Shifting trends in displacement are posing increasing challenges in the Americas that require coordinated regional responses, UNHCR, UN Refugee Agency, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Raouf Mazou said after concluding a two-week trip to the region.
In Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala and Canada, Mazou witnessed the plight of people forced to flee in the region and heard from them directly about the perilous risks they face on their journeys to find protection and met refugees rebuilding their lives.
“I was heartened to see how the countries in the Americas strive to work together to help people on the move, and find solutions,” Mazou said. “But the patterns of displacement in the region are dynamic and continually pose new challenges for States effectively address the root causes that compel people to leave their homes, as well as meet their humanitarian needs and help them restart their lives in safety and security.”
Throughout the trip, Mazou met with refugees, asylum seekers and senior government officials, civil society partners and business leaders, with whom UNHCR, has joined forces to find impactful ways to help people on the move in the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees.
“What I heard from people who have been uprooted – refugees, internally displaced and migrants – is that they seek safety, stability, and a place to call home,” Mazou said, noting that the countries of Latin America have welcomed the vast majority of refugees and others forced to flee their homes in the region.
Costa Rica saw a five-fold increase in asylum claims in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year, while Mexico received 14 per cent more claims. Mexico and Costa Rica ranked third and fourth in terms of new asylum claims worldwide in 2021. In the last two years, the number of people seeking international protection in Guatemala increased by nearly 160 per cent.
Mazou underscored the need to further support countries to strengthen their asylum systems while at the same time implementing complementary pathways for protection, and helping people start anew in the communities that host them. Opportunities for socio-economic inclusion were visible in all countries, for example, in Monterrey, Mexico, where UNHCR has established key alliances that promote employment, education, community, health, and legal inclusion of displaced populations.
To address the challenges of these movements, more international support is needed, in order to strengthen the humanitarian response and support the efforts of development actors, the private sector and international financial institutions, Mazou said.
“Canada has played an important role in strengthening asylum and providing solutions for refugees in the Americas, and we need this support to continue at such a critical time for the region,” he said.
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