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Following high-level mission, UNHCR recognizes Central America and Mexico's response to displacement

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Following high-level mission, UNHCR recognizes Central America and Mexico's response to displacement

12 April 2024
A group of people sit in a circle in a classroom in Honduras

UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Ruvendrini Menikdiwela visits a project in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that supports young people affected by violence and displacement. 

PANAMA CITY – UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Ruvendrini Menikdiwela, has just concluded her first mission to Central America and Mexico, highlighting that a hemispheric approach based on solidarity and solutions is the only way to protect and stabilize the unprecedented number of forcibly displaced people in the region.

Menikdiwela recognized the efforts of the countries she visited in ensuring protection and integration of displaced people, while calling for continued collaboration in the face of significant challenges posed by the mixed movement of refugees and migrants, and internal displacement.

The new hemispheric approach stresses the need to address these challenges comprehensively in countries of origin, transit, destination and return. In support, Menikdiwela met with different levels of government and other stakeholders to enhance access to international protection and related arrangements – including strengthening asylum systems. She also discussed ways to tackle root causes and encouraged continued efforts to facilitate integration, so refugees and other displaced people can rebuild their lives, contribute to host communities and local economies, and not feel the need to undertake dangerous journeys.  

“From Tapachula to Tijuana, from Tegucigalpa to Guatemala City, I am grateful to have met with asylum-seekers, refugees and internally displaced people during my mission,” Menikdiwela said. “Their stories of courage have deeply impressed me, as did efforts to help them find safety and rebuild their lives. Their plight demonstrates the need for a hemispheric approach involving all countries in the region.”  

The Americas faces unprecedented levels of displacement and mixed movements, encompassing people fleeing violence and persecution, poverty, and the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters.

By mid-2023, the region hosted 22 million forcibly displaced and stateless people. In 2023, a staggering 520,085 people crossed the Darien jungle on their journey northwards. The number of asylum applications lodged in Central America and Mexico reached 179,436 individual claims in 2023. So far in 2024, more than 110,000 have crossed the Darien. 

In Guatemala, the Assistant High Commissioner visited a Reception Center for Migrants and Refugees (CAPMiR), where assistance is provided to people on the move, refugees and asylum-seekers, returnees and host community members. In Mexico, she saw how the Mexican Refugee Commission (COMAR) has worked with UNHCR to quadruple capacity to process asylum applications. She also witnessed progress in refugee integration and called for the timely issuance of documentation to asylum-seekers and refugees. In Honduras, Menikdiwela met with the Government to discuss its new Law on Prevention, Assistance and Protection of Internally Displaced Persons. In Panama, she met officials and acknowledged the significant progress made in establishing the National Refugee Office (ONPAR) in Metetí to ensure individuals crossing the Darien can seek asylum and access documentation and basic services.

“Refugees can make important contributions to the communities and economies that welcome them, when given the chance,” she added. “But to find solutions for an unprecedented number of forcibly displaced people in the region, we need collaborative approaches among States, UN agencies, civil society, development actors and international financial institutions, all along the route in countries of origin, transit and destination.”

During her visit to Mexico City, Menikdiwela participated in the First Thematic Consultation of the Cartagena+40 Process. “As we mark the 40th anniversary of the Cartagena Declaration, we must uphold its spirit of solidarity and responsibility sharing,” Menikdiwela concluded.

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