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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.

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.


Venezuela Migration and Refugee Crisis Overview

Nearly 8 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 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