unexpected increases, as in 2015, they tried to react quickly, providing access to basic public services such as healthcare. 

Unlike Europe, Costa Rica does not have a long historical trajectory of housing migrants from outside the American continent and is making concerted efforts to face this new reality, recognising that some migrants are in transit but others will stay and that programmes and projects need to be defined to address this trend. I admire the efforts that Costa Ricans are making, and how at the same time they are aware of the limitations, threats and difficulties to address issues such as border enforcement, achievement of equality for all immigrants and recognition of social and cultural diversity in all areas.

MIEUX: Faced with the difficulties in dealing with smuggling and THB, what is the relevance of a revised Protocol for the ESME? What do you hope to contribute through your involvement with this technical assistance?

The Government of Costa Rica has requested that we work together to improve the Protocol for Special Migration Situations, prioritizing among others: smuggling of migrants, trafficking in human beings, refugees, migrants at risk, shipwrecks, and health-related crises. These issues are relevant given the novelty and complexity of some situations. During our first visit [an assessment mission] we have learned from one another and from hereinafter we will share knowledge and experiences that feed into future protocols that are realistic and appropriate to their context and resources. 

MIEUX: You have been involved in several MIEUX Actions in the past. Thinking of those peers who are thinking of signing up as experts to technical assistance missions abroad but have not yet made the leap, could you name three benefits derived from this sort of work?

First, migration issues are increasingly important in the context of public policies. Sometimes daily routines hinder our ability to see that many of the challenges we face are common with those of other professionals and that our experience can help newcomers to face new situations or to address them with a fresh perspective. Second, the answers to the challenges posed by migration are not just procedures to copy and paste. By participating in MIEUX Actions I have worked in other contexts; this has prompted me to raise more questions, but also prompted new proposals to improve the projects in which I work every day. Third, on a personal level, unquestionably, my respect, recognition and adaptation to different contexts have improved as well the ability to see the bigger picture beyond the everyday details of my job, so that the “wood does not prevent me from seeing the tree”.


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