United States of America Multi-Country Office
The United States of America Multi-Country Office 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 (until 2020), Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname (until 2020) and Trinidad and Tobago (until 2020); 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 (until 2020) and Sint Maarten.
Operation: United States of America Multi-Country Office
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|2020 year-end figures|
|4,939||households received cash assistance or vouchers to meet basic needs in the Caribbean|
|2,666||refugees and migrants received legal assistance in Aruba, Curacao and Trinidad and Tobago|
|2,000||people in the USA provided with information on government status determination procedures though UNHCR’s Protection Hotline|
|501||people supported with family reunification in the USA|
|214||individuals submitted for resettlement out of the Caribbean|
|153||survivors of gender-based violence received psychosocial counselling in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago|
|2021 planning figures|
|91,400||stateless persons or people still at risk of statelessness in the Dominican Republic will be provided with legal aid|
|3,000||vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants will receive multisector assistance in the Dominican Republic|
|300||vulnerable stateless persons will be provided with cash assistance in Dominican Republic|
People of Concern
United States of America Multi-Country Office
Operational contextAccess to protection and needs for refugees and migrants became increasingly precarious in the Caribbean as the pandemic-induced economic downturn severely limited opportunities for people of concern to earn a living from tourism. Faced with heightened food insecurity, abject poverty, and exclusion from national social programs more and more people required cash assistance and long-term solutions. Difficulties in accessing essential services, including health care, education, shelter, and livelihoods, drastically worsened.
In the USA, 2020 saw the implementation of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies which profoundly impacted the wellbeing and rights of people of concern to UNHCR. Refugee admissions were reduced again, reaching only 18,000 people. The growing backlog of asylum claims exceeded 1 million people during the year, and policy changes narrowing access to territory and the asylum system persisted.
Population trendsAfter four years of persistent crisis, the number of Venezuelans fleeing their country towards the Caribbean rose again with, by the end of 2020, around 196,000 Venezuelans displaced in the sub-region, the majority of whom (114,500) were in the Domincan Republic. Other significant populations were 24,000 in Trinidad and Tobago; 23,300 in Guyana; and 17,000 in each of Aruba and Curaçao. Additional small numbers of new arrivals from other countries were detected in other Caribbean countries such as Suriname and the Bahamas. The registration of new arrivals in these countries decreased by 35% compared to 2019.
Since the beginning of 2020, asylum-seekers and migrants arrived at and crossed the southern border of the USA in very high numbers, although pandemic-related border closures as of March saw the numbers fall significantly. About 547,677 people intercepted at the southern border were returned to Mexico due to the U.S. border restrictions. Considering 2019 as a year of record arrival rates over the last decade, in 2020 arrivals decreased 41%.
- 14,140 people received emergency support in cash, food assistance or core relief items.
- 7,638 people of concern were provided access to primary medical care in Curacao and the Dominican Republic.
- UNHCR donated 208 refugee housing units to help governments in the Caribbean improve quarantine or medical facilities.
- 1,234 people of concern accessed legal assistance programmes in Aruba and Curacao.
- New programmes to prevent and respond to gender-based violence were launched in Guyana. As a result, 58 people in remote locations received psychosocial counselling and emergency assistance.
- UNHCR partnered with ILO to conduct a livelihoods market assessment on Venezuelans in the Dominican Republic.
- 40 Venezuelans benefitted from entrepreneurship training and received business advisory and guidance to develop small business plans.
- 15 shelters on the southern border of the USA which formed a coordination network received material support.
Unmet needsBecause of the pandemic, the proportion of people in need of humanitarian assistance sharply increased. UNHCR prioritized assistance to the most vulnerable people of concern, leaving out others who were also in need. Additional funding would have been to scale up livelihoods programmes in Aruba and Curacao, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Funding was insufficient to strengthen response programmes to gender-based violence, particularly in Guyana and Curacao.
The operation in the USA operated on a minimal budget, despite additional funds being needed to improve legal assistance and reception services to asylum seekers.
Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)
- UNHCR provided cash assistance to 68 households living on small islands in the Northern Caribbean and in Suriname.
- People of concern to UNHCR, host Governments and first line responders in NGO partners received during the pandemic protective equipment and support to enlarge health facilities, as with Refugee Housing Units.
Working environmentRefugees and migrants continue to leave Venezuela and arrive in the Caribbean with increasing protection and emergency assistance needs. Venezuelans are seeking international protection, fleeing repression and/or looking for ways to re-establish their lives abroad, as the economic and political crisis deepens, and shortages of essential goods and services continue inside Venezuela. The increased number of Venezuelans arriving in the Caribbean requires capacity-building and emergency preparedness support to host governments, and ongoing protection and assistance delivery to people of concern - directly or through partners. With the expectation that by the end of 2020 some 157,000 Venezuelans with possible international protection needs will be staying in the Caribbean, UNHCR will further strengthen its operations in particular in the Southern part of the region.
Under the joint inter-agency coordination platform and through coordination with governments and communities affected, UNHCR will consolidate its capacity-building and targeted protection interventions, which, together with the Caribbean Migration Consultations regional policy forum should help maintain the protection space in the region.
With regards to the United States of America, additional executive orders, regulations, and policies limiting access to territory and to the asylum system were issued in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, increasing arrivals of asylum-seekers from the NCA and Venezuela are anticipated to continue, placing pressure on the Government’s and NGOs’ reception capacity. Despite a difficult protection environment, UNHCR expects to maintain positive relationships with key government counterparts, finding spaces of collaboration especially around building of regional asylum capacity. With regards to the situation at the border between the United states of America and Mexico, new opportunities for meaningful UNHCR cross-border engagement will continue to grow as UNHCR expands its operations and protection presence in Mexico.
Key prioritiesIn line with the objectives of the RMRP, UNHCR will continue to support States in the southern Caribbean to ensure that Venezuelans and other populations of concern have access to asylum and/or alternative legal pathways without fear of being deported. UNHCR will also strengthen access to services and to socio-economic rights and increase its focus on the prevention and response to SGBV and human trafficking.
In the rest of the Caribbean, UNHCR will continue to promote protection-sensitive management of mixed movements and assist States to progressively develop asylum laws, policies and systems. The progressive eradication of statelessness in the Caribbean, including through the pursuit of nationality solutions in the Dominican Republic will also be a key strategic priority. Throughout the Caribbean, resettlement and relocation options as part of comprehensive durable solutions will grow, both as a protection tool for most vulnerable refugees and as a strategic one to improve refugee policies at the national levels.
In the United States of America, UNHCR will prioritize activities to strengthen access to asylum, preserve protection safeguards and advance the integration of refugees. UNHCR also intends to back US engagement in the NCA regional response, including support for regional asylum capacity building and the PTA. UNHCR will continue to support the implementation of the US refugee admissions programme and explore avenues for expanding co-sponsorship models, while supporting the National Action Plan to end statelessness by 2024.