The “Migrant Seal” in Quilicura, a local outlook at immigration in Chile

08/03/2018 - María Jesús Mella Guzmán, analyst in Politics and International Affairs at the University of Santiago de Chile (USACH)

Quilicura has become a structural destination for immigrants in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago de Chile. This fact has reshaped the cultural, social and institutional landscape of the district. The high concentration of Haitian citizens and the significant presence of Palestinian refugees differentiate it from other towns, since the policies that must be implemented inevitably face this cultural challenge. In this context, it seems pertinent to delve into the measures that are being taken at the local government level to address immigration from a rights-based approach.

In 2015, for the first time, the Ministry of Internal Affairs recognized the work carried out by the municipality in favor of its foreign population, due to its intercultural perspective. The recognition came in the form of the “Migrant Seal” to Quilicura. The goal of this official certification of the Government of Chile is to create and/or strengthen the municipal institutions that are necessary to execute plans, programs and projects aimed at the attention and inclusion of the migrant population. These capacities are certified by the Immigration Department, an entity that supports and guides the creation of community bureaus for these purposes.

Among the actions implemented, the elaboration of a diagnosis of the migratory reality of the municipality stands out. This first step is essential to have reliable information as accurately as possible. Based on this analysis, Quilicura’s Plan for the Reception and Recognition of Migrants and Refugees was elaborated, including the obtained information, the identification of critical nodes, action plans and possible local policies to be implemented. The focus areas were: education, work, housing and neighborhood conviviality.

In the field of education, campaigns are carried out to raise awareness among the school community about the rights and reality of migrants and refugees, including screenings of documentaries that show the contribution of migrants to the communities of destination and children in the communities. Schools also established the so-called “fellow tutors”, who are in charge of supporting the children of immigrants.

In terms of work, training programs were devised with funding from the National Training and Employment Service (SENCE), specifically aimed at migrants and refugees. The initiative also featured Spanish courses and labor guidance in the context of the productive needs of the municipality and the Metropolitan region. The definition of training courses was based on job offers present in Quilicura.

As for the housing and conviviality axis, the creation of a unit within the municipality that acts as guarantor of the leases of immigrants can be highlighted, as well as the program “Cultural Outings”. The latter had the goal of showing immigrants the historical places of the region. Other activities included free-of-charge workshops in grammar, orthography and Chilean culture with audiovisual tools and bibliographic material, as well as intercultural and neighborhood mediation programs.

The assessment of these policies was carried out through human rights indicators; structural indicator, process indicator and results indicator. It is possible to recognize the efforts of Chile to contribute in a practical way to local governments in the formulation and implementation of an institutional framework that welcomes immigrants, fosters their inclusion and participation in the processes that involve them directly. Likewise, the Seal has favored that the implemented programs generate a real impact on the migrant population, such as more schooling, official certificates of Spanish workshops, insertion in the labor market of the municipality, and a better understanding of the functioning of public services. This impact has occurred at all levels, from children to women. It is worth mentioning the gender focus of all initiatives, which sought to support this segment of the most vulnerable migrant population to a greater extent.

Finally, after an evaluation of the policies that eventually promoted the Migrant Seal to the municipality of Quilicura, the conclusion is that they were devised with a rights-based approach, complying with the three indicators that have been used for their evaluation. In turn, the “Sello Migrante” recognition has contributed to forge the foundations of a new form of reception for immigrants from the perspective of local governments, giving due importance to public policies implemented at the municipal level and to the coordination that should take place between the State and the municipalities.

Read the other articles of Health to the South – March issue