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Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran

Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

Millions of people fled Afghanistan during widespread violence in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assisted most of the more than 6.5 million refugees who have returned to Afghanistan, the largest voluntary repatriation operation in history.  Approximately 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees holding “Proof of Registration (POR)” cards reside in Pakistan.  An additional 880,000 hold Afghan Citizen Cards and an estimated 500,000 unregistered Afghans reside in Pakistan.  In Iran, there are nearly one million registered refugees holding “Amayesh” cards.  In addition, the Government of Iran estimates that Iran hosts around 450,000 Afghans who hold Afghan passports with Iranian visas, and 1.5 million undocumented Afghans.

Over two million Afghans are displaced internally by conflict and natural disasters, though the actual number is likely higher due to the challenges of verifying internally displaced persons (IDPs) in an insecure environment. About 72,000 Pakistani refugees remain in Paktika and Khost provinces in Afghanistan where they fled insurgent activity and Pakistani military operations in 2014.

What Are the Major Challenges in the Region?

The regional humanitarian situation remains precarious, with continued challenges related to protection, food security, nutrition, health, water/sanitation, education, and shelter for vulnerable populations. The volatile security situation in Afghanistan has severely constrained access by humanitarian actors to vulnerable populations. Insecurity, landlessness, lack of livelihoods opportunities, and poor service infrastructure in some parts of Afghanistan prevent many former refugees and IDPs from returning to their area of origin.  COVID-19 presents additional challenges to Afghanistan’s already-overstretched health care system, while economic damage associated with COVID-19 has reduced government revenue to assist vulnerable populations and threatens the livelihoods of displaced persons in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.

While the return of 6.5 million former refugees to Afghanistan since 2002 represents a success, the capacity of the Afghan government to rebuild and provide basic services to its entire population is limited.  Afghanistan lacks capacity to absorb large numbers of new arrivals due to ongoing insecurity, poor development, high unemployment, and growing poverty. Recent refugee returns to Afghanistan have fallen to historic lows, and in the first six months of 2020 totaled only 377 – in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Former refugees now constitute about 20 percent of Afghanistan’s population, and returns are ongoing.  Helping returned refugees cope with the adjustment back to life in Afghanistan, while continuing to develop basic service provision for the entire population, is an ongoing challenge for the government of Afghanistan. Returned refugees also face challenges finding jobs within Afghanistan’s fragile economy.

How Does PRM Help?

PRM supports programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan that play a critical role in meeting the humanitarian needs of long-term refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and host communities. In Fiscal Year 2019, PRM provided more than $85 million in support of Afghans in the region.  PRM funds international organizations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide humanitarian protection and assistance to refugees and returnees and support host communities. PRM also works with humanitarian organization partners, the Afghan and Pakistani governments, and other donors to coordinate an efficient and effective response to humanitarian crises in the region and build support for durable, sustainable, and dignified solutions for refugees.  PRM’s programs support the most basic needs of extremely vulnerable people, helping to sustain lives and reduce the suffering of victims of conflict, while building refugee and returnee self-sufficiency and bolstering the capacity of the Afghan government to meet the needs of its own people.

In Afghanistan, PRM works with UNHCR to provide humanitarian protection and assistance to refugees, IDPs, and returnees and support host communities.  PRM also funds projects through NGOs to address immediate needs of Afghan refugees and IDPs. These projects provide access to legal documentation, support with property rights, prevention of and response to gender-based violence (GBV), and sustainable livelihood options. In addition to direct services provision, PRM seeks to build the capacity of the Afghan government to meet the challenges posed by one of the world’s largest returning refugee populations. PRM has partnered with IOM on a capacity building program for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation.

In Pakistan, PRM  works closely with UNHCR, ICRC, the World Bank and other international organizations to support the Pakistani governments efforts to host Afghan refugees. Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees for more than 40 years, and PRM seeks to maintain this protection until refugees can safely and voluntarily return to Afghanistan. Through UNHCR, PRM funding provides humanitarian protection and assistance to refugees, including legal, health, education, water and sanitation, livelihoods, infrastructure, and mental health and psychosocial support. In addition to contributing to international organizations, PRM funds NGOs to fill specific gaps in humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees, such as supporting access to education for the most vulnerable children and the prevention of and response to GBV.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

The Bureau has two Refugee Coordinator teams in the region.  PRM’s Refugee Affairs Unit at U.S. Embassy Kabul is responsible for policy and programs related to Afghan refugee returnees, IDPs, and Pakistani refugees in Afghanistan. PRM’s Refugee Affairs Unit at U.S. Embassy Islamabad is primarily responsible for Afghan refugee policy and program issues in Pakistan. The Refugee Coordinators work closely with PRM program officers in Washington, DC who manage programs in the region.


Caribbean Refugee and Migration Overview

Every year, migrants from around the world lose their lives or are exploited while trying to reach the United States via Caribbean waters.  The Bureau works with international organizations, local partners, and governments across the region to promote well-managed, legal forms of migration, and to discourage dangerous sea voyages.  PRM’s efforts in the Caribbean cover refugee protection issues, statelessness, and migration flows, including mixed flows of migrants and refugees. The Bureau works with its traditional partners – the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – to address protection needs, work with governments to improve their immigration management capacities and asylum and protection screening systems, and to find durable solutions for people at risk of statelessness in the region.

What are the major challenges in the region?

Statelessness remains a major challenge in some areas of the Caribbean. Stateless persons face difficulties in obtaining civil documentation as they are not recognized as citizens. Without recognition under the law, they are likely to be denied access to critical social services such as education and healthcare, and are not granted the right to vote or own property.

Additionally, many countries in the region lack the financial and human capital to implement effective immigration policies and procedures. The Caribbean also hosts growing numbers of Venezuelan refugees and migrants. The limited absorption capacity of these countries has led to an out-sized impact and worsening humanitarian conditions, including increases in refoulement, human trafficking, and gender-based violence.

How does PRM help?

The Bureau has been a longtime supporter of UNHCR, IOM, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). UNHCR works with regional governments on Refugee Status Determination procedures to help identify individuals with legitimate refugee claims, as well as the adoption and use of effective refugee protection standards. It also works with host governments to develop durable solutions, principally through local integration initiatives and resettlement, for refugees. IOM works with governments across the Caribbean in areas such as preventing human trafficking, promoting regional collaboration on the most challenging transnational migration matters, and building government capacity in migration management. ICRC provides support to victims of conflict, the development of humane prison conditions, and  international humanitarian law training.

PRM is also supporting the Caribbean Migration Consultations (CMC), is a member-led organization jointly supported by IOM and UNHCR.  The CMC’s goal is to provide a forum through which States can bolster regional cooperation in migration management, protection, and the fight against human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

In addition, PRM consults with a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that track protection and statelessness issues in the region to ensure that the views and observations of NGOs inform our policies and programming.

Where does PRM work in the region?

The Bureau’s Refugee Coordinator in Panama City is responsible for monitoring and reporting on PRM humanitarian assistance and policy and program issues in the Caribbean.  The Refugee Coordinator works closely with PRM program officers in Washington, DC who manage programs in the region.


Colombia Migration and Refugee Overview

Decades of fighting between the government of Colombia and illegal armed groups forced millions of civilians to flee their homes.  There are 7.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia, and the country continues to experience large-scale displacement.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are more than 190,000 Colombians living in neighboring countries as a result of the conflict.  Colombia also hosts nearly 1.8 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

What are the major challenges in the region?

The Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), formerly the country’s largest guerrilla insurgency group, continue to implement the November 2016 peace accord.  Despite these efforts, violence continues to displace people.  Illegal armed groups, as well as narcotics traffickers, are significant perpetrators of human rights abuses and violent crimes.

How does PRM help?

PRM has assisted displaced Colombians since 2000.  PRM provides humanitarian assistance for Colombian IDPs and refugees throughout the region.  This assistance for Colombians protects vulnerable people and alleviates suffering through the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance such as food, non-food items, shelter, health, and psychosocial support, and by building local government and community capacity to meet the needs and improve the quality of assistance and services for IDPs and refugees.

Where does PRM work in the region?

PRM’s Refugee Coordinator based in Bogotá, Colombia oversees policy and monitors PRM programs for Colombian IDPs and refugees in Colombia and Venezuela.  PRM’s Refugee Coordinator based in Quito, Ecuador oversees policy and monitors programs in Ecuador and the region. The Refugee Coordinators work closely with PRM program officers in Washington, D.C. who manage programs in the region.

The Greater Balkans

The Greater Balkans Regional Overview

The break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s triggered the displacement of nearly 3 million people; while most have returned home or resettled elsewhere, the Western Balkans still hosts more than 350,000 registered displaced persons, many of whom remain vulnerable.    Additionally, hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants have entered or passed through the Balkans since 2015, including 121,000 refugees and migrants currently hosted by Greece, bringing to light challenges to regional border management and provision of effective protection.

What are the major challenges in the region?

Hundreds of thousands of those uprooted as a result of the wars of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s   remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance.  Access to housing, livelihoods, and basic services, continues to be difficult for people across the Western Balkans.

To compound these challenges, unresolved conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan prompted the movement of nearly 1.7 million refugees and migrants through the Balkans since 2015.  While overall arrivals to Europe decreased in 2019, arrivals via the Eastern Mediterranean and  Greece increased dramatically in 2019, leading to dire humanitarian conditions at overcrowded Reception and Identification Centers in Greece as well as an acute shortage of accommodations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  As the number of arrivals in Europe has stabilized, European nations face the challenge of integrating newly arrived populations.  They will need to  ensure these new arrivals have adequate access to asylum processes, information about available services, dignified and safe reception and accommodation sites, access to work and education, as well as programs that target the specific needs of the vulnerable separated and unaccompanied minors.

How does PRM help?

PRM in the Balkans today provides life-saving assistance where necessary while working to integrate humanitarian assistance programs into economic development strategies supported by local, national, and international actors.  We also advocate for integration strategies and full access to rights and services for vulnerable displaced persons, and we support international partners, the European Union, and host governments to humanely and effectively address regional irregular migration challenges.

Along with the European Union and over 10 other donors, we help provide durable housing solutions for refugees through the Regional Housing Program, a joint initiative by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia that helps resolve the protracted displacement of refugees and displaced persons following the 1991-1995 conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia, including internally displaced persons in Montenegro from 1999.  Our funding for this program and complementary assistance helps provide housing, livelihoods, legal assistance, and capacity-building for host governments as they work to close the chapter on displacement in the region.

In addition to our support to the Regional Housing Program, we provide funding and support to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), and the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) to meet the needs of refugee and displaced persons.  We also support efforts to resolve missing persons cases remaining from the conflicts of the 1990s.

PRM also works to raise the visibility of statelessness in the region and encourages governments to develop policies to meet humanitarian responsibilities on protection and statelessness.

We support UNICEF to increase government capacity to respond to, and support survivors of, gender based violence in Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia.

Where does PRM work in the region?

Our regional refugee office is located at U.S. Embassy, Belgrade and represents PRM in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

Mexico and Central America

The number of refugees and asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America, worldwide as of June 2019, had increased by 107 percent compared to 2016, and 1,700 percent compared to 2012.  PRM support in the region aims to address the humanitarian needs of vulnerable migrants, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers, and refugees, in support of national government responses.  PRM funding supports programming in the following sectors:  protection (including child protection and GBV prevention and response); emergency and cash based initiatives; shelter; water, health, and sanitation; and livelihood programming. The Bureau funds its traditional partners, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and NGOs (in limited locations).

What are the major challenges in the region?

Governments throughout the region have demonstrated an increased commitment to partnering with the United States and other countries in coordinating national approaches to forced displacement and migration.  However, addressing the underlying push factors driving migration is a long-term endeavor.  Rapidly changing policies throughout the region create confusion, bolstering smugglers’ ability to exploit vulnerable people.  PRM continues to emphasize the need for a comprehensive, regional response to refugee and migration challenges, including the need for engagement with the private and development sectors.

How does PRM help?

PRM funding in the region focuses on three primary objectives: 1) provision of humanitarian assistance; 2) capacity building; and 3) diplomatic engagement with governments throughout the region to advocate for protection-sensitive migration management.  With PRM support, UNHCR is helping governments operationalize their national commitments to address forced displacement, both internal and cross border, including through support for streamlined asylum processing, improvements to legislation, as well as support for staffing, provision of trainings, and development of policies and procedures.  UNHCR is further working to help ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are able to integrate into their new communities by providing transitional assistance such as documentation support and facilitating legal access to health, education, and work opportunities.

PRM contributions to the ICRC aim to improve  host government forensics capabilities, assist with family communication and reunification, and monitor conditions in  detention settings.  ICRC also partners with local organizations that provide medical care to refugees and migrants in need, including prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation to those seriously injured on their journey.

Since 2010, PRM has been working to support the governments of Central America and Mexico in their efforts to train front-line migration, law enforcement, and social welfare officials and civil society organizations in the identification, screening, and provision of life-saving assistance to asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, and unaccompanied minors  vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. IOM is PRM’s implementer for these activities.

Where does PRM work in the region?

PRM has two refugee coordinators in the region, supported by then Washington D.C. office. PRM’s refugee coordinator based in Mexico City oversees assistance programming in Mexico and Central America, while the Panama City refugee coordinator oversees assistance programming in the Caribbean and Panama, and all refugee resettlement from Central America and the Caribbean.

South Caucasus

South Caucasus Displacement Overview

Unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus region, which includes Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, have left nearly 1 million  people in need of durable solutions.  Ethnic Georgian returnees in the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of Abkhazia live in tenuous circumstances with few economic opportunities or political rights, limited freedom of movement, and poor access to health care and markets and are also at risk of secondary displacement.  In Armenia, refugees encounter difficulties accessing employment as well as language and cultural barriers that inhibit their self-reliance and integration prospects.  In Azerbaijan, access to asylum and protection remains limited, restricting access to employment, education, and other critical services.

How Does PRM Help?

PRM provides humanitarian assistance in the Caucasus and other areas of Europe, through international humanitarian organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).  In addition, PRM supports NGO programs to help refugees and IDPs in the Caucasus.  In Fiscal Year 2019, PRM contributed $10.5 million to partners and programs in the South Caucasus.  PRM funding promotes self-reliance through community-based livelihood activities, improves asylum systems, and advocates for improvements to and implementation of international and national legal frameworks and policies.  PRM further supports partner efforts to clarify the fate of missing persons and respond to the emergency needs of people affected by conflict.

Where Does PRM Work in the Region?

PRM’s Regional Refugee Coordinator, relocating from the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv in fall 2020, covers the Bureau’s issues in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.  The Refugee Coordinator works closely with PRM program officers in Washington, DC who manage programs in the region.


Ukraine Crisis Overview

After more than six years of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, more than 1.4 million people have been registered by the government as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and about 3.4 million people are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.  Needs are most acute along the line of contact, where there are daily risks of injury due to ongoing clashes and landmines, frequent disruptions to water supplies and electricity, restricted freedom of movement, lack of access to documentation, services, and income, and rapidly increasing prices for basic goods.

What Are the Major Challenges in Ukraine?

Persistent ceasefire violations and damage to critical infrastructure continue to threaten civilians and those seeking to help them in eastern Ukraine.  Restrictions on movement of people and goods, including humanitarian aid, across and beyond the line of contact exacerbate humanitarian needs.  Protection concerns exist, even for those residing in government-controlled territories,.  Humanitarian partners work to help IDPs and conflict-affected populations access benefits; protect survivors of gender-based violence; support families caring for unrelated children; and provide legal assistance to address housing rights violations.

How Does PRM Help?

Between Fiscal Years (FY) 2014 and FY 2019, PRM has contributed nearly $143 million towards urgent humanitarian needs in Ukraine, including over $28 million in FY 2019.  PRM funds international humanitarian organizations to support the provision of emergency shelter and household items, winterization support, cash assistance, livelihoods interventions, rehabilitation of essential infrastructure, legal protection, community mobilization, and social cohesion.  We also support a range of activities designed to mobilize and empower communities to organize emergency response, protect themselves, and identify solutions.

Where does PRM work in the region?

The Bureau has established a Regional Refugee Coordinator position at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine,  responsible for monitoring and reporting on PRM humanitarian assistance and policy and program issues regarding the situation in Ukraine, as well as in other Eurasian countries. The Refugee Coordinator works closely with PRM program officers in Washington, DC who manage programs in the region.


Venezuela Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

More than 5.2 million Venezuelans have fled their country in recent years due to deteriorating political and economic conditions inside Venezuela. Many Venezuelans struggle to meet their families’ basic needs, and the United States provides significant regional support to alleviate suffering and support the well-being of displaced Venezuelans.

What are the major challenges in the region?

Worsening economic and political conditions in Venezuela since 2014 have contributed to increasing humanitarian needs and triggered an influx of Venezuelans into neighboring countries, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the Caribbean.   The UN estimates seven million Venezuelans (approximately one quarter of Venezuela’s population) need humanitarian assistance in Venezuela, and according to the World Food Program, nearly eight percent of the population in Venezuela is severely food insecure. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating conditions inside Venezuela and throughout the region. The UN projects that 6.5 million Venezuelans will have fled Venezuela by the end of 2020.The population influx is straining the capacity of services in host communities, particularly in the  border areas of Brazil and Colombia.  Recent assessments indicate food, health care services, nutrition assistance, and water and sanitation support are among the most urgent humanitarian needs of Venezuelans and host communities in the region.

How does PRM help?

PRM provides humanitarian assistance through international partners and NGOs to help Venezuelans affected by the crisis in Venezuela and throughout the region. This humanitarian assistance provides vulnerable people emergency food assistance, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies, shelter, protection from violence and exploitation, and work and education opportunities.

PRM’s funding includes contributions to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other international organizations to meet the humanitarian needs of vulnerable Venezuelans and host communities throughout the region. It also supports non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and host communities in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, several Caribbean island nations, and other countries throughout the region.   PRM’s funding provides lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan refugees and migrants in 16 countries throughout the region, complementing the efforts of host governments.

Where does PRM work in the region?

PRM’s Refugee Coordinators in Bogotá, Colombia, Quito, Ecuador, Panama City, Panama, and Mexico City, Mexico coordinate humanitarian diplomacy; liaise with government officials, civil society, donor country representatives, and UN officials; and monitor and evaluate PRM-funded programs in the region.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future