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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - Latin America

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 Latin America subregional operations map

During 2014, all States in the subregion participated in the Cartagena+30 process. MERCOSUR countries have renewed their commitment to high protection standards, the gradual and regional harmonization of procedures and practices, and proposed new solutions initiatives. This includes an evaluation of the Solidarity Resettlement Programme launched under the Mexico Plan of Action, with a view to improving and consolidating it. Particular attention and consideration has been given to the regional migration frameworks under MERCOSUR for the benefit of refugees, particularly regarding transnational labour mobility. Countries in South America, mainly Brazil and Argentina, have witnessed a notable increase in asylum-seekers in the region, particularly Syrians.

The humanitarian response to the protection needs of Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans - particularly unaccompanied children, adolescents and women who often suffer violence from transnational organized criminal groups - has featured prominently in discussions with governments and civil society partners. The number of people requiring protection has risen significantly. Of particular concern is the situation of unaccompanied children, who are exposed to various forms of abuse during displacement.

| Response and implementation |

The Declaration and Plan of Action of Cartagena+30, expected to be adopted in December 2014, will focus on the following regional priorities:

  • Harmonization of legislation, procedures and best practices at subregional level, within the frameworks of the respective regional integration mechanisms;

  • Expansion of the Quality Assurance Initiative (QAI) programme, to additional countries, to improve the management of asylum systems in the region;

  • Adherence to international and regional protection standards, including extraterritorial recognition of refugee status, elimination of administrative detention of asylum-seekers and children, special protection/ solution protocols for unaccompanied children seeking asylum, and specific protocols for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals;

  • In the context of mixed migration movements, ensure protection safeguards at sensitive borders and strengthen regional cooperation and information sharing to combat and prevent human trafficking; enhance victims' protection; preserve the right to seek asylum; and establish mechanisms for the identification of protection needs and referrals;

  • Commitment to eradicating statelessness by 2024; acceding to and ratifying the UN's Statelessness Conventions; and enacting implementation procedures;

  • Enhanced international cooperation in search of solutions, in particular tripartite mechanisms for voluntary repatriation in the Andean region;

  • Promotion of local integration through: sensitization campaigns addressed at local authorities and communities; refugee and civil-society participation in the design of public policies; enhanced access to employment, with the support of private-sector social responsibility schemes, as well as to public services available to nationals; speedy and free personal documentation, without reference to the refugee status of the holder; a change of migratory status to obtain a permanent residence, and facilities for naturalization;

  • Consolidation of resettlement programmes within a comprehensive approach to solutions.

UNHCR's operation in Colombia is described in a separate chapter. For other countries where UNHCR operates in the subregion, please see below.

The Argentina Regional Office covers Argentina, as well as Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. UNHCR's overall goal is to preserve and further enhance protection space in the region. To achieve this, its strategy will include the parallel implementation of programmes focusing on the legal and physical protection of people of concern, including statelessness; as well as public awareness and durable solutions.

The Office will continue working to expand the network of partners, by finalizing a livelihoods strategy in all six countries, to widen options available to achieve self-reliance and boost local integration opportunities.

In Chile and Uruguay, the Office will promote the continuation of the resettlement and the women-at-risk programmes, with greater involvement of the authorities in funding and implementation.

In Brazil, UNHCR is supporting the pledges made by the Government, particularly for the approval of a statelessness bill; and engaging with key state actors to increase government involvement in local integration matters, such as advancing self-reliance and livelihood options in urban areas. The Office is also working with the Government to strengthen its support to the solidarity resettlement programme; and to provide physical and legal protection for people of concern, particularly vulnerable individuals.

UNHCR in Costa Rica will continue re-orientating its protection and durable solutions strategy, including by maintaining regular visits to, and training activities, at the southern border points; and closely monitoring international airports and the northern border entry points for Central Americans requiring protection. The Office will capitalize on the QAI process developed in 2013, strategically applying limited human, technical and material resources to reduce the refugee status determination backlog, and improve recognition rates. UNHCR will concentrate on durable solutions, particularly local integration and job placement, strengthening alliances with the private sector built in 2013.

In Ecuador, the majority of refugees are interested in local integration, while a significant percentage is interested in resettlement in a third country. The Office will support government efforts to reach durable solutions; and advocate the right to work, social security, health and education. UNHCR will focus on access to resettlement, local integration, including alternative migratory solutions and voluntary repatriation with the goals of re-opening protection space and enhancing livelihood opportunities for refugees. The right to asylum and the fight against discrimination remain essential cross-cutting advocacy and communication goals.

Within the challenging environment in the northern triangle of Central America and the repercussions in Mexico, UNHCR plays a critical role to ensure international protection. The goal for the Office is to keep the door open for asylum, ensuring that asylum-seekers, both from within the continent (principally, from Central America), as well as other refugees mainly from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, are able to access the territory. The Office will work to ensure that people of concern area identified within migratory flows, informed about their rights, and have access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. Major protection challenges include the risk of human trafficking, special protection needs of unaccompanied children, alternatives to detention and the legal status of stateless people.

UNHCR's regional office in Panama, which covers Central America and Cuba, faces a shift in displacement trends caused by transnational organized crime in Central America.

While the number of asylum claims from other continents has decreased, there is a sharp increase in the numbers of people of concern from Central American countries. Particular efforts will be made to enhance asylum systems and the quality of protection afforded to those in need, and to promote the adoption of protection-sensitive policies on mixed migration movements. To achieve durable solutions for refugees, the Office will focus on the needs of the most vulnerable. UNHCR will work with all the UN agencies at regional level and with UN Country Teams in order to enhance international protection of asylum-seekers and refugees escaping transnational organized crime, and to raise awareness about new displacement patterns due to transnational organized crime.

UNHCR will provide technical support to concerned Governments in assessing displacement trends in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Despite reparation and land restitution developments in Colombia, refugees continue to cross into the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela regularly. UNHCR's main objective is to increase their access to effective and fair government-managed asylum procedures, including by expanding outreach capacity and increasing the effectiveness of national registration processes.

| Financial information |

UNHCR's operational budget for the Americas has remained relatively stable during the last five years. In 2015, increased needs are determined by the new regional initiative for the protection of forcibly displaced populations in Central America and Mexico, with financial requirements for the subregion standing at USD 95.3 million.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for Latin America (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
2015
Refugee
programme
PILLAR 1
Stateless
programme
PILLAR 2
IDP
projects
PILLAR 4
Total
Total 90,199,086 64,144,918 810,726 30,360,765 95,316,409
1. Includes activities in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
2. Includes the Regional Legal Unit in Costa Rica.
3. Regional activities cover the entire Americas region.
Argentina Regional Office[1] 4,304,636 4,696,038 73,035 0 4,769,073
Brazil 8,197,880 6,913,141 185,717 0 7,098,857
Colombia 30,540,097 1,289,231 0 30,360,765 31,649,996
Costa Rica 2,885,871 3,134,757 0 0 3,134,757
Ecuador 21,010,276 22,514,110 0 0 22,514,110
Mexico 2,943,463 4,088,576 0 0 4,088,576
Panama Regional Office[2] 8,429,731 9,627,586 551,975 0 10,179,561
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 10,950,133 10,950,134 0 0 10,950,134
Regional Activities[3] 937,000 931,345 0 0 931,345

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update


UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Representation in Panama
Style of Address The UNHCR Regional Representation in Panama
Street Address Clayton, Gonzalo Crance Street, Bldg. 171, City of Knowledge, Panama City, Panama
Mailing Address P.O. Box 0843-02734, Balboa, Ancon, Panama City, Panama
Telephone 507 317 1723
Facsimile 507 317 1715
Email panpa@unhcr.org
Time Zone GMT + -5
Working Hours
Monday:8:00 - 17:00
Tuesday:8:00 - 17:00
Wednesday:8:00 - 17:00
Thursday:8:00 - 17:00
Friday:8:00 - 17:00
Saturday:
Sunday:
Public Holidays 01 January 2014, Ano Nuevo
03 March 2014, Carnival
04 March 2014, Carnival
17 April 2014, Jueves Santo
18 April 2014, Viernes Santo
06 October 2014, Eid Al-Adha
03 November 2014, Separacion de Panama de Colomb
04 November 2014, Dia National de la Bandera
08 December 2014, Dia de las madres
25 December 2014, Christmas Day
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UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Panama [1]
Refugees [2] 17,665
Asylum Seekers [3] 630
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 2
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 18,297
Originating from Panama [1]
Refugees [2] 105
Asylum Seekers [3] 28
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 133

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Panama's Hidden Refugees

Colombia's armed conflict has forced millions of people to flee their homes, including hundreds of thousands who have sought refuge in other countries in the region.

Along the border with Colombia, Panama's Darien region is a thick and inhospitable jungle accessible only by boat. Yet many Colombians have taken refuge here after fleeing the irregular armed groups who control large parts of jungle territory on the other side of the border.

Many of the families sheltering in the Darien are from Colombia's ethnic minorities – indigenous or Afro-Colombians – who have been particularly badly hit by the conflict and forcibly displaced in large numbers. In recent years, there has also been an increase in the numbers of Colombians arriving in the capital, Panama City.

There are an estimated 12,500 Colombians of concern to UNHCR in Panama, but many prefer not to make themselves known to authorities and remain in hiding. This "hidden population" is one of the biggest challenges facing UNHCR not only in Panama but also in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Panama's Hidden Refugees