Organised crime displacement

The third strand of the ‘Pushing the Boundaries’ project develops a novel line of investigation on forced displacement generated by organized crime, which is a little-studied and poorly understood phenomenon.

Nonetheless, forced displacement is again ubiquitous across Mesoamerica. Three decades after the political turmoil, civil wars and refugee flows of the 1980s, a new wave of displaced persons is sweeping the region. Across the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and in their powerful northern neighbour – Mexico, the violence of organized criminal groups has produced an epidemic of forcible displacement. Personal histories of recent dislocation – and those of family and friends – are recounted across society: from smart upmarket cafes of the wealthy elite to the dusty pulperías (corner stores) of remote and humble colonias (neighbourhoods). There are few whose lives have not been touched in one way or another by this powerful new dynamic of population movement.

Research

This strand of the project draws on field research carried out by the PI across the countries of Central America and Mexico (Spring 2013) to analyse the broad dynamics of this alarming new wave of forced displacement sweeping El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America – and Mexico. It focuses specifically on the role played by three of the main types of organized criminal groups in the region – mara street gangs, Central American drug transporters, and Mexican drug cartels – in provoking this displacement. Consideration is devoted to the implications for scholarship and humanitarian practice of this new wave.

This novel research was first published as a journal article, which was made open access with special funding from the School of Advanced Study. It is cited as the most read article in this journal, and has been widely drawn upon in subsequent academic studies and practitioner reports of the topic and in news media. This included presenting the research at a special expert meeting of humanitarian organisations from across Latin America on ‘Respuestas desde el campo humanitario a la violencia armada no convencional en México y Centroamérica’ convened in Antigua, Guatemala, in April 2014 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). The PI has also given a number of media interviews and been cited in a wide range of resulting media sources based on this analysis.

Within this strand, a closed expert workshop on ‘Los Grupos Criminales Organizados y la Nueva Ola de Desplazamiento Forzado en América Latina’ was also convened jointly by the RLI and – with the much-appreciated collaboration of Professor Mauricio Gaborit - the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador, in May 2014, with support from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This was the first time that academic and practitioner experts from all across Latin America had gathered to present, share and debate their findings and analyses in their respective countries. It was followed by an RLI panel at the July 2014 IASFM conference in Bogotá, Colombia, on ‘The New Frontier: Organised Crime and Forced Migration in Mexico’ as part of Thematic Track 3 – Forced Migration in the context of Peace.

As well as a conference report for the 2014 RLI/UCA expert workshop, an edited volume resulted co-edited by the PI, along with N. Rodríguez Serna, titled ‘Organised Crime and Forced Migration in Contemporary Latin America’, which includes two substantive chapters by the PI.

The 2014 RLI/UCA expert workshop also adopted recommendations that fed into the new 10-year plan of action on refugees in Latin America. As part of this Cartagena+30 process, in July 2014, they were presented to governments at the Mesoamerican consultation in Managua, Nicaragua, by the PI and adopted by that meeting for transmission to the Plenary. Many were incorporated into the December 2014 Brazil Declaration and Plan of Action as the basis for the resulting programmes in the chapter dealing with displacement due to organised crime from the Northern Triangle of Central America, the first time any such instrument has even made reference to the theme.

As follow-up, the PI then presented recommendation on the implementation of these programmes in the March 2015 Seminario de Planificación ‘La Declaración y el Plan de Acción de Brasil: el reto de su implementación’, organised by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL) and UNHCR in San Remo, Italy, which was attended by many of the Latin American governments participating in the Cartagena+30 process.

The main outputs from this strand include:

Edited Volumes
2015 Organised Crime and Forced Migration in Contemporary Latin America, co-edited with N. Rodríguez (ILAS Publications, University of London) (manuscript in preparation) (in English and Spanish) [OA]

Journal Articles
2014 ‘The New Wave: Forced Displacement Caused by Organised Crime in Central America and Mexico’  33(3) Refugee Survey Quarterly 34 [OA]

Book Chapters
2015 ‘International Protection of Persons Displaced by Organised Crime: Latin American Legal and Policy Frameworks’ in D.J. Cantor and N. Rodríguez (eds.), Organised Crime and Forced Migration in Contemporary Latin America (ILAS Publications, University of London) (manuscript in preparation) (in English and Spanish), jointly with N. Rodríguez Serna (under review) [OA]

2015 ‘El crimen organizado como causante de migraciones forzadas en Mesoamérica’ in D.J. Cantor and N. Rodríguez (eds.), Organised Crime and Forced Migration in Contemporary Latin America (ILAS Publications, University of London) (manuscript in preparation) (in English and Spanish) (under review) [OA]

2015 ‘Introducción: El Crimen como un Factor de Expulsión en América Latina’ in D.J. Cantor and N. Rodríguez (eds.), Organised Crime and Forced Migration in Contemporary Latin America (ILAS Publications, University of London) (manuscript in preparation) (in English and Spanish), jointly with N. Rodríguez Serna (under review) [OA]

Policy publications
2014 Comments to Sub-regional meeting of Mesoamerican States on Proposals for Cartagena+30 Framework

Research aids
2014 ‘Gangs: The Real Humanitarian Crisis Driving Central American Children to the US’, blog piece published on The Conversation website (http://theconversation.com/gangs-the-real-humanitarian-crisis-driving-central-american-children-to-the-us-30672)

2014 ‘The New Wave: Organized Crime and Displacement in Mexico and Central America’, blog published on InSightCrime: Organized Crime in the Americas website (joint authors) (http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/organized-crime-and-displacement-in-mexico-and-central-america)

2014 Los Grupos Criminales Organizados y la Nueva Ola de Desplazamiento Forzado en América Latina (Workshop Report; joint authors)

Papers presented
2015 ‘Principios Rectores - Solidaridad con el Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica’, paper presented at the Seminario de Planificación “La Declaración y el Plan de Acción de Brasil 2015-2024: el reto de su implementación”, International Institute of Humanitarian Law, San Remo, Italy

2014 ‘Beyond Kids at the Border: Understanding a Regional Crisis’, keynote presentation of international webinar organised by Asylum Access, USA

2014 ‘Organised Criminal Groups and New Patterns of Forced Migration in Mexico’, paper presented on the Refugee Law Initiative Panel at the IASFM Annual Conference in Bogotá, Colombia

2014 ‘Organised Crime in Mesoamerica and the New Wave of Forced Displacement’, paper presented on the UNHCR Panel at the IASFM Annual Conference in Bogotá, Colombia

2014 ‘Organised Crime and the New Challenges for Refugee Law in Latin America’, paper presented at Mesoamerican sub-regional meeting of States for Cartagena+30, Managua, Nicaragua

2014 ‘Patterns of Forced Displacement in Mesoamerica: Acknowledging the Agency of Organised Criminal Groups’, paper at the RLI/UCA expert workshop on Los Grupos de Crimen Organizado y la Nueva Dinámica de Migración Forzada en América Latina, Universidad Centroaméricana “José Simeón Canas”, El Salvador

2014 ‘Challenges for Refugee Law and Policy of the New Displacement caused by Organised Criminal Groups’, joint paper at the RLI/UCA expert workshop on Los Grupos de Crimen Organizado y la Nueva Dinámica de Migración Forzada en América Latina, Universidad Centroaméricana “José Simeón Canas”, El Salvador

2014 ‘El crimen organizado y la nueva ola del desplazamiento en México y Centroamérica’, paper presented at SSRC/OCHA closed expert workshop on Respuestas desde el campo humanitario a la violencia armada no convencional en México y Centroamérica, Antigua, Guatemala.

2013 ‘Gangs, Cartels and the New Dynamics of Forced Displacement in Latin America’, paper presented at the 4th International Refugee Law Seminar Series, Refugee Law Initiative, University of London, UK