Programme to Canada Assists More than 12,000 Guatemalans

(Source: OIM-Guatemala)

GUATEMALA – IOM-Managed Temporary Labour Migration Programme to Canada Assists More than 12,000 Guatemalans- The IOM Labour Migration Programme from Guatemala to Canada, which began in 2003 with 215 workers, recently assisted the 12,000th participant. Since 2003, the programme has become a success with employers as well as Guatemalans signing up to participate.

In 2009 a total of 3,858 labour migrants worked travelled to Canada with IOM assistance to work on 341 farms. Stefan Mantsch, Manager of the IOM Labour Migration Programme in Guatemala, says, “This time of year is high season for employer requests. We receive an average of 10 requests daily. This year we will easily surpass our target of helping 4,000 persons to travel to Canada. IOM provides technical assistance to the Guatemalan Government, carries out field recruitment for new participants, conducts fit for work evaluations, helps new recruits prepare the necessary documents and other requirements for travel to Canada, arranges for medical clearance, provides pre-departure orientation sessions, arranges flights, and provides assistance at the airport. Mantsch adds, “This is a very dynamic programme driven by requests from employers.

From the moment IOM receives a request from an employer to the time the workers are on the plane bound for Canada is an average of 15 days.” Some 90 per cent of participants work in the agricultural sector, but the programme has expanded to include poultry, construction, dairy, landscaping, and laundry services. At a recent field recruitment exercise in the village of Panabajal, more than 120 new applicants were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the IOM team that would check documents and perform a series of aptitude tests. Mantsch explains as a group of four migrants complete a numeracy and literacy test, “We need to have workers in our database who are tested and ready to go so we can respond quickly to the employers’ requests.”

Forty-four year old Juan Chan Matzer has travelled to Canada three consecutive years. He’s hoping his Canadian employer will request his service again in 2010 so he can accomplish some unmet goals, although he has managed to buy land and a car. The vast majority of participants tell IOM they invest their earnings buying land, building or enlarging their home, and providing a higher level of education for their children.

The programme began in 2003 after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between IOM Guatemala and the Fondation des Entreprises en Recrutement de Main-d’ uvre agricole Étrangère (FERME), an employer association in Montreal that represents hundreds of employers and coordinates the seasonal hiring of temporary migrant workers in the Province of Québec. But today IOM also receives request from employers in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia.

The success of the Programme is also measured in the very low drop-out rates: only 2.5% of participants do not finish their contracts, and the rate of non-return stands at 0.2%. The agreement stipulates that all migrants must return to their country of origin at the end of their contracts, which range between four and six months, and provide coverage under Canadian labour laws.


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