The Central American Commission of Migration Directors - OCAM (an abbreviation which was established during the first meetings, when the Commission was initially named Organización Centroamericana de Migración or Central American Migration Organization) was established in 1990 in San Jose, Costa Rica at the request of the Central American Presidents and within the framework of the Central American Plan of Economic Action (PAECA).
OCAM was first created in response to the growing need to facilitate the transit of persons through the countries in the region, recognizing that migration is vital to the integration of Central America.
In addition, OCAM was established to address the need to respond effectively to common issues in the sphere of migration. Since its inception, OCAM has promoted coordinated actions aimed at collecting and analysing migration information; training of officers from the Offices of Migration of the OCAM Member Countries; modernizing migration management; implementing common migration instruments and procedures; working towards the harmonization of entry requirements for foreign nationals; dignified, safe and orderly return of regional and extraregional migrants; combating migrant smuggling and trafficking; and other issues of common interest.
The objective of OCAM is to have a regional coordination, concertation and consultation mechanism in place to address migration. OCAM emanated from the Central American Integration System (SICA). Initially, the Central American Economic Integration System (SIECA) acted as the Technical Secretariat. In January 1999, IOM took on the role of Technical Secretariat of OCAM within the framework of an agreement signed with the General Secretariat of SICA, with the aim of supporting regional actions addressing migration matters that were being carried out by the Commission.
The Plan of Action of OCAM consists of three main themes: Migration Policy and Management; Human Rights; and Migration and Development.
The areas of work of OCAM are:
Offices and Institutes of Migration
- Legislation: Legal framework, agreements, manuals, glossaries, national and international legislation, political mechanisms to validate instruments, and regularizations programmes.
- Information Systems: A common technical platform, software and hardware, information exchange, data collection procedures, collecting and analysing migration information, pre-screening, coordinating “invisible” migration schemes, and Advanced Passenger Information Systems (APIS).
- Human Rights: Preventing and combating migrant smuggling and trafficking, return of repatriated migrants, dignified, safe and orderly return of regional and extraregional migrants, protection of victims.
- Security: Protection, surveillance, prevention, modernizing migration management, strengthening border control actions, and integrated controls.
- Infrastructure: Unification, technological improvements, modernization, sanitization of border regions.
- Travel Documents: Central American passport, entry and exit card, documents for vehicles, identity cards for foreign residents, special entry cards for coastal arrivals, single boarding card.
- Cooperation: Projects, training, research, technical and financial assistance.
- Procedures: Office hours, length of stay, entries, integrated controls, harmonizing entry requirements for foreign nationals, fees or taxes, administrative procedures, stamps, implementing common instruments and procedures.
- Policy: Commitments, statements, agreements, regulations, homologating migration policies.
Establishment and Structure of OCAM:
Governing Board: Composed of the Migration Directors of the OCAM Member Countries as permanent representatives:
- Department of Immigration and Nationality Services, Belize
- General Office of Migration, Guatemala
- General Office of Migration and Immigration, El Salvador
- General Office of Migration and Immigration, Honduras
- General Office of Migration and Immigration, Nicaragua
- General Office of Migration and Immigration, Costa Rica
- National Migration Service, Panama
President pro tempore: Taken on by each Member Country of OCAM to represent the Governing Board for a one-year term, on a rotating basis and in geographical order.
Technical Secretariat: Role performed by IOM, designated by SG-SICA in its role as specialized international organization and acts as cooperating and advisory body for OCAM.
General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System: Ensures that OCAM plays a significant role in migration matters within the Central American Integration System. In addition, ensures the sustainability of OCAM and the political and juridical effect of its agreements and follows up on compliance with the agreements.
Permanent Technical Commission: OCAM established its permanent Technical Commission (CTP) during its XVI Ordinary Meeting. The Commission is composed of technical staff from the Offices of Migration and its objective is to implement efforts related to studies, analyses, activities and other technical aspects requiring permanent specialized actions by the OCAM Member Countries.
Technical Commission on Information Technology: During the XI Extraordinary Meeting of OCAM it was agreed to establish the Technical Commission on Information Technology (CTI), with participation of IT managers or qualified representatives from each Office of Migration, as well as a representative of IOM in its role as Technical Secretariat. The roles of CTI include technical IT assistance for OCAM, conducting studies and formulating recommendations on this matter, and above all, contributing to the project to consolidate a technological platform for migration management at the regional level.
Observer Countries and Organizations: Currently include the National Institute of Migration of Mexico (INAMI), which participates as a permanent observer and has taken on the commitment to support efforts aimed at strengthening migration management.