In San Jose, Costa Rica, on Friday the UN Migration Agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) activated the “MigrantApp application”, a smartphone app that provides true, safe and free information in three languages about government, private and civil society services that provide protection to migrants.

Many migrants rely on mobile phones during their journeys

The MigrantApp, developed in Costa Rica with funding from the U.S. State Department, is being tested in Central America and Mexico from this week, ahead of a wider roll-out elsewhere in the world.

It is the “first pilot of a global effort to provide information” to facilitate regular, safe and orderly migration, IOM said in a statement.

“Mesoamerica” is one of the main migratory corridors in the world. However, the information that migrants need to migrate in a regular, dignified and secure manner is dispersed”, said IOM director for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Marcelo Pisani.

MigrantApp offers information in English, Spanish and French on safety, health, accommodation and organizations offering assistance.

The IOM said the technology tool offers “migratory tips, alerts and the ability to respond to mini surveys safely, strengthening the empowerment of the migrant”. Alexandra Bonnie, regional coordinator of the IOM’s Mesoamerica Program – the office that developed the initiative – said the MigrantApp application “offers easy-to-use, free information with grouped and reliable data”.

Its launch comes at a time when the United States is making undocumented immigration far more difficult while ending programs that had eased the entry and residence of certain migrants.

Much of the US attention is directed at Mexicans and Central Americans who make up the largest number of undocumented migrants who have entered the United States.

An influx of tens of thousands of Central American children at the US border has sparked an intense debate among politicians and the media on immigration.

Central America is also a major corridor for other migrants from Latin America — particularly Venezuelans right now — and from countries on other continents seeking to get to the US.

The IOM stressed that its new app was not a tool to help migrants try to circumvent government controls on immigration. Instead, it provides “clear and reliable information on their legal options”.

Roeland de Wilde, Costa Rica IOM head, said “they (migrants) are less likely to opt for riskier, irregular crossings that often expose them to exploitation and fraud.

Wilde added that Central America and Mexico “is the biggest migration corridor in the world, and it made sense to provide migrants with information on a mobile platform given that most of them relied on phones throughout their journeys.”

Laura Thompson delivers her statement during the high-level forum on irregular migration in the America. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

The IOM says data from migrants using the app will be kept confidential. Initially available only on Android phones, it will be released for Apple’s iOS (iPhone and iPad) devices later.

The pilot app is being released two weeks after the IOM’s deputy director general and former Ambassador of Costa Rica to the United Nations, Laura Thompson, told a conference in Costa Rica that migration flows in the Americas were overwhelmingly from south to north — with 94% of migrants aiming for the US and Canada.

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