United States of America Regional Office
The UNHCR’s Regional Office in Washington covers operations in the United States, 15 Caribbean states and 9 overseas territories including Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize (until 2017), Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago; the British overseas territories of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands; and the Dutch overseas territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten.
Operation: United States of America Regional Office
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|2019 planning figures|
|70%||of asylum-seekers have access to status determination procedure and legal assistance|
|70%||of refugees in need of resettlement have access to this durable solution|
|60%||of reception conditions for asylum-seekers meet minimum standards|
|55%||of law and policy consistent with international standards on protection of stateless persons|
|50%||of media and public opinion support protection of asylum seekers and refugees|
|2017 year-end figures|
|3,200||kilometer border mission, including situational assessment of 8 out of 9 Customs and Border Protection Sectors, on the southern border were carried out|
|2,780||people, originating from 143 countries, were provided with food, shelter, education and health assistance|
|802||group A individuals and 445 registered descendants received support to request validation of their Dominican documents in the Dominican Republic|
|100%||compliance rate with 118 offices reporting monthly on resettlement activities on the online reporting portal that UNHCR helped to develop|
People of Concern
United States of America Regional Office
Population trendsMore than 240,000 new asylum applications were filed in the United States in 2018, with the highest number of new claims from Venezuelans (over 41,000). Over 590,000 people crossed to the United States through the southern border, at an official port of entry or irregularly; of these 37% arrived in family units and 10% were UASC. Although the volume of irregular border crossers is lower than a decade ago, the composition has drastically shifted away from single males to adults, families and UASC.
As predicted, UNHCR’s population of concern increased significantly in the Caribbean. Several countries received increasing numbers of Venezuelans: 50,000 in Trinidad and Tobago; 36,400 in Guyana; 28,500 in the Dominican Republic; 26,000 in Curacao; and 16,000 in Aruba.
Overall, there was also a significant increase in the registration of asylum-seekers by UNHCR with over 9,500 asylum-seekers registered in the Caribbean, compared to 2,500 in 2017. This increase is partly due to the dramatic rise in asylum applications in the southern Caribbean, particularly Trinidad and Tobago, which registered some 8,690 people in 2018 compared to 1,990 in 2017. At year-end, there were 12,700 registered refugees and asylum-seekers in the Caribbean. Registered people of concern in the Caribbean represent 46 different countries of origin, with the majority from Venezuela (74%) and Cuba (19%).
Key achievementsAchievements as a result of advocacy with the Government of the United States of America included support for the MIRPS and improved reception conditions along the southern border. UNHCR’s amicus interventions helped to secure temporary injunctions to halt an asylum ban for irregular border crossers and new restrictions to asylum for victims of gang and gender-based violence claims. Other results included: strengthening of nine humanitarian border shelters; reunification support for several hundred children impacted by the family separation policy; design of a new online resource to link refugees and asylum-seekers to services in local communities; development of a new manual on family reunification; and creation of a new self-advocacy network of stateless persons called ‘United Stateless’.
Regarding statelessness, UNHCR welcomed steps taken by the Government of the Dominican Republic to facilitate naturalization for children born to migrant parents.
In response to the Venezuela crisis, UNHCR scaled up its operations in the Caribbean by increasing its staff in Trinidad and Tobago and deploying international staff in Aruba, Curacao and Guyana, in addition to its established presence in the Dominican Republic. In these five Caribbean countries mostly affected by the influx, UNHCR adapted to the national protection contexts and implemented its multi-year protection and solutions strategy.
Unmet needsMany people of concern in the Caribbean do not have legal status and lack documentation to be able to work legally or enrol their children in schools. The need for predictable regular status and documentation are two of the most pressing needs of Venezuelans that could not be met without the necessary governmental decisions and policies in the host countries. In the absence of functioning Government-run asylum systems or alternative legal pathways (with the exception of Guyana, although their permits do not allow Venezuelans to work legally), Venezuelans continue to live in a situation of legal limbo. This is making it exceedingly difficult for Venezuelans to access basic services, including health and education, and obtain safe and dignified employment. The majority of Venezuelans continue to live in the shadows, working in highly exploitative environments, suffering from discrimination and xenophobia. The provision of humanitarian assistance by UNHCR could only reach part of the population of concern due to the budgetary constraints but also to the scarcity of partners in some Caribbean countries.
Over the past year, there has been a considerable shift in UNHCR’s operating environment in the United States of America. The results of the November 2016 US elections resulted in uncertainty for UNHCR, in terms of refugee policy, protection, and funding, with implications on UNHCR’s global operations. At the same time, instability in Central and South America has prompted large mixed migration movements northwards, presenting new protection challenges for both the United States of America and the Caribbean. UNHCR will continue working closely with the US government to maintain political and financial support for UNHCR’s global programmes, in order to ensure access to solutions and promote favourable protection environment for all populations of concern to UNHCR, in the region and beyond. At the close of 2017, the United States remains UNHCR’s largest financial contributor and largest refugee resettlement country.
In the Caribbean, UNHCR will intensify its emergency preparedness and response to larger refugee influxes from South America. UNHCR will also continue to respond to the needs of refugees in mixed movements. This will require strengthening of asylum and refugee status determination (RSD) capacity, complemented by community-based protection initiatives in key countries throughout the region, such as Trinidad and Tobago, and the promotion of protection sensitive migration systems through regular engagement with relevant national authorities and IOM. UNHCR will further promote local integration in some of the larger Caribbean countries, while continuing to facilitate resettlement for refugees with specific or urgent protection needs. In Trinidad and Tobago, the progressive transfer of RSD responsibilities from UNHCR to the Government will continue to be advanced through the quality assurance initiative.
In the Dominican Republic, UNHCR will continue to pursue nationality solutions for people of foreign descent. In Haiti, UNHCR will close its office in 2018, but ensure continued engagement with the Government, in particular to provide technical assistance for the implementation of the international statelessness conventions (following Haiti’s accession in 2017) and the adoption of a new nationality law.
UNHCR will maintain and enhance advocacy partnerships with the United States-based national and international NGOs, multilateral organizations (including the World Bank), and in particular with the two main NGO coalitions (InterAction and Refugee Council USA) as well as with other informal working groups and with individual NGOs—many of whom are invaluable advocacy partners for UNHCR.
In the Caribbean, the successful creation of the Caribbean Migration Consultations in 2016 with the support of UNHCR and IOM, provides a new regional forum to address challenges related to mixed movement and develop consistent and protection-sensitive responses across the region, to advance on implementation of the commitments made by States in the Brazil Plan of Action. UNHCR is also formalizing its cooperation with CARICOM’s Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and cooperating on several capacity-building efforts.
UNHCR works closely with Church World Service to implement the resettlement deployment scheme for the Caribbean region and also as the implementing partner for the Refugee Congress funding.
In 2018 UNHCR will focus on:
- Maintaining political and financial support of the United States Government for UNHCR global programmes (including through proactive engagement with the new Administration and new congressional offices) to maximize access worldwide to effective protection and solutions for beneficiary populations;
- Raising public awareness of priority issues of concern to UNHCR;
- Promoting favorable protection environments in the United States of America and in the Caribbean countries for all people of concern to UNHCR.