People from Central American countries forced to flee are vulnerable to violence and abuse during their journeys to seek safety according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report “Abused and Abandoned”. The report also notes that women are more likely to be targeted for sexual abuse and assault, with many resorting to taking birth control prior to their journeys to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Persistent violence and sexual harassment also affect LGBTIQ+ people in the region. In Guatemala, two transgender women, including the leader of a trans rights organization, and one gay man were killed in separate attacks. In Mexico, according to the National Observatory of Hate Crimes against LGBT, 43 LGBTQI+ people were killed between January and May 2021. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Honduras to enact measures to prevent violence against LGBTQI+ people, by allowing transgender people to alter their gender identity.
In June, new asylum claims reached a record of 10,470, representing the highest monthly figure since Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR) started recording them a decade ago. Around 6,300 people on average crossed the U.S.-Mexico border each day, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
The U.S. announced expanded eligibility for MPPenrolled individuals, to now include persons who had their cases terminated or were removed in absentia. This could enable up to 34,000 individuals to re-enter the U.S. to continue their protection claim. The U.S. also announced it will expand access to the Central American Minors programme.
According to Panama’s Migration Authorities, roughly 26,000 people within mixed movements have transited through the Darien region heading north in 2021. Some have reported being victims of robbery, assault, and sexual violence while crossing through Panamanian territory. An increase of Haitian nationals on the move has been observed in the region.
Many Central American countries like Belize, Panama and Guatemala have registered an uptick in new COVID-19 infections. UNHCR and partners advocate with the health system to include asylum-seekers and other forcibly displaced people in vaccination plans.