Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran

Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

Years of violence in Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s forced millions of people to flee. Since 2002, more than 6.5 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan, most of whom were assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This group represents the largest voluntary repatriation operation in history.  At present, approximately 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees holding “Proof of Registration (POR)” cards reside in Pakistan.  An additional 870,000 have applied for Afghan Citizen Cards and an estimated 500,000 unregistered Afghans are also present.  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 people (IDPs) in an insecure environment. In 2018, a punishing drought forced more than 250,000 people from their homes, and nearly 350,000 Afghans were internally displaced by conflict.  The effects of drought and conflict-related displacement were compounded by more than 770,000 returnees and deportees from Iran in 2018.

In addition, about 100,000 Pakistani refugees remain in Paktika and Khost provinces in Afghanistan where they fled insurgent activity and Pakistani military operations in their home region in 2014.

What are the major challenges in the region?

The overall humanitarian situation in the region remains precarious, with continued challenges related to protection, food security, nutrition, health, water/sanitation, education, and shelter for vulnerable populations.  Afghanistan is experiencing its most severe drought in decades, affecting more than two-thirds of Afghanistan and leaving 13.5 million people facing crisis levels of food insecurity – of which, 3.6 million are at emergency levels. In addition, 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.

While the return of 6.5 million former refugees to Afghanistan represents a success, the capacity of the Afghan government to rebuild and provide basic services to its entire population is limited.  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 Afghan Government.

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.  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 support refugee hosting communities.  PRM also works with humanitarian organization partners, and the Afghan and Pakistani governments, as well as 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 the capacity of the Afghan government to meet the needs of its own people.

In Afghanistan, PRM works primarily with UNHCR to provide humanitarian protection and assistance to refugees and support refugee-hosting communities.  PRM also funds projects through our NGO partners 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), sustainable livelihood options, and access to education. 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 population. PRM has partnered with IOM on a capacity building program for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation.

In Pakistan, PRM funds projects through our NGO partners to fill specific gaps in humanitarian assistance for Afghan refugees, such as supporting access to education 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 Section 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 Section 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 illegally 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 attaining civil documentation as they are not recognized as legal 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 required to implement effective immigration policies and procedures.

How does PRM help?

The Bureau has been a longtime supporter of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (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, of 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 the provision of 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 Mexico 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.  According to the Government of Colombia, the conflict resulted in more than 7.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) since 1985.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 340,000 Colombians fled to neighboring countries as a result of the conflict to seek international protection.

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 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees throughout the region.  This assistance for Colombians helps ensure adequate protection for vulnerable people and helps alleviate suffering through the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance such as food, non-food, 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, Venezuela, and Ecuador.  PRM’s Refugee Coordinator in Mexico City, Mexico monitors PRM’s program for Colombian IDPs and refugees in Panama.  The Refugee Coordinators work closely with PRM program officers in Washington, D.C. who manage programs in the region.

The Western Balkans

The Western 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 345,000 vulnerable displaced persons.  Additionally, hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and migrants have entered or passed through the Western Balkans since 2015, bringing to light challenges to regional border management and provision of effective protection.

What are the major challenges in the region?

While the majority of people displaced as a result of the Yugoslavia war in the 1990s have returned home or resettled elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of individuals 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, and these needs are especially acute for those who were or are still displaced from their homes.

To compound this, unresolved conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan prompted the movement of over 1.5 million refugees and migrants through the Western Balkans in 2015 and 2016.  As the numbers of arrivals in Europe has stabilized, communities host to new refugees and asylum seekers will need to focus increasingly on integration and on ensuring that these new arrivals have adequate access to asylum processes, information about available services, dignified and safe reception and accommodation sites, and access to work and education.

How does PRM help?

PRM in the Western 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 UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 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 and the region and encourages governments to develop policies to meet humanitarian responsibilities on protection and statelessness.

Through IOM, we also work with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, and Montenegro to build capacity in humane migration management and in responding to vulnerable migrants.

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, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

South Caucasus

South Caucasus Displacement Overview

Unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus region, which includes Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, have left over 900,000 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.  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 Refugee Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi 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.

For more information on humanitarian assistance provided by PRM go here.


Ukraine Crisis Overview

After more than four years of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, nearly 1.5 million people have been registered by the government as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and about 4.4 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?

Despite the 2014 and 2015 adoption of the Minsk agreements, persistent ceasefire violations and damage to critical infrastructure continue to threaten civilians and those seeking to help them in eastern Ukraine.  Bureaucratic obstacles in facilitating the movement of people and goods across and beyond the line of contact exacerbate humanitarian needs.  Ukraine’s success in avoiding the establishment of traditional camps for displaced persons runs the unintended risk that some of the most vulnerable people will be invisible to the government and humanitarian aid providers.  Protection needs are manifold, even for those residing in government-controlled territories, and revolve around ensuring that IDPs and conflict victims receive necessary support towards accessing social benefits; protecting victims of gender-based violence; supporting families caring for unrelated children; and providing legal assistance to address housing rights violations.  This requires the engagement of development and humanitarian actors and programming to ensure that humanitarian needs are addressed and solutions are durable.

How does PRM help? In response to ongoing needs, PRM increased its humanitarian assistance to Ukraine in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 to nearly $30 million, nearly doubling its assistance from FY 2017.  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, and community mobilization and social cohesion.  We also support a range of activities designed to mobilize and empower communities, in order to organize emergency response, protect themselves, and identify solutions.

Where does PRM work in the region?

The Bureau has a Refugee Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia who is responsible for monitoring and reporting on PRM humanitarian assistance and policy and program issues regarding the situation in Ukraine. The Refugee Coordinator works closely with PRM program officers in Washington, DC who manage programs in the region.

Mexico and Central America

PRM’s efforts in Mexico and Central America primarily focus on mixed migratory movements, which include economic migrants and persons fleeing violence and insecurity. The Bureau funds its traditional partners, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to provide protection and assistance to vulnerable populations, such as refugees, stateless persons, conflict victims, and vulnerable migrants in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua.

What are the major challenges in the region?

Every year, many migrants lose their lives or face exploitation while trying to reach the United States. Human smugglers take advantage of individuals who are vulnerable to violent crime or sexual abuse along the dangerous journey. Human smugglers also often spread misinformation about U.S. immigration laws and policies to encourage families to bring their children to the United States. PRM works with partners to discourage individuals from undertaking the dangerous journey and encourage safe, legal, and orderly migration.

Furthermore, vulnerable persons with protection concerns continue to flee Central America due to the violence and instability in their countries of origin.  Given high homicide rates, gang-related violence, impunity, endemic corruption, and high rates of sexual and gender-based violence, many have chosen to seek international protection and asylum elsewhere.

How does PRM help?

With PRM support, UNHCR has established a permanent presence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to strengthen asylum systems via increased personnel, trainings, and improved premises, as well as provide – international protection screening for those displaced. PRM’s funding also supports efforts to build the capacity of the Costa Rican, Guatemala, Mexican, and Panamanian governments to identify and process asylum seekers, thereby allowing those seeking protection to find it as close to home as possible.

PRM has contributed to the ICRC for its regional appeal for the Western Hemisphere. ICRC works to facilitate a meaningful response to violence, improve host government forensics capabilities, assist with family reunification, and monitor conditions in migrant detention centers. ICRC also partners with local organizations that provide medical care to 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, social welfare, 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. The IOM is PRM’s implementer for these activities.

Where does PRM work in the region?

PRM’s refugee coordinator based in Mexico City oversees PRM programming in Mexico and Central America, with support from program officers in Washington, D.C.


Venezuela Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

More than 3.7 million Venezuelans have fled their country due to deteriorating political and economic conditions inside Venezuela. The United States is very concerned about the struggle Venezuelan citizens face every day to meet their families’ basic needs, and we continue to assess humanitarian needs throughout the region to determine what additional assistance we can provide to alleviate suffering and support the well-being of displaced Venezuelans.

What are the major challenges in the region?

Crumbling 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, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago. Economic conditions inside Venezuela are expected to worsen as inflation rates continue to rise. The UN projects that 5.3 million Venezuelans will have fled Venezuela by the end of 2019.

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 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. This funding also supports the UN World Food Program’s emergency response efforts to help feed Venezuelans in Colombia, as well as those who have recently arrived in Ecuador. It also supports non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and host communities in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, 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 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