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Mexico & Central America: Migration Crisis – Emergency Appeal No. MDR43008 – Operation update #6

To date, this Emergency Appeal, which seeks 18 million CHF, is 13 per cent funded. Further funding contributions are needed to enable the National Societies in the region, with the support of the IFRC, to continue preparedness efforts and provide humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move. Click here for the donor response.

An Emergency Appeal (EA) for 18 million CHF (MDR43008) was launched on 29 July 2022 with the aim of increasing the reach of the Red Cross Societies of Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. The Appeal aims to scale up assistance to 210,000 people, providing humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move along migratory routes, including through more effective preparedness and response, strengthened capacities, and risk reduction.

The EA was launched as a trigger to facilitate immediate actions to address the humanitarian needs of migrants, returnees, and host communities. It was launched under the Global Program to address the significant increase on people in transit and returnees throughout Central America and Mexico. As 31 August 2023, the appeal coverage is 13%, equivalent to 2,293,368 CHF, taking into account 1,010,229 CHF corresponding to the DREF loan.

This operation update documents the first 12 months of the operation, which has been extended from 29 July 2022 to 31 December 2023. At the writing of this report, the Honduran Red Cross has reached the end of their intervention with the Emergency Appeal funds, while the other National Societies have extended their timeframes for implementation. They will continue to carry out actions until the end of the Emergency Appeal, at which point they will transition to their national migration programs.


Description of the crisis

The Americas region is home to complex and mixed migration, which takes place both within and beyond the region. Many migrants, refugees, and returnees move through irregular pathways driven by persecution, violence, disasters, or a desire for better opportunities. Central America has become, in recent years, one of the busiest transit routes to the United States.

Unlike in the 1990s, when most migrants were of Central American nationalities, and there was evidence of a growing south-north migration, today migrants come from multiple regions and continents. Many are from very different nationalities, and often use Panama as the first point of passage to continue to the United States and Mexico. The mixed flows trigger multiple groups and profiles of migrants travelling in Central America by different routes and at various stages of the journey in the same region. For example, migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, which are countries of both origin and return, are vulnerable since, among other things, they have often been displaced due to violence, poverty, lack of employment or other threats such as disasters.

Since the launch of the EA, migration flows through the Darién have increased significantly. By the end of 2022, more than 248,000 people had arrived in Panama through the Darién to continue their journey primarily to North American countries. The Panamanian authorities have reported 333,704 arrivals by the end of August, representing a 134% increase from the previous year’s total and a 323% increase from the same period in 2022.

Beyond the sharp increase in the number of people making the journey, the most significant trend during the period January-August 2023 has been the shift of migrants from Cuba and African nations, who are increasingly choosing air routes to reach Central America, bypassing the Darien to continue their journeys north.
Honduras, on the other hand, has witnessed a 553% increase in arrivals from African nations. Similarly, the presence of only 700 Cubans was reported in the Darien, in contrast to the 17,061 registered in Honduras.

The United States of America government has adopted new immigration policies that aim to reduce irregular migration, with the implementation of programs to get easier entry conditions through the program for Venezuelans in 2022 and the new program for people from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Haiti. The termination of Title 42 as of 11 May 11th3, the reinstatement of Title 8, the denial and expulsion of individuals who do not meet the asylum requirements, and the prohibition of subsequent entry for a specified duration. In addition, other measures have been taken through inter-governmental agreements to promote an orderly and safe migration (Colombia, Spain, Canada4, Costa Rica5). However, currently those measures have not shown a reduction in the flows in the region.

The scenario exercises propose, as the most probable scenario, an influx of up to 750,000 individuals into Central America. The primary factors underlying the vulnerabilities in the countries of origin, such as Venezuela and Haiti, as well as other scenarios such as violence, with the influx of Ecuadorians surpassing 43,000 individuals in eight months, compared to 29,000 in all of 2023. Additionally, the escalating number of secondary movements (mainly Venezuelans) from South American countries is primarily attributable to the complexities of integration in host countries, resulting from economic disparities and an increase in protection risks such as xenophobia. Potentially, crisis in progress in other regions may impact the flows in the coming months.

In addition, private companies’ decisions might have an impact in migratory flows as is the example of the operator of the largest railway network in Mexico -FERROMEX- which suspended the activity of 60 freight trains due to the flow of thousands of migrants who use these vehicles to reach the border with the United States.

Transition to chronical flows in Central America

Migration in the Darien region has been documented since 2016, particularly among individuals of the Caribbean, Asian, and African nationalities. This trend has been augmented by the influx of Venezuelans and emerging nationalities such as Ecuador and Colombia since the end of 2021, resulting in an escalating regional migration. There are also the regular situations of northern countries such as the so-called caravans and return flows.

Following the approach of the Route-Based Global Program, a transition is expected in the use of capacities and mobilization focused on localizing resources for response and strengthening regional coordination to provide regional coherence, improve the information management, and National Society cross-border collaboration focuses on increasing the impact and long-term sustainability. Furthermore, the synergies with other ongoing initiatives in the region, such as ECHO’s Pilot Programmatic Alliance, will be promoted within its Human Mobility pillar.

The focus of this transition will seek scaling-up the response to people on the move in needs, undertaking the proper actions to provide humanitarian assistance and protection support along the migratory routes through Humanitarian Services Points as our big bet.

  • The key actions implemented during the primary response will be undertaken focus to increase in people in transit which will be progressive transferred to the current long-term programming. Enhancing the institutional capacities for preparedness effectively response on population movement in from long-term or chronical crisis.
  • Improve information management for a better understanding of flows through a constant monitoring of context, needs assessment, and mechanism to promote secure information sharing between National Societies along the migratory routes in Central America and Mexico. It will also consider the linkage with other National Societies that are part of the route (Colombia, and Andean countries).
  • Promote social inclusion and social cohesion with host communities to reduce the xenophobia and protection risk of migrants as well as to promote the integration (if possible) and the reintegration of returnees.
  • Leverage the Humanitarian Diplomacy. Leading actions to influx the first responsible and policy changes for improving the access to humanitarian assistance and protection of people on the move on needs irrespectively their legal status.

Source : Relief Web