The three countries of the sub-region (Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico) have long been destination as well as transit countries for refugees and migrants, with most arrivals of Venezuelans by air and through official points of entry, until recently. Starting in mid-2021, a significant increase in land movements of refugees and migrants from Venezuela was observed through Central America and Mexico. By October 2021, almost 2,000 refugees and migrants from Venezuela had crossed the dangerous jungle route through the Darien Gap from Colombia into Panama, and there were over 10,000 encounters of Venezuelans attempting to enter the United States through the land border with Mexico in September 2021 alone. As of October 2021, there were an estimated 234,500 refugees and migrants from Venezuela in the sub-region, expected to reach 265,000 by December 2022.
Border closures and the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to a notable increase in irregular movements of refugees and migrants from Venezuela in the subregion, exposing them to protection risks such as assaults, robbery, violence (including GBV), smuggling and human trafficking. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused suspensions and delays in asylum and migratory regularization processes, and limited opportunities for socio-economic integration.