Forced displacement is expected to rise in the Americas in 2023 as the root causes – violence, insecurity, inequality and human rights violations – persist.
There are increasing mixed and onward movements, with Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and others enduring extremely hazardous conditions to find a safe place to stay. These complex movements put a strain on response mechanisms, asylum systems and the services available along the route northwards. A collaborative, hemispheric approach is needed, as endorsed in the 2022 Los Angeles Declaration.
In the Venezuela situation, population movements will increase, including outflows, onward movements and returns. With limited access to registration, documentation, basic services and livelihoods opportunities, and with rising xenophobia, increasing numbers will move onward, including through the Darien Gap. UNHCR will prioritize humanitarian assistance, identification and referral to services for those at heightened risk. It will support national efforts to expand access to asylum, regular stay arrangements and documentation, and will support refugees’ and migrants’ integration and inclusion in social protection programmes. The 2023-2024 Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP), developed through the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V), which is co-led by UNHCR and IOM, estimates 5 million in-destination Venezuelans will need humanitarian, protection and socioeconomic assistance in 2023. UNHCR and IOM will coordinate more than 200 organizations’ efforts to implement the RMRP across 17 countries. UNHCR and IOM will also bolster governmental coordination of the Quito Process, an initiative to harmonize host countries’ domestic policies, with the cooperation of the international community.
In Colombia, peace negotiations continue but forced displacement and confinement persist in certain areas controlled or disputed by irregular armed groups. UNHCR will advocate for Government measures to address structural causes of internal displacement. Empowering communities to identify risks, implementing protective measures and arranging actions with competent authorities such as accompanying organized returns will help IDPs and host communities in the search for long-term solutions. UNHCR will take an area-based approach in countries hosting Colombians, such as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama and Peru, to maximize efficiency where the refugees’ needs coincide with those of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
Violence, insecurity, fragile institutions, the impact of climate change and deep-rooted inequalities in parts of Central America and the Caribbean continue to undermine rights and basic needs and are likely to drive more internal displacement and mixed cross-border movements, including asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons and vulnerable migrants. The number of Nicaraguans seeking protection continues to increase in the sub-region, mainly into Costa Rica. To support implementation of the Comprehensive Regional Framework for Protection and Solutions (MIRPS) and related national policy commitments, UNHCR will back national efforts to strengthen refugee protection, access to asylum, legal stay arrangements, local integration, resettlement and complementary pathways.UNHCR’s interventions will aim to enhance national protection systems and community-based protection, with an increased presence in communities at risk of displacement and expanded identification and referral mechanisms for those needing protection. This will require closer collaboration with civil society and a greater presence of State institutions in specific communities. UNHCR will invest in supporting national human rights institutions, gender-based violence prevention, child protection, enrolment in national education systems, temporary protection alternatives, and – where possible – local integration. UNHCR will work with development actors and the private and public sector to foster forcibly displaced people’s inclusion in labour markets and entrepreneurship.
UNHCR will support States to fulfil existing commitments on statelessness and make new commitments at the Global Refugee Forum in 2023. It will offer them technical help on eradicating statelessness and on access to civil documentation, and will strive to ensure legal aid and counselling for people at risk of statelessness. UNHCR will continue advocating for accessions to international conventions, establishing or strengthening status determination procedures, strengthening civil registration systems and adoption of nationality laws in line with international standards, while fostering alliances and partnerships with regional actors and institutions.
2023 population planning figures*
Refugees and asylum-seekers: 770,000
Refugee and IDP returnees: 50,000
Others of concern to UNHCR: 3.2 million
Other people in need of international protection: 6.23 million
*Figures aligned to RMRP 2023-2024 and do not include Venezuelan refugees and migrants outside Latin America and the Caribbean.
2023 situation overview
Despite expanded access to asylum, other legal stay arrangements and local integration efforts, limited access to documentation, basic services, livelihoods opportunities, and rising xenophobia, population outflows from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela continue across Latin America and the Caribbean, with increased onward movements towards Central America, Mexico and the United States of America (through the Darien Gap) which are anticipated to prevail throughout 2023.
In 2023, UNHCR will prioritize critical activities including assistance, identification, and referral to services for those at heightened risk. UNHCR and partners will continue to support national efforts to expand access to asylum, regular stay arrangements and documentation for Venezuelans. Enhanced advocacy and sustained support will be provided to host countries to further refugees and migrants’ integration and inclusion in social protection programmes.
The upcoming Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP 2023-24), developed through the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V), co-led by UNHCR and IOM, estimates that there will be 5 million in-destination Venezuelans in need of humanitarian, protection and socioeconomic inclusion assistance by end-2023. UNHCR and IOM will continue to coordinate the efforts of more than 200 organizations involved in the R4V response to support the implementation of the RMRP across 17 countries. UNHCR and IOM will also bolster the governmental coordination of the Quito Process (a regional initiative of several Latin American countries that seeks to harmonize domestic policies in host countries) with the cooperation of the international community.
UNHCR’s vision in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is that vulnerable population groups – including affected Venezuelans as well as persons in need of international protection – receive protection and enjoy enhanced prospects for solutions.
In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the main populations of concern to UNHCR include vulnerable Venezuelans under the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), including boys, girls, adolescents, youth, women and indigenous peoples; refugees and asylum-seekers; and returnees. Special attention is afforded to populations at risk of, or found in, situations of human mobility. In the context of the humanitarian coordination architecture established in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, UNHCR leads the Protection Cluster and the Shelter, Energy and Non-Food Items (NFI) Cluster.
2023 population planning figures
Refugees and asylum-seekers: 94,900
IDPs*: 6.7 million
Others of concern to UNHCR: 250,000 returnees from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
* Source: Victims Registry, Unidad para la Atención y Reparación Integral a las Víctimas.
2023 situation overview
In Colombia, while peace negotiations are ongoing, forced displacement and confinement persist in certain areas controlled or disputed by irregular armed groups. In June 2022, the national Ombudsman reported that between June 2021 and May 2022 there were 147 events of mass displacement, which affected nearly 60,000 people. In 2023, the challenging situation in these areas will continue to impact indigenous, rural and Afro-Colombian communities who are already at heightened risk.
Protection needs remain pressing in areas affected by insecurity. UNHCR’s presence in field locations will remain crucial in 2023 to bolster coordinated efforts with local and national authorities in the monitoring of and quick response to displacement and confinement. Empowering communities to identify risks, implementing protective measures and arranging actions with competent authorities will help IDPs and host communities in the search for long-term solutions for the displaced population. UNHCR will work with Government institutions to advocate for measures addressing the structural risk factors that continue to cause internal displacement. Support to the implementation of the Victims Law will be maintained.
In hosting countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama and Peru, an area-based approach will maximize the efficient use of resources where the needs of Colombian refugees coincide with those of Venezuelan refugees and migrants. UNHCR will continue its efforts to ensure access to asylum, documentation, civil registries, essential services, and inclusion in national social protection systems.
El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras Situation
2023 population planning figures*
Refugees and asylum-seekers: 234,000
*This includes forcibly displaced people in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and in countries served by MCO Panama.
**Includes 117,700 IDPs in El Salvador and 271,800 IDPs and 123,300 people in an IDP-like situation in Honduras.
2023 situation overview
Violence, insecurity, fragile institutions, the impact of climate change and deep-rooted inequalities will force more people to flee, either within their own countries or across borders within the sub-region.
In line with the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, and in support of the implementation of the Comprehensive Regional Framework for Protection and Solutions (MIRPS) and related national policy commitments, UNHCR will continue to support countries of the sub-region to address the causes and impact of forced displacement. This entails strengthening refugee protection frameworks and expanding access to asylum systems and other legal stay arrangements, with specific focus on furthering local integration prospects and other solutions, including resettlement and complementary pathways.
UNHCR’s interventions, aligned with the Humanitarian Response Plans in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, will prioritize enhancing national protection systems and scaling up community-based protection through increased field presence in prioritized communities affected by violence or at risk of displacement. Moreover, identification and referral mechanisms for people with protection needs will be expanded. This will entail closer collaboration with civil society, strengthening communities’ prevention and protection response, and the promotion of State institutions’ presence in targeted communities. Priority will be given to investments that support national human rights institutions, education, prevention and response to gender-based violence, child protection programmes, temporary protection alternatives, and – where possible – solutions through the expansion of sustainable local integration programmes. The sub-region is hosting an increasing number of Nicaraguans seeking protection, mainly in Costa Rica, where 180,000 asylum-seekers had been recorded by mid-2022. Given the current trend of 10,000 new claims per month, the number of asylum-seekers in Costa Rica could reach 360,000 by the end of 2023, with increasing numbers in Honduras and Panama.