UNHCR Regional update - Americas
Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme
Overview of UNHCR’s operations in the Americas
A. Situational context including new developments
The Colombian Government has been implementing the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) since December 2016. The FARC have since turned over more than 7,000 weapons and begun reintegrating into civilian communities. Within this context, UNHCR is supporting the United Nations’ efforts to help stabilize the FARC “demobilization zones” through inter-agency needs assessments and the development of a common response plan. However, the humanitarian situation remains challenging, with illegal armed groups resorting to violence and triggering displacement in remote areas. UNHCR continues to monitor and raise awareness of new displacement, including along the Pacific coast and in the border areas.
In Ecuador, UNHCR provides ongoing technical assistance to the Government in relation to the regulatory decree of the human mobility law, which incorporates some of UNHCR’s recommendations. At their request, UNHCR is helping to draft legislation to facilitate the implementation of the law. In addition, the Office is providing technical assistance with other regulations, key protocols and resolutions. With the number of asylum claims, mainly lodged by Colombians and Venezuelans, increasing by 29 per cent when compared to the same period in 2016, UNHCR also supports efforts to strengthen the asylum system.
The deteriorating political and economic situation in Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) has continued to generate population outflows. The number of asylum applications lodged by Venezuelans around the world rose to around 39,000 from January through July 2017. This is a considerable increase over 2016, which saw 34,000 claims lodged by year end. The main countries of destination are Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Spain and the United States of America. The influx of Venezuelans has posed a number of challenges, and despite the efforts of host countries to generously meet increasing needs, a strengthened response is required in the areas of physical security, documentation, as well as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and exploitation and abuse. In certain areas, armed groups and criminal gangs are exploiting new arrivals and the local population.
In May 2017, UNHCR undertook preparedness missions to Brazil, Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago to assess border movements, together with partners and the respective Governments. The protection and humanitarian needs of those crossing were evaluated, in addition to the needs in case of increased arrivals. UNHCR also deployed technical missions to look at cash-based interventions, shelter and registration. In follow-up, the Office has scaled up its response by enhancing its presence in the border areas and capacity to provide basic assistance, including through multipurpose cash grants, the issuance of documentation, and activities relating to registration and refugee status determination.