Human trafficking in Central America is mainly contained within the continent, both in terms of origin and destination, according to the UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020, recently published. Women and girls account for 79 percent of the victims in the region, in particular for sexual exploitation. In El Salvador, children deprived of parental care, adolescent girls, and LGBTQI+ persons, especially transgender persons, are at higher risk of human trafficking. In Costa Rica, women and girls from Nicaragua and other Central America countries, children and LGBTQI+ persons, have been identified as victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
People smuggling is also affecting refugees and asylum seekers in mixed movements in Central America. In July, Guatemalan police rescued in total 292 Haitians, including several children, who were locked in a small house without food or water. Also, border agents in Honduras arrested 32 nationals who were irregularly transporting 149 Nicaraguans through the country. Well-organized smuggling and trafficking networks operate throughout the region increasing protection risks for people on the move and humanitarian actors providing assistance.
Social protests in Cuba and Guatemala took place over several days. Hundreds of protesters were arrested in Cuba, amid food shortages and the increase of COVID-19 cases. In Guatemala the protests were sparked by the dismissal of the head of the Special Prosecutor's Office Against Impunity. In Nicaragua, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the multiple complaints of arbitrary detentions, both against defenders of human rights and political opposition. In El Salvador, the new phase of the Territorial Control Plan was launched and will double the number of military personnel to 40,000 in neighborhoods and communities at risk due to gang presence.
The US launched its Strategy for Addressing the Root Causes of Migration in Central America which seeks to address structural challenges to mitigate the drivers of forced displacement in the region. In Mexico, 64,378 people have applied for asylum so far this year reaching hight record numbers, according to COMAR at the end of July. Honduras was the first nationality of applicants, followed by Haiti and Cuba.
More than 15,000 persons on the move were stranded at the border between Colombia and Panama, most of them Haitians. A record 46,500 people in mixed movements bound for North America have entered Panama this year through the Darien Gap. According to Panamanian authorities, there is a daily average inflow of up to 1,200 persons.