UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees calls for regional mechanism to address unprecedented displacement in Mexico and Central America

Unidentified people walk by a fence marking the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico. © UNHCR / Santiago Escobar-Jaramillo

GENEVA – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi concluded a 10-day visit to Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala with a passionate appeal for a regional mechanism that would help scale up, coordinate and create synergies between different programs, policies and initiatives dealing with the unprecedented scale and complexity of population movements in Mexico and Central America.

“Instead of putting up walls to contain people, we need to stabilize those who move by creating the conditions so that they don’t have to leave and those who do find what they need closer. from home, ”explained Grandi. “What we need is a regional mechanism to generate synergies between the various existing programs, alliances, platforms and forums that attempt to tackle the structural causes of human mobility and seek solutions.

A number of interconnected economic, social and humanitarian causes, which include lack of opportunity, insecurity caused by gangs and organized crime, the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change, have triggered the displacement of nearly a million people. in Mexico and Central America.

In addition, migrants and asylum seekers from the South and the Caribbean are increasingly passing through Central America. This year, more than 100,000 men, women and children have moved from Colombia to Panama via the Darien Gap jungle, while in the first six months of 2021, Mexico received the third highest number of asylum requests to the world.

“Mexico and Guatemala are not only transit countries, but increasingly places where refugees and migrants find safety and have access to opportunities,” said Grandi. “In these two countries, I have seen examples of generosity, warm welcome and genuine efforts to integrate refugees into the social and economic fabric. I have also met many refugees who work, study and contribute in different ways to their host communities.

UNHCR works with governments, civil society and other partners to strengthen asylum systems in Mexico, Guatemala and other Central American countries, and advocates for migration alternatives for those in need. .

Many people uprooted by violence in the region do not cross international borders but stay in their own countries. During his visit, the High Commissioner witnessed El Salvador’s efforts to strengthen its legislation, public policies and programs to meet the protection, service and assistance needs of internally displaced persons. from the country.

“In El Salvador, I was impressed by the enthusiasm of young people to express themselves and demonstrate their talents. Their resilience and strength is inspiring, ”said Grandi. El Salvador’s government-run urban youth centers and community initiatives provide safe spaces for children and adolescents at risk of displacement and recruitment by criminal gangs.

On Tuesday, November 30, the High Commissioner participated in the 4e Annual Meeting of the Comprehensive Regional Framework for Protection and Solutions (MIRPS, for its acronym in Spanish), which brings together Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama to coordinate regional responses and measures aimed at alleviating the root causes of forced displacement, by providing effective responses to the protection needs of displaced populations, asylum seekers, refugees and returnees in need of protection, as well as the search for durable solutions.

“MIRPS has been a driving force behind initiatives in the displacement and refugee program in the region, joining forces to meet protection needs and at the same time to help stabilize these flows,” said Grandi.

“There are many great local initiatives and projects in the area,” said Grandi. “They are very important and necessary because they show what can be achieved, but on their own they are not enough. To make a difference, we need to replicate them, extend their reach and interconnect them. We need to step up the response and this requires the much more active participation of development actors, regional institutions, international banks, United Nations agencies and civil society.

During his visit, the High Commissioner met the Presidents of El Salvador and Guatemala, national and local government officials, and representatives of NGOs, community organizations, academic institutions, the private sector and other partners. He also met refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people and migrants.

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