The Regional Group on Risks, Emergencies and Disasters for Latin America and the Caribbean (REDLAC) is a regional coordination platform for disaster preparedness and response, which emerged as a way to improve joint analysis and provide regional support to global and national partners.
Established in 2003, REDLAC is composed by regional organisations present in Panama, inspired by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). Through REDLAC, organisations work together to strengthen technical capacities and competencies, in order to improve the regional response to disasters through a sectoral approach. REDLAC facilitates better coordination, preparation and information sharing, and facilitates a permanent dialogue between actors.
In 2015, in response to the growing protection needs of people and communities due to generalised and criminal violence in various regions of the North of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), a Regional Protection Group was formed under the REDLAC structure in Panama.
Among the objectives of this Regional Protection Group are to provide analysis on the causes and humanitarian impacts of this violence and displacement in the North of Central America (NCA) and Mexico, as well as to increase the visibility of the protection needs at the regional and global level.
Since 2018, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has led the production of periodic analytical snapshots covering the situation of violence and displacement in the region. The research for these snapshots is based on inputs from semi-structured interviews with more than 100 humanitarian organisations and academic institutions working in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, as well as from an ongoing monitoring of official statistics, press reports, academic research and grey literature from humanitarian organisations.
The publications provide an overview and joint positioning of humanitarian organisations working in the region, highlighting the needs and the gaps they identify in the current response. The snapshots include inputs from various organisations in the Protection Group, but do not necessarily reflect messages approved by each organisation.
The snapshots aim to increase the understanding of the protection situation in the NCA and Mexico, at both the regional and global level, and to strengthen humanitarian coordination as well as advocacy efforts towards governments and donors. Furthermore, they are used as a tool supporting operational decision-making in the national protection groups in the region.
Protection risks on the migration routes in
the North of Central America and Mexico
A range of different people on the move transit through the North of Central America (NCA) and Mexico every year: migrants from Central America travelling irregularly, asylum seekers, people with protection needs and migrants from outside the region (or 'extra-regional migrants'). People migrate and are displaced from the North of Central America due to a range of different and multi-causal triggers, including poverty, inequality, lack of opportunities, family reunification and generalised violence. While their chosen destination is most often the United States, in recent years, due to the difficulties in reaching U.S. territory, Mexico has also become not just a transit country but a destination country.
The choice of which migration route to take from the North of Central America to Mexico and the United States is based on a range of different parameters, ranging from a lack of economic resources, different information sources on the routes, the availability of transportation, the use (or not) of a people smuggler and the available information on the different unpatrolled border crossings. While each route has its specific obstacles, all of them can be considered extremely dangerous. In 2020 in Mexico, the main crimes against migrants included robbery, kidnappings, trafficking and extortion.
This snapshot aims to describe the different migration routes taken by people from the North of Central America on their journeys to the United States and Mexico, the protection risks they face on the way and how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected these routes.
- Available economic resources, information sources and means of transportation are some of the primary factors behind the selection of different migration routes by people leaving the North of Central America.
- Protection risks en route are related to the profiles and vulnerabilities of people on the move. Women experience greater levels of sexual violence, while men suffer more physical attacks and torture during their migration.
- Girls and women experience gender-based violence before, during, and after their journeys, regardless of whether they choose to travel with others as a protection strategy.
- The institutional mechanisms available providing assistance to migrants in transit are disconnected and insufficient. State responses must adapt to the rapid changes in the different migration routes.
- The mobility restrictions and border closures imposed by national governments due to the Covid-19 pandemic increased and intensified the protection risks along the migration routes to Mexico and the United States.
Searching for durable solutions: Integration and reintegration in the North of Central America and Mexico
In line with the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (2016) and the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework - preceded by the Brazil Plan of Action (2014) and the San José Action Statement (2016) - countries in Central America and Mexico have committed to implement the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework (MIRPS, according to its Spanish acronym), in order to address the phenomenon of forced displacement in the region.¹ The MIRPS brings together initiatives seeking to create durable solutions, through which people with protection needs can find security and stability, and lead a normal life, either through: voluntary repatriation to their country of origin, local integration in the country of asylum, or resettlement in another country.
In theory, asylum seekers, refugees, people with international protection needs and deported persons³ in the North of Central America (NCA) and Mexico are guaranteed access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and adequate housing, which together should enable them to meet their protection needs. In practice, access to these rights is restricted by multiple factors, including a lack of public policies and political will facilitating access to civil documentation, efficient regularization processes, or information so that both people and institutions are aware of existing rights and legislation. Stigma and discrimination due to xenophobia, as well as high rates of violence and crime also negatively affect the integration of asylum seekers and the reintegration of deportees. Vicious cycles of displacement, poverty, debt and protection risks are repeated.
As generalised violence continues to affect the NCA and Mexico, migration policies increasingly restrict the right to seek asylum, and the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates humanitarian needs, this snapshot seeks to identify the options for integration or reintegration in the sub-region, and asks whether durable solutions are readily available for asylum seekers, refugees, people with international protection needs and deportees.
- Deported persons face barriers to finding jobs, returning to school, and re-establishing normal lives. Returns to the NCA through deportations cannot be considered a durable solution.
- Asylum seekers, refugees and deportees face multiple barriers to integration and reintegration, including generalised violence, loss of support networks, stigma and discrimination.
- The few reintegration programmes available for deportees are usually only provided in metropolitan areas and are mainly focused on providing employment opportunities, while very few provide the comprehensive psychosocial support necessary for reintegration.
- Resettlement is a durable solution that is out of reach for the vast majority of people with protection needs in the region (in 2019, out of the 3’757 people with protection needs identified under the Protection Transfer Agreement mechanism, only 18% were resettled).