Global Report 2022
2022 Year-end population figures
Other populations of concern: 241,900
Population figures for forcibly displaced people from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Spain and the United States of America.
2022 Situation overview
More than 1 million people had been uprooted from their homes in Central America by the end of 2022 due to violence, insecurity and persecution, mainly by criminal organizations. The number of asylum-seekers and refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras worldwide reached 665,200, while internal displacement continued to affect all countries in the sub-region. Asylum systems in Central America and Mexico continued to deal with an increasing number of asylum claims. Mexico again ranked among the top receiving countries of asylum applications in the world, with 118,800 new asylum claims.
El Salvador's Congress extended the state of emergency that began in March 2022 in an effort to end gang violence. By the end of the year, more than 60,000 people had been arrested and territorial control by gangs showed signs of wearing away, while access to communities historically controlled by gangs improved. In addition, the Government declared a red alert across the country and a 15-day state of national emergency due to Tropical Storm Julia. Authorities coordinated the evacuation to shelters of 5,170 people living in zones at risk. Across the country there were reports of damaged homes, overflowing rivers, collapsed bridges, landslides and blocked roads.
Guatemala continued receiving asylum claims at a similar level to 2021, making it a host country as well as a source of refugees. The Government received almost 1,000 asylum applications and recognized 254 people as refugees in 2022. Hondurans, Salvadorians and Nicaraguans constitute Guatemala's main nationalities seeking international protection. However, 2022 saw a 100% increase in claims presented by Venezuelans. UNHCR inaugurated a new field unit in Huehuetenango, increasing its field presence and supporting local governments and civil society organizations in creating protection mechanisms for refugees and Guatemalans at risk. Along with UNICEF, IOM and the Guatemalan Migration Institute, UNHCR inaugurated a new Attention Centre for Migrants and Refugees in Agua Caliente, Esquipulas; and one in El Cinchado, Izabal, near the border with Honduras.
In 2022, Honduras saw an increase in criminal activity and displacement. In addition, landslides, floods, and road collapses affected more than 80,000 people and caused more than 20 deaths. 2022 saw the second highest number of deportations to Honduras in eight years. After January 2022, returns to Honduras were coordinated and ordered, passing through the three Centres for Attention to Returned Migrants. In addition to increasing efficiency in the return process, the coordination through these centres aimed to protect returnees and improve reception conditions after a hard journey outside of the country. Within the framework of the "Law for the protection of Honduran migrants and members of their families" (2013), as well as the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS), the State of Honduras developed protocols for the identification of cases of people with protection needs. In addition, the approval of the “Law for the prevention, care, and protection of internally displaced people” in December 2022 brought about new opportunities for consolidating the institutional response to internal displacement in Honduras. UNHCR played a key role in advising Congress and providing technical support to the authorities in the framework of the approval process of the law.
To enhance prevention and collaborative responses to internal displacement in the three countries, UNHCR expanded its field presence and direct service delivery, further strengthened its advocacy and leading role in the Protection clusters/sectors, coordinating with relevant stakeholders, including national and local governments, international organizations, civil society, grass-roots and community organizations and displaced populations. UNHCR also strengthened its protection-oriented interventions in key communities to prevent displacement and strengthen protection alternatives for people at risk, focusing on adolescents and women at risk. UNHCR also actively engaged with Resident Coordinators and UN country teams in promoting the implementation of the Secretary-General's Action Agenda on Internal Displacement, launched in June 2022.
In Mexico, UNHCR played a key role in providing the tools required for thousands of refugees to integrate within their host communities with the Relocation, Job placement and Local Integration Program (PIL). Over 12,800 recognized refugees and people with complementary protection took part in the PIL, reaching a total of 28,700 participants since the beginning of the programme in 2016.
MIRPS, a regional forum to address the challenges posed by displacement which collaborates on data collection and analysis, early warning systems, protection, and local integration, held its fifth annual meeting in Tegucigalpa in December 2022. In 2022, it was strengthened with the participation of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the World Bank, and the United States of America took on the role of chair of the MIRPS Support Platform.
UNHCR maintained its catalytic role in other complementary regional processes, ensuring that forced displacement remains high on the agenda of the Central American Integration System, the Regional Conference on Migration and the discussion on the implementation of the Comprehensive Development Plan led by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Global Appeal 2023
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.
Global Report 2021
2021 Year-end population figures
Asylum seekers: 484,000
Other populations of concern: 254,000
2021 Situation overview
The root causes of this displacement situation are multiple and interrelated: widespread violence, territorial control by criminal organizations and gangs, fragile institutions, the impact of climate change and deeply entrenched inequalities – all compounded by the pandemic.
In 2021, growing numbers of people were forced to leave their homes in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. By year-end there were nearly 600,000 asylum seekers and refugees from these countries, mainly in Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States of America. It is estimated that approximately 320,000 people were internally displaced in El Salvador and Honduras, although the actual number could be higher. In addition, significant cross-border movements, predominantly of Cubans, Haitians and Venezuelans, continued to be reported, putting additional pressure on asylum systems, mostly in Central America and Mexico.
Strengthened asylum capacity enabled States to process more asylum applications and provide alternative protection for those in need. The number of asylum seekers and refugees in Central America and Mexico rose from 33,000 in 2015 to 296,000 by mid-2021. Mexico has become the fourth-largest recipient country of new asylum claims in the world with more than 131,000 new asylum applications in 2021. Similarly, Central American States, while remaining mostly transit countries, increasingly hosted people in search of protection.
In coordination with partners, UNHCR supported a range of multisectoral humanitarian and protection services under the humanitarian response plans in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In addition, in the framework of the Comprehensive Development Plan for El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and south and southeast Mexico, a package of priority projects was consolidated to support developmental investments in strengthening the response capacity of national institutions and the effective inclusion of displaced people.
UNHCR worked with multiple stakeholders, including national and state-departmental authorities, parliaments and local governments to promote institutional frameworks and policies on the prevention of internal displacement and protection of IDPs such as in El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. Furthermore, national authorities were supported with developing national statistics and information on IDPs, in line with the international recommendations on IDP statistics.
In Central America and Mexico, UNHCR supported the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS) as part of the Technical Secretariat. With Guatemala holding the MIRPS pro tempore presidency for 2021, UNHCR enhanced the coordination of Member States for technical consultations and joint operational planning to complement existing political dialogue.
MIRPS leveraged support from States, international financial institutions, the private sector, regional bodies and other stakeholders to offer further protection and solutions to forcibly displaced people in the region. The Inter-American Development Bank joined the platform in April 2021, strengthening coordination with development actors. In July 2021, Canada took the leadership of the platform for the next 12 months, with a focus on the protection and empowerment of women and girls on the move.