Crisis in Central America

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Uncontrolled gang violence and exploitation forces thousands to flee their homes in Central America.

For those living in the North of Central America (NCA), everyday life unfolds in the shadow of constant fear. In a geographical area that is already struggling to thrive amidst widespread economic and political instability, the threat of violence, intimidation, and extortion at the hands of the local mara or pandilleros (gangs) makes a challenging situation all the more desperate.

Rampant violence in the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—the three countries making up the North of Central America—has forced thousands to flee, seeking asylum in nearby countries such as Mexico and the United States, or even overseas.

UNHCR is present in the North of Central America, working with partners to strengthen the protection of vulnerable groups and providing humanitarian support to Central American refugees. Providing asylum seekers with basic needs and essential services are estimated to cost $51.7 million USD in 2020 alone. Your financial support helps UNHCR continue to provide much-needed support for refugees in Central America.

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thousand NCA residents sought asylum in 2019 alone

percent increase in the number of asylum seekers between 2018 and 2019

thousand internally displaced people in Honduran communities as of 2019

thousand NCA asylum seekers were deported in 2018 alone

How You Can Help

Often having to flee in great haste, asylum seekers leave nearly everything behind, including their friends, family all their belongings and a stable source of income. Upon arrival in their country of asylum, Central American refugees struggle to find a home and a job to support themselves and their families. Most are mourning the loss of and separation from family members and long to be reunited with them and build a new life together.

Voluntary donations help fund UNHCR initiatives that provide immediate assistance to Central American refugees such as cash grants for rent and basic necessities, legal assistance for those beginning the lengthy asylum application process, and counseling to help refugees recover from the traumatic experiences they have endured.

Generous donor support will help us fulfill our commitment to providing refugees in the NCA access to basic needs and necessities, while also helping us implement support systems for long term community empowerment and self-reliance. Join us as we help asylum communities offering displaced Central Americans a safer future, free from the constant threat of indiscriminate violence and extortion.

“Displacement is a huge challenge but also an opportunity for social transformation. Despite the horrors they have endured, refugees discover strength and resilience while in displacement. We need to empower them to contribute to their future and becoming agents of change.”  – UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk.

Help us deliver emergency aid to refugees in the North of Central America

Central American refugees who have fled horrific violence  are struggling for the basic necessities of life. Your monthly donation helps fund critical programs and resources to support families forced to flee.

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Life in the North of Central America

Refugees who have managed to escape El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are united by a common, horrifying, thread. They have witnessed atrocious violence by heavily-armed gangs operating with near-impunity as security forces turn a blind eye, making the NCA one of the deadliest places on earth.

What does such rampant violence look like for people living day to day in the NCA? In practice, it means no-one is safe—anyone could become subject to the scrutiny of the mara or pandilleros. Working mothers and fathers are often forced to pay exorbitant “war taxes”, leaving little behind to support their families.

The streets of many cities are war zones where rival gangs battle day and night. If someone is not the subject of direct violence, they likely have witnessed brutal beatings or the murder of innocent friends or family. It is a constant fear that you could find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The path to safety for those leaving the NCA is not without challenges. Increasing pressure to curtail immigration in both Mexico and the United States has made it difficult for refugees fleeing turmoil to receive the refuge they need. Thousands of refugees arriving in asylum countries are detained and deported back home almost immediately.

In an effort to highlight the urgency of the situation and the need for stronger protection strategies for Central American refugees, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Organization of American States (OAS) recently brought together nine countries from North and Central America to outline a plan to help.

With your support, we can continue this vital work and assist refugees within Central America.

UNHCR at Work: San Jose Action Statement

In the summer of 2016, the governments of Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and the United States met to discuss the need for stronger protection of asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced people in the NCA.

The statement aims to focus on “timely identification and documentation” of people in need of protection and “unhindered access to fair and efficient procedures for protection.” Other objectives include finding alternatives to detention for asylum seekers and ensuring access to legal aid.

“The world must act to save a generation of traumatised, isolated and suffering children within Central America from catastrophe. If we do not move quickly, this generation of innocents will become lasting casualties of an appalling war.” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi

thousand new asylum claims to Costa Rica and Panama is predicted for 2019


percent increase in the number of NCA deportation from 2017 to 2018


 annual increase of refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras

thousand asylum-seekers and refugees from NCA worldwide

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