UNHCR North of Central America Situation Operational Update, January-March 2017
The North of Central America suffers high levels of violence stemming from gangs and other organized criminal groups.
This insecurity is compelling an increasing number of persons – often entire families – to flee their homes, within their countries or to nearby countries.
Nine countries of the region are affected by these movements and a regional response is therefore of paramount importance.
Refugees and asylum-seekers from the NCA at the beginning of the year. A tenfold increase over the last five years.
Internally displaced persons in 20 municipalities of Honduras between 2004 and 2014 due to violence and crime.
Number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the US border in 2016, attaining similar levels as those of the humanitarian crisis in 2014.
USD 29 M requested for the NCA situation in 2017
Update On Achievements
Many people flee the NCA countries. Reasons for leaving are diverse and often complex. UNHCR considers that many of these persons are refugees. Traditionally, citizens from the NCA seeking international protection have requested refugee status in the United States and Canada. In recent years, however, other countries in the region have experienced a drastic increase in the number of asylum-seekers from the NCA, particularly Mexico, Costa Rica and Belize, but also, although to a lesser extent, Nicaragua and Panama.
In a spirit of shared responsibility, the San Jose Action statement, which was signed in July 2016, recognizes the need for stronger protection of asylum-seekers, refugees and internally displaced people in the region. Such cooperation is fully aligned with the New York Declaration of September 2016 and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) based on shared responsibilities between a wide range of stakeholders, such as local and national authorities, humanitarian and development actors, the private sector and civil society. In March 2017, the Government of Honduras has officially confirmed its interest in participating in the CRRF, providing a sound basis to develop a more comprehensive regional plan for protection and solutions in Central America. UNHCR is encouraging other countries of the sub-region to join Honduras in participating in the CRRF.
Recent achievements at the regional level also include the following:
- On 6-7 April, the Central American Council of Human Rights institutions met in Panama with UNHCR’s support. The main objective was to develop a common position to address the needs of vulnerable, refugees and displaced persons affected by violence and insecurity in the NCA. It was agreed that all participants (Ombudspersons from Central America and Mexico) would sign a Regional Commitment (Carta de Compromiso) and agree on a common work plan involving joint advocacy, support to State institutions in displacement issues, border monitoring and exchange of good practices in the protection/legal assistance to IDPs, refugees and migrants with special needs. It was also agreed that this Carta de Compromiso could form the basis for the Council’s contribution to the regional Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).
- Given the complexity of the situation in the NCA and in line with the regional Situational Emergency Training (SET) exercise conducted in December 2016, three workshops were conducted in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador during the first trimester of the year, in order to enhance emergency preparedness and response and strengthen technical capacities of agencies and entities’ staff working with persons with protection needs in the region, including refugees and asylum seekers, internally displaced and deportees with protection needs. Participants in the country sessions included State entities, civil society, and United Nations agencies, including those agencies forming part of the Protection Working Groups in the region. During the workshops, facilitators presented tools, practices and principles that can be applied in emergencies and protection situations to improve and promote a coordinated response of protection activities for displaced populations and persons affected by violence. Workshop themes included coordination, the mainstreaming of protection, community protection, emergency shelter, security, and scenario building, addressing country-specific issues in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
- A Regional Protection Network meeting was organized by civil society organizations working with migrants and refugees in the NCA and Mexico during the first trimester of 2017. Around 30 participants from 14 different organizations attended the event to discuss avenues to strengthen coordination, referrals, direct assistance and access to international protection along the main migration routes, from countries of origin to countries of asylum. As agreed next steps, participants will work on mapping organizations along the regional routes; developing common referral protocols and forms; creating a digital database with useful information on countries of origin and asylum; as well as organizing smaller and more focused meetings to discuss in detail how to make the referral mechanisms operational along the route and enhance the protection situation of high-risk cases. The second regional meeting will be convened around May- June, possibly in Guatemala. Beyond continuing to provide support to the regional protection network, UNHCR is equally exploring this opportunity to seek the civil society ́s views and engagement in the follow-up conference to the San Jose Action Statement to be organized later this year, as well as in the CRRF process at the regional level.