United States of America Multi-Country 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 Multi-Country Office
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|2019 year-end figures|
|2,400||households received cash transfers for basic and domestic items|
|380||individuals received legal assistance in Aruba and Curaçao|
|280||survivors of SGBV received specialized support|
|2020 planning figures|
|10,560||people of concern in the Caribbean will benefit from legal assistance, including counselling on access to protection|
|6,000||refugee households in the Caribbean will receive cash grants|
|10||education, health, SGBV/child protection projects will be implemented, benefitting host and displaced communities|
People of Concern
United States of America Multi-Country Office
Operational contextThe protection environment in the United States of America (United States) and the region faced significant challenges in 2019. New deterrent policies prompted more asylum-seekers to enter the United States irregularly, with a 71% increase in apprehensions between ports of entry in comparison to 2018. Nationals from countries in the north of Central America and Mexico represented the largest numbers of arrivals, though the number of arrivals from Cuba also increased significantly during the year.
The 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, intra- and extra-continental, also continued. This, coupled with restrictive migration policies, weak institutional capacities and lack of protection screenings, resulted in people of concern to UNHCR facing an enhanced risk of refoulement. Arrivals of Venezuelans and others as part of mixed movements required direct protection and assistance interventions by UNHCR, and led to an increased demand for inter-agency coordination as well as capacity-building, advice and emergency preparedness support to host governments. Vulnerability to human trafficking and heightened risk of exploitation and abuse remained a serious concern.
Additionally, instability in Haiti created a strong need for contingency planning in the Dominican Republic, where UNHCR observed an increase in arrivals of Haitians in late 2019.
Population trendsArrivals to the southern border of the United States exceeded 921,900 people in 2019, the highest level since 2014, with 52% of all people arriving in family units, while a further 8% were unaccompanied children.
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.
The Caribbean was host to refugees and asylum-seekers of over 40 nationalities, with the scope, size and complexity of mixed movements increasing since the start of the Venezuela crisis.
In 2019, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela remained the largest country of origin (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.
- UNHCR sustained robust engagement with the United States Government, providing technical assistance on an alternative reception model at the southern border.
- UNHCR continued to monitor the changing procedures and policies applied by governments in the region, with emphasis on advocating for access to territory and asylum procedures, alternative legal pathways, and alternatives to detention.
- The first medical clinic was opened in Curaçao to assist people of concern to UNHCR, with the support of the Office.
- UNHCR established the first online accredited education programme for people of concern in Trinidad and Tobago.
- A national refugee and migrant working group was established in the Dominican Republic.
- 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.
- As operations’ funding was extremely limited, UNHCR was obliged to reduce the size and scope of its programmed activities in the United States.
- In the Caribbean, there was a lack of shelter for urgent and emergency cases, coupled with a need to strengthen programming and services related to SGBV and countering human trafficking.
- In Guyana, the provision of humanitarian assistance by UNHCR reached a limited number of people of concern due to budgetary constraints and scarcity of partners.
Working environmentOver the past year the operating environment for UNHCR in the United States of America has remained challenging. Significant changes to US asylum policy narrowed the protection space, especially for asylum-seekers arriving at the southern border, while the downsizing of the US Refugee Admissions Program also impacted UNHCR’s global resettlement efforts. These changes have taken place amidst continued instability in Central and South America, prompting large movements of refugees northwards towards the US, via Mexico and the Caribbean states and exerting significant pressure on the asylum system.
UNHCR will continue to work closely with Congress and the US administration to maintain political and financial support for UNHCR global programs to maximize access worldwide to effective protection and solutions for beneficiary populations, and to promote favorable protection environments in the US and in the Caribbean countries for people of concern to UNHCR.
In the Caribbean, where Aruba, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago are increasing hosting Venezuelan refugees and asylum seekers, it is estimated that around 147,000 individuals will have arrived by air, land, and sea by the end of 2018, including some returnees in Guyana. UNHCR will continue to strengthen its emergency response to these influxes. It will also continue to respond to the needs of refugees in mixed migratory flows, including access to resettlement when needed. This will require enhancing asylum and refugee status determination (RSD) capacity complemented by community-based protection initiatives in key countries throughout the region, and the promotion of protection sensitive migration systems through regular engagement with relevant national authorities and IOM. UNHCR will further promote local integration in the Caribbean while continuing to facilitate resettlement for refugees with specific needs.
In the Dominican Republic, UNHCR will continue to pursue nationality solutions for people of foreign descent. In Haiti, UNHCR will 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.
In the US, UNHCR will continue to work with an array of governmental and civil society actors to promote good policy and practice, including in relation to reception (such as support for humanitarian respite shelters along the southern border), the promotion of alternatives to detention, access to asylum, the management of the influx of asylum-seekers from Central America and follow up with Caribbean interlocutors to the Brazil Plan of Action.
UNHCR will maintain and enhance advocacy partnerships with US-based national and international NGOs, multilateral organizations (including the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank), and in particular with the two main NGO coalitions (InterAction and Refugee Council USA) as well as with other informal working groups and individual NGOs, many of whom are invaluable advocacy partners for UNHCR. UNHCR also works closely with Church World Services to implement the resettlement deployment scheme for the Caribbean region and to support the Refugee Congress initiative.
In the Caribbean, the successful creation of the Caribbean Migration Consultations in 2016, with the support of UNHCR and IOM, provides an important regional forum to address challenges related to mixed migration and develop consistent and protection-sensitive responses across the region. UNHCR began to formalize its cooperation with CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and expects that a Memorandum of Understanding be concluded between both organizations in 2019
Key PrioritiesUNHCR estimates that refugee and migrant population from Venezuela will grow to around 222,000 by the end of 2019. Among this population, around 177,500 refugees and migrants from Venezuela are estimated to require assistance throughout the upcoming year.
In the US, UNHCR will focus on:
- Maintaining political and financial support for UNHCR’s 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 favourable protection environment, and preserving and strengthening resettlement.
In the Caribbean, UNHCR will focus on:
- Promoting access to territory and prevention of refoulement.
- Promoting access to asylum or other alternative legal pathways
- Identifying, preventing and responding to the most serious forms of abuse and exploitation
- Strengthening community outreach and community based protection responses throughout the Caribbean
- Enhancing access to services, including cash-based interventions, and enjoyment of socio-economic rights in host countries.