UNHCR called on Wednesday for an urgent meeting of Central American States on forced displacement, as it is "straining asylum capacity across the region", and "placing growing numbers of individuals and families at grave risk and creating situations that no country can address alone".
Violence and persecution by powerful gangs in parts of Central America, coupled with a social and political crisis in Nicaragua, are driving growing numbers of people across borders in search of a safe haven. So far, this year, close to 600,000 asylum-seekers and migrants have arrived at the southern U.S. border from Mexico, and Mexico has reported a 196 per cent jump in asylum applications.
The UN refugee agency highlights the need for coordinated action to address this challenge "effectively and sustainably", through a regional approach that would include: the expansion of reception capacity and asylum infrastructures, collective support for local integration programmes, expanded resettlement within and outside the region, and arrangements for safe and dignified returns for those who do not need international protection.
In parallel, the UN stresses the need to address internal displacement before it becomes a cross-border flow. This should include robust development initiatives that address the underlying drivers of violence and displacement.