How Migrant YouTubers are combatting Xenophobia and Discrimination

They have created new ways to express themselves, have fun, and even earn a living. Some of them publish videos monthly, weekly, and the most active ones almost every day. The list of issues they engage is long: From fashion to video games, and well beyond.

I am speaking of YouTubers who have managed to capture the attention of hundreds and thousands — even millions — of followers. Many are also migrants, who have impacted meaningfully the information and entertainment industries by developing compelling content aimed especially at young people.

According to a study by Google, 4 in 10 Millennial YouTube subscribers say their favorite YouTuber understands them better than their friends. Moreover, 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers say they relate to YouTube creators more than traditional celebrities. This close relationship gives YouTube content creators the opportunity to influence the lives of young people. The same study indicates that 70% of Millennials believe that YouTubers influence and shape culture.

The contributions of YouTubers to Migration

The YouTuber phenomenon has one particularly interesting characteristic: many of them are new arrivals to their current locations! They’re migrants! For these YouTubers, talking about their experience in a new host country has become a popular theme for their videos. They talk about cultural differences and similarities, new traditions they find, and their experiences as migrants in general.

They confirm that migrants are not only strong, resilient, compassionate, and dedicated, but also creative.

To date, hundreds of YouTubers have told their stories of how they arrived in their host country, using clever videos. These clips show migrant YouTubers best side, the best of their culture and the ties they create with people who welcome them with open arms. These videos provide inspiration in the fight against xenophobia and discrimination.

Alejandro Velasco is one example of these migrant YouTube “influencers.” He is from Mexico, but moved to Chile to pursue his Master’s Degree in 2012. Through his “Un Wey Weón” project, he has created a series of short videos on his experience as a Mexican living in Chile. These clips have gone viral and have been broadly relayed through mainstream Chilean media channels.

His YouTube channel has more than 15,000 followers and his Facebook account has over 80,000 followers. Alejandro highlights all the linguistic and cultural differences between Mexico and Chile and his videos have helped bring Chilean people closer to Mexican culture, and vice versa.

Alejandro talks about his migration experience (video in Spanish).

#IamaMigrant Challenge:

Like Alejandro, there are plenty of other migrant YouTubers playing key roles combatting xenophobia and discrimination against migrants. The impact they have on young people is what makes their videos profoundly valuable in building more inclusive societies.

Fully aware of this opportunity, the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America, and the Caribbean launched a campaign highlighting migrant YouTubers.

The #IamaMigrant Challenge campaign aims at combating negative discourse against migrants through the creativity of migrant YouTubers who are digital ambassadors of their countries of origin. To participate in the campaign, YouTubers create a video in which they tell us about their migration experience based on three meaningful objects (e.g. photos, passports, clothing, food, etc.) IOM’s goal is to promote empathy among migrant YouTubers’ followers, and change perceptions toward migrants arriving or living in their countries.

Mon Amie, a Portuguese currently living in Norway, was one of the first YouTubers to join the campaign. In her #IamaMigrant Challenge video, Mon said:

“If one day you go back to your old country, you will feel wiser and you will have a lot of stories to tell.”

Solvy from Venezuela and Luis from Canada are a couple living in the UK. They have a YouTube channel to share their personal life abroad and decided to join our challenge.

“Hopefully this video helps with the support for immigrants, but also to people who live in the countries who are receiving these immigrants to be more open and also more understanding, patient. Because they are going through different situations and hopefully we can create diversity by helping each other.” –Luis

To watch all #IamaMigrant Challenge videos click here.


The article was published by Jean Pierre Mora, IOM Regional Public Information Assistant in San Jose, Costa Rica.