Providing life-saving assistance
Registration by governments continued remotely across the region, resuming in person in a few countries. Lack of documentation hindered access to basic services and often to health services. UNHCR provided technical support to governments to ensure access to asylum in the region as borders gradually reopened after some COVID-19 preventive measures were lifted. The UNHCR population registration and identity management ecosystem (PRIMES) enabled the identification of people of concern, the delivery of assistance, services and protection, facilitation of durable solutions and prevention of fraud. UNHCR and partners registered 766,000 people of concern in the region, and UNHCR engaged with governments to support the digitization of national asylum systems.
In line with its global data transformation strategy, UNHCR standardized high frequency surveys in 13 countries. UNHCR is now using multiple data collection methods, including interviews in person or by telephone, interview embedded in the case management process (linked to PRIMES) and self-administered online questionnaires to cover core regional questions and Sustainable Development Goal indicators. UNHCR started to work with the Central American Integration System, to advocate for and support inclusion of forcibly displaced people in national statistical systems.
Cash assistance increased in its scope and reach, and new delivery methods were added, through remote cash delivery arrangements engaging the private sector for financial and mobile cash transfers. 119,000 households were supported with cash to meet basic needs including shelter, food, water, electricity and transportation.
Ensuring access to protection
UNHCR continued supporting the strengthening of asylum systems across the region. In 2021, more than 500,000 new asylum applications were registered in the Americas where more than 2.3 million asylum claims are pending decisions by national asylum systems. With more than 130,000 asylum applications, Mexico became the fourth-biggest receiving asylum country in 2021. UNHCR continued working closely with national governments to expand access to protection alternatives and to promote and implement alternative legal stay arrangements.
UNHCR worked closely with IOM , UNICEF and other UN agencies through the Issue-based Coalition on Human Mobility in consolidating a common regional approach and providing concrete support to authorities and UN Country Teams to address the challenges emerging from increased mixed movements, including: information management (joint products), common advocacy and messaging, preparedness and response actions, sensitive entry systems, access to asylum and alternative legal stay arrangements, social inclusion and integration, voluntary return and resettlement, and visibility.
UNHCR offered technical assistance to promote the inclusion of children in national protection systems. UNHCR and UNICEF supported Mexico’s implementation of legal reforms to end child detention in migration contexts. In Colombia, UNHCR assisted 3,000 children at risk, including 520 unaccompanied and separated children. In Belize, UNHCR signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Youth Services to promote access to age-sensitive services, including protection from gender-based violence, for children seeking asylum.
As part of the gender-based violence response, UNHCR supported Aruba, Brazil, Colombia, Curaçao, Guyana and Peru to introduce innovative approaches including virtual community centres, strengthened safe houses, community-based support to people affected by the sale and exchange of sex, and the delivery of mental health and psychosocial support to indigenous populations.
UNHCR supported efforts towards the prevention and eradication of statelessness, and notable progress was made in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States of America, which pledged to adopt a definition of statelessness and establish a statelessness determination procedure. UNHCR and UNICEF presented recommendations to Chile’s constitutional convention on the right to nationality and the prevention and resolution of statelessness in support of the ongoing constitutional reform.
Pursuing durable solutions
UNHCR strove to expand resettlement, both as a strategic tool to secure protection and durable solutions for individuals at heightened risk and as a concrete responsibility-sharing mechanism to support and ease the pressure on host countries. Through increased resettlement identification and processing capacities, (in terms of partners’ and UNHCR’s presence and increased staffing for registration, interviews and review and submission of cases) 4,500 people were submitted for resettlement, more than double the number in 2020.
UNHCR supported access to national education systems and opportunities. As part of its community strategy, Honduras incorporated community-building activities, sports and coaching sessions in high-risk communities affected by violence. In Brazil, UNHCR supported the process that allowed refugees and migrants to access new educational opportunities and employment through recognition of their educational background, professional experience and abilities. In El Salvador, together with the Ministry of Education, UNHCR supported an accelerated learning programme for IDPs, as well as the renovation of four public schools.
UNHCR promoted livelihood initiatives and socioeconomic inclusion. In Brazil and Mexico, 68,000 people in regions where they had little prospect of economic integration were matched with jobs available elsewhere and relocated. In Colombia, UNHCR and the Government launched a pilot programme for employment-based relocation in July 2021.
UNHCR and Manpower signed a letter of understanding in which they agreed to cooperate to strengthen the employability of people of concern to UNHCR in the region and facilitate job matching with direct and indirect interventions.
Fostering community engagement, participation and mobilization and enhancing solidarity and peaceful coexistence
UNHCR supported civil society organizations and refugee-led associations, including Coalicion por Venezuela and the Latin American and Caribbean Ecclesial Network for Migration, Displacement, Refugee and Human Trafficking (Red CLAMOR). UNHCR also worked with communities and local governments to increase connectivity by expanding public Wi-Fi services in key localities, providing data packages for community leaders and people at higher risk to ensure they can communicate.
UNHCR implemented community-based initiatives to prevent displacement and protect those at heightened risk, such as children, youth, women and girls, and community leaders. Aruba, Brazil, Colombia, Curaçao, Guyana and Peru implemented innovative approaches to better prevent and protect gender-based violence survivors, through Safe from the Start funds. These approaches included community-based support to people engaged in the sale and exchange of sex as a coping mechanism. UNHCR and Colombia’s Public Ministry and Civil Registry provided information and legal support to more than 80,000 people.
The 207 structures of the Regional Support Spaces Network provided access to information and basic services, including safe identification and referrals of people with specific needs. More than 273,000 people of concern were supported with shelter, settlement or temporary collective accommodation solutions, and 16,600 children on the move had access to child-friendly spaces. In Colombia, UNHCR opened child-friendly spaces and strengthened community dialogue on peaceful coexistence, group activities and workshops for gender-based violence prevention with children and adolescents in organized reception sites.