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UNHCR Americas Operational Update, March 2022

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UNHCR
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Situational Update

More people, including a growing number of Venezuelans, are resorting to perilous crossings through the jungles of the Darien Gap in search of safety and stability. As the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hits refugees and migrants from Venezuela in host countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, an increasing number are heading north, joining other groups of people on the move. Many of those who make the crossing – usually young adults and families – arrive in remote indigenous communities, hungry, dehydrated, exhausted and in need of medical attention.

Political crisis and economic and social factors have prompted hundreds of Haitians to leave their country. Nine Haitian babies reportedly died and were dumped in the sea as a group of people on the move attempted to reach Puerto Rico last month. According to the recently published Humanitarian Needs Overview 2022 for Haiti, some 4.9 million people are projected to be in need in 2022. Insecurity, violence, protection threats and displacement are expected to continue. The border between Ecuador and Colombia was fully reopened on 3 March after remaining closed since 2020. UNHCR and GTRM (Refugee and Migrants Working Group) partners are expecting an increase in movements of Colombians through regular crossings.

The Ombudsperson in Colombia alerted to the increase in cases of forced recruitment of children and adolescents in Cúcuta, El Zulia, Puerto Santander, Villa del Rosario and Tibú along the border with Venezuela. El Salvador declared a state of emergency after the highest spike in gang killings in two decades. Some 62 people were murdered in one day, a record number since the country’s civil war. The state of emergency suspends the constitutional freedom of assembly and loosens rules on arrests for at least 30 days. Hours after the emergency regime was approved, soldiers and police officers took the streets and installed security checkpoints in neighbourhoods with high rates of crime and violence.

The response from the countries in the Americas to Ukrainian refugees is noteworthy. The ‘Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel’ allows Ukrainian nationals and their family members to stay in Canada for at least 2 years, while Argentina, Brazil and Guatemala also announced programmes for receiving Ukrainians. The United States announced its intention to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Ukraine “through the full range of legal pathways,” including the U.S. Refugee Admission Program.