Comprehensive protection for people on the move in Guatemala

Strengthening protection of people on the move: Implementing a pilot strategy for the integration of refugees and returned people.
Good Practices

Comprehensive protection for people on the move in Guatemala

Strengthening protection of people on the move: Implementing a pilot strategy for the integration of refugees and returned people.

The project in brief

The project is implemented by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) - the Swiss Cooperation Office for Central America. It started in January 2021 and was completed in December 2023. 

The aim of the project was to strengthen the capacity of the church protection network in Guatemala to provide humanitarian services to mixed migratory flows according to their specific needs, thus alleviating their suffering. A pilot strategy for the socio-labor integration of refugees, asylum seekers, and/or deportees was launched. Alliances were formed with public, private and civil society actors to create employment opportunities for them.

The goal of the good practice was to achieve the socio-labor integration of refugees, asylum seekers or deportees. To this end, a strategy was developed to promote access to training, employment and self-employment, and the formation of associative initiatives to identify and implement income-generating activities with the provision of inputs and/or seed capital.

Main activities of the Good Practice

The intention was to establish agreements/alliances with public, private and civil society actors with whom letters of agreement or cooperation agreements were signed for the creation of opportunities and access to employment for refugees, asylum seekers or deportees. On the other hand, a self-employment experience was promoted; in this sense, the project provided a certain amount of funds for seed capital for the participants.

The main activities included:

  • Development of a pilot strategy for the socio-labor integration of people on the move (refugees, deportees) and its implementation plan.

  • Establishing agreements/alliances with public, private and civil society actors to manage opportunities for access to employment opportunities.

  • Holding meetings with the Ministry of Labor, the National Migration Institute, the National Registry of Persons, for the issuance of the Personal Identity Document (DPI) for refugees and deportees for their job placement.

Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice

  • Having the budget to support these initiatives and be able to provide the seed capital that allowed beneficiaries to start their small businesses or income-generating initiatives.

  • The groundwork done by the partner has been a fundamental facilitating factor:

    • The partner has a protection network consisting of 17 centers of attention (shelters, safe houses, information and counselling offices) distributed in different places of the country, which are reference points for refugees, refugee seekers or deportees, as well as different organizations that refer them to some of the points of the network.

    • The partner has offices for the care of migrant families. These are offices where people are helped to locate their relatives who have migrated if they have lost contact. When they return, they are sent to the offices for reintegration assistance.

    • The partner's direct work with churches and communities, where needs are also identified.

Partners involved

What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?


  • In Guatemala, the legal procedures for applying for asylum and obtaining work permits are bureaucratic and time-consuming, creating a significant barrier for refugees to find employment.
  • There are few stable employment opportunities at the national level, and refugees or returnees are completely dependent on the support provided by the project due to a lack of professional networks.
  • It has been observed that discrimination against refugees and stigmatization of returnees affect the perception of workers, limiting employment opportunities for this population.

How they were overcome

  • Refugee applicants receive legal advice and assistance from the organization's specialized staff. Regular meetings are held to follow up on each case as needed.
  • The project works to raise awareness among the population in the host communities as well as among potential employers.
  • The project includes a self-employment strategy so that refugees can develop their own income-generating initiatives.

Results of the Good Practice

  • Participants in entrepreneurship initiatives have increased their income.
  • Women with children have improved their diets because having an income helps them to feed their children better; in some cases, they use it to buy school supplies for their children so that they can improve in school.
  • There has been a significant improvement in the self-esteem of the participants, who now have more confidence in themselves.

In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

  • By being integrated into an educational and training program, refugees, asylum seekers and deportees are given the opportunity to acquire relevant skills to their new environment.
  • They are provided with job opportunities through the employment program, so that they know how to look for a job. Alternatively, they are assisted in setting up small businesses to generate income.
  • Refugees, asylum seekers and deportees are provided with counseling and emotional support services to help them overcome trauma and adapt to life in their new place. 

Next steps

The partner works in alliance and close collaboration with UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM, as well as other important International NGOs such as Catholic Relief Services and Plan International.

Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?

For the cultural and linguistic adaptation of refugees of some specific nationalities (Asia and the Middle East), whose presence in the flows of migrants continues to increase.

Submitted by

Camille Flückiger, Deputy Head of Cooperation, Regional Head of Humanitarian Aid, SDC, Central America - [email protected] 

Contact the project