North America and the Caribbean
Operational information on the North America and Caribbean subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:
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The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.
Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion North America and the Caribbean
People of Concern - 2019[["Refugees",446151],["Asylum-seekers",964844],["Stateless",3790],["Others of concern",202],["Venezuelans displaced abroad",96494]]
Reponse in 2019The Venezuela crisis disproportionately impacted countries in the Caribbean region given their limited capacity to absorb the increasing arrivals in a protection-sensitive manner.
Mixed movements, both intra- and extra-continental, continued. Coupled with restrictive migration policies, weak institutional capacities and a lack of protection screenings, people of concern to UNHCR faced an enhanced risk of refoulement. As the Venezuela crisis extended into its fourth year, growing numbers of Venezuelans arrived in the Caribbean with increasing protection and emergency assistance needs. These arrivals required direct protection and assistance by UNHCR, and led to a greater demand for inter-agency coordination as well as capacity-building, advice and emergency preparedness support to host governments.
UNHCR continued to monitor the changing procedures and policies applied by governments in the region, with an emphasis on advocating for access to territory and asylum procedures, alternative legal pathways, and alternatives to detention.
Vulnerability to human trafficking and heightened risk of exploitation and abuse remained a serious concern. Issues related to non-admission, detention and deportation without adequate protection screenings continued in many countries in the region. In the Caribbean, large gaps remained in terms of adequate legal frameworks and access to rights, as well as services to meet the needs of people of concern. In principle, Venezuelans in the Caribbean had the right to access public primary health care and education in several islands but language, administrative and financial barriers hindered this in practice. Additionally, limited institutional capacity presented a challenge to providing adequate protection. Shelters for urgent and emergency cases were lacking and there remained a need to strengthen programming and services related to SGBV and countering human trafficking.
The Dominican Republic and Guyana were the first southern Caribbean countries to sign the Quito IV Declaration and Roadmap in 2019, reinforcing cooperation between countries of transit and destination for Venezuelans and identifying actions to be taken to protect vulnerable refugees and migrants.
In the Caribbean, refugees and asylum-seekers originated from over 40 countries around the world, with the scope, size and complexity of mixed movements having increased significantly since the start of the Venezuela crisis. In 2019, Venezuela remained the largest country of origin in the region (83%), followed by Cuba (12%). According to the inter-agency refugee and migrant response plan (RMRP), the number of Venezuelans in the Caribbean was estimated to have reached a total of 113,500 by the end of 2019, with 33,800 in the Dominican Republic; 27,600 in Trinidad and Tobago; 22,100 in Guyana; 17,000 in Aruba; and 16,600 in Curaçao.
Instability in Haiti created a strong need for contingency planning in the Dominican Republic, where UNHCR observed an increase in arrivals of people of concern from Haiti in late 2019.
Beyond the Venezuela situation, the protection environment in the United States of America (United States) and the region faced significant challenges. Arrivals to the southern border of the United States in 2019 exceeded some 921,900 people – the highest level since 2014 – with 52% of all people arriving in family units and 8% arriving as unaccompanied children. New deterrent policies prompted more asylum-seekers to enter the United States irregularly, with a 71% increase in apprehensions between ports of entry as compared to 2018. Nationals from countries in the north of Central America and Mexico represented the largest number of arrivals, although in 2019 Cuban arrivals increased significantly.
In 2019, UNHCR submitted over 24,800 refugees for resettlement to the United States. During that same period, over 21,100 refugees submitted by UNHCR departed to the United States. These figures represent a decline of over 4,200 refugees in submissions from 2018 but a modest increase in departures.
Operations’ funding was extremely limited, which led UNHCR to reduce the size and scope of virtually all its programmed activities in the United States. Dedicated resettlement staffing in the multi-country office and the field was insufficient.
The lack of qualified civil society organizations in the region also led to limitations in assistance to those in need. In Guyana specifically, the provision of humanitarian assistance by UNHCR reached only a limited number of people of concern due to budgetary constraints and scarcity of partners.
Operations in North America and the Caribbean in 2019Canada
While the number of asylum-seekers in 2019 increased by 16% (a record high of over 63,800 people) compared to 2018, the number of irregular arrivals dropped by 18% to 16,500 persons.
In 2019, Canada resettled over 10,930 refugees identified by UNHCR, while also admitting 19,150 privately sponsored refugees. It also continued a small labour mobility pilot for refugees.
Canada supported efforts to enhance the capacity of asylum authorities in Mexico. Canada and UNHCR signed an arrangement to implement projects under the MIRPS framework to strengthen the asylum systems of Belize and Panama. The Government remained committed to its Feminist International Assistance Policy.
Operational EnvironmentCanada continues to demonstrate a commitment to refugee protection through its robust asylum system, its level of resettlement admissions, and financial contributions making it one of UNHCR’s top ten donors. The number of people seeking asylum remains high relative to the historical average. Despite public debates, the Government has firmly upheld international and Canadian law principles regarding the right to seek asylum. Canada and UNHCR have started to test various labour mobility pathways although structural barriers in existing economic immigration programs prevent refugees from accessing them.
In 2019, UNHCR will continue to support Canada’s resettlement scheme, as part of an overall multi-year increase of humanitarian admissions, expand access of refugees and asylum seekers to employment and labour mobility, increase its support to education pathways, monitor and support access to fair procedures and the use of alternatives to detention, including for children and their parents, as well as people with mental health needs.
For many years, the United States of America has been a leader on global refugee protection, not only through its political influence but also as the largest donor to UNHCR, the largest refugee resettlement country, and a major country of asylum. Policy reviews have reduced the refugee admissions ceiling and actual arrivals, and have also resulted in changes to the asylum landscape, particularly impacting individuals, families and unaccompanied children fleeing violence in the North of Central America (NCA).
In 2019, UNHCR continues to engage constructively with the US authorities, including in relation to US support for the regional response to the NCA situation through the CRRF.
The Caribbean region is characterized by mixed movements and receives asylum-seekers from a multitude of countries of origin, with the majority arriving from Cuba and Venezuela. The recent influx of Venezuelans has caused considerable challenges for Caribbean countries, whose limited absorption capacity and lack of asylum frameworks frequently place asylum-seekers at risk of refoulement, prolonged detention, and trafficking. As States’ migration policies towards asylum-seekers (including Venezuelans) become more restrictive, UNHCR will have to engage more systematically to ensure access to territory, asylum and basic services for people of concern. Continued capacity-building, targeted protection interventions and the further consolidation of the Caribbean Migration Consultations are crucial to maintain the protection space in the region and to develop asylum systems.
Response and implementationUNHCR will continue to support the Government of Canada to further align its asylum system to international standards and to increase resettlement levels, including through additional pathways such as labour mobility and education opportunities.
UNHCR also intends to support Canada to maintain its fair asylum system with reasonable processing timeframes in spite of the increasing numbers of asylum-seekers, and supporting authorities to expand the implementation of the decision to establish alternatives to detention, including for children and their parents, as well as people with mental health needs. UNHCR will also continue to work towards sustaining the increased public interest and support for refugees in Canada and globally, by implementing an expanded communication and visibility strategy.
Instability in Central and South America may continue to prompt large movements of refugees northwards, presenting new protection challenges for both the United States and countries in the Caribbean. UNHCR will also scale up its public information and community engagement work as a means to sustain and support ever-increasing public interest and support for refugees and asylum-seekers.
In 2019, UNHCR’s protection and solutions strategy in the United States will prioritize a range of protection responses for refugees and asylum-seekers focussing on US law and policy, regional cooperation and support to the MIRPS, US border engagement, legal representation and support, resettlement, local integration, and statelessness.
In the Caribbean, UNHCR’s strategy will prioritize the following objectives: (1) promoting asylum-seekers’ access to territory and prevention of refoulement, including through capacity-building of border officials, magistrates, and immigration authorities; 2) ensuring access to asylum and/or alternative legal pathways including by strengthening domestic asylum systems; and, where necessary, conducting registration and refugee status determination under its mandate; 3) improving access to services and enjoyment of socio-economic rights in host countries including by using community-based protection methodologies and advocating with states for refugees’ access to public services and local integration; 4) Identify, prevent and respond to serious forms of abuse and exploitation, including SGBV and trafficking in persons; 5) pursue resettlement and relocation options as part of a comprehensive durable solutions strategy. UNHCR will further these objectives in close partnership with affected communities, strengthening community mobilization and participation and fostering social cohesion. At the regional level, UNHCR will continue to promote capacity-building initiatives through the Caribbean Migration Consultations (CMC) in cooperation with Caribbean States, CARICOM and IOM.
2019 Budget and Expenditure in North America and the Caribbean | USD
|United States of America Regional Office||Budget|
2019 Voluntary Contributions to North America and the Caribbean | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Pillar 1
|United States of America Regional Office|
|United States of America||5,484,250||0||400,000||5,884,250|
|United States of America Regional Office subtotal||6,411,017||21,400||415,883||6,848,300|