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2014 UNHCR regional operations profile - Latin America

| Overview |

Working environment

The year 2014 will mark the 30th Anniversary of the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Cartagena Declaration). Over the past 30 years, regional cooperation and solidarity, exemplified in the Declaration, have proved to be effective in addressing long-standing and new situations of forced displacement throughout the Americas.

Although the numbers of asylum-seekers and refugees in the Latin America subregion remain relatively stable, it is anticipated that in 2014 they may rise due to increasing violence from new criminal entities in the Americas region.

Central America is affected by high levels of violence perpetuated by illegal non-state actors. This is having an impact on the protection of the population and is causing new patterns of displacement.

| Response |


In 2014, UNHCR will continue to encourage Governments and civil society in the subregion to maintain their application of the pragmatic and flexible framework provided by the Cartagena Declaration in their responses to the needs of refugees and asylum-seekers, stateless and internally displaced people. Likewise, the anniversary of the Declaration provides an opportunity to reiterate the commitment in the region to international protection and the importance of regional instruments within the universal asylum regime, and to reaffirm the centrality of the 1951 Refugee Convention within the inter-American asylum system.

For operations in Latin America, the Office has planned a number of activities leading up to the Declaration anniversary in November 2014, and will work towards the establishment of a renewed regional framework for the next decade, building on the 2004 Mexico Plan of Action. Particular efforts will be made to:

  • ensure access to territorial protection and asylum procedures;

  • assure protection against refoulement, in both terrestrial and maritime border areas;

  • strengthen the quality of refugee status determination (RSD) procedures and decisions through the implementation of the Quality Assurance Initiative launched in 2012 to align standards and safeguards throughout the region;

  • ensure that urban refugees have access to affordable health, education and other essential services, as well as dignified livelihoods under UNHCR's Comprehensive Solutions Initiative, an innovative approach which will consider various options. These include: local integration, naturalization and other permanent residence solutions; resettlement; and also the potential use of migratory solutions with relevant protection safeguards; and

  • reduce protection risks faced by people of concern, in particular discrimination, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and child recruitment.

UNHCR, in support of the national authorities of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will work to strengthen protection frameworks, improve field monitoring focusing on borders, and identify vulnerable cases.


Countries in the subregion have established regional and national systems for the protection of people of concern to UNHCR. In Central America and Mexico, violence and criminal activities by illegal non-state actors represent one of the main challenges. This represents a significant risk for populations of concern and is often at the root of displacement. In the MERCOSUR countries, the steady increase in asylum applications in the past few years raises the need to adapt well-functioning asylum systems to face the growing demand. Access to the effective enjoyment of rights and to livelihood opportunities aimed at integration, continue to be a challenge to durable comprehensive solutions in the region.

| Implementation |


UNHCR's operations in Colombia and Ecuador are described in separate country operation chapters.

The operation in Brazil is witnessing an increase of asylum-seekers, with arrivals mainly from Africa and the Middle East. The Office will continue to provide advice to the authorities on addressing these applications with the implementation of the Quality Assurance Initiative. Furthermore, it is expected that Brazil will play a key role in the Comprehensive Solutions Initiative in respect of refugees in Ecuador, with the implementation of a new durable solution through an open migration policy within the framework of MERCOSUR. Brazil has also expressed interest in expanding the resettlement programme for refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, in addition to the current group of Colombians.

The main priority of the Office in Costa Rica is the process of local integration, especially job placements. To help refugees and asylum-seekers to find jobs and become less dependent on assistance, the Office will further develop alliances with private companies and chambers of commerce. UNHCR is also working on naturalization and nationality issues as part of the overall solutions strategy in the country.

In 2014-2015, the top priority for the Office in Mexico will be to maintain and increase the protection space, and in particular to consolidate the capacity of the Government. With the implementation of the Quality Assurance Initiative, this process has gained a better focus and momentum. The implementation of a project to improve the protection of vulnerable migrants, particularly children, will offer new opportunities in the mixed migration context.

The Regional Office in Panama covers Central America and Cuba, oversees Mexico and Costa Rica, and provides technical and legal support to the region through the Regional Legal Unit (RLU) and the technical hub. In the forthcoming biennium, the Office will maintain an emphasis on the following areas in particular: work on protection and solutions in Panama will include strengthening asylum systems through the Quality Assurance Initiative in Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama. Displacement due to criminal violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras will be monitored, and information gathered will help to increase understanding of displacement issues and population trends in Central America. Technical advice will be provided on legal issues, and capacity building and liaison will continue with regional mechanisms such as OAS, MERCOSUR and the Puebla Process. Work on statelessness and SGBV will also be pursued.

The Regional Office in Argentina, comprising Argentina, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, will continue to focus on: capacity building for government authorities on asylum and protection, including through the implementation of the Quality Assurance Initiative in Argentina; resettlement programmes in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay; and the elaboration of protection-sensitive migration schemes through MERCOSUR, as a solution for Colombian refugees.

In the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, UNHCR will continue to provide technical support to the national Commission for Refugees to expedite the processing of asylum application backlogs. The Office will focus in particular on improving the issuance of documentation, to enhance protection and enable the implementation of durable solutions, particularly effective local integration.

| Financial information |

In recent years, UNHCR's financial requirements in Latin America have remained relatively constant, ranging from USD 74.5 million in 2010 to a revised 2013 budget of USD 81.4 million. In 2014, UNHCR's financial requirements for the subregion have increased to USD 89.9 million and represent approximately 81 per cent of the financial requirements for the Americas. This increase is due to the impact of new situations of forced displacement, and one of the main focuses of the Office will be the protection and assistance of vulnerable groups, including children and women.

UNHCR budgets for Latin America (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Total 81,427,530 60,253,261 495,557 29,177,542 89,926,361 96,253,047
Argentina Regional Office 4,390,969 4,249,321 55,315 0 4,304,636 5,165,565
Brazil 5,121,186 8,081,236 115,643 0 8,196,880 9,155,718
Colombia 29,638,631 1,322,458 0 29,177,542 30,500,000 32,130,000
Costa Rica 2,056,514 2,884,871 0 0 2,884,871 2,038,494
Ecuador 21,103,736 20,906,692 0 0 20,906,692 20,500,000
Mexico 3,098,622 2,942,463 0 0 2,942,463 2,682,099
Panama Regional Office 5,882,317 7,979,088 324,599 0 8,303,687 8,695,491
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 9,974,811 10,950,133 0 0 10,950,133 12,045,147
Regional activities 160,744 937,000 0 0 937,000 3,840,534

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Cuba [1]
Refugees [2] 384
Asylum Seekers [3] 1
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 385
Originating from Cuba [1]
Refugees [2] 7,428
Asylum Seekers [3] 1,127
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 8,555

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