By Caroline May
There is a “looming refugee crisis” in the Americas as women and children from Central America and Mexico say they are fleeing regional violence, the United Nations Refugee Agency cautioned Wednesday.
While the vast majority of the tens of thousands of women and children from Central America who have been apprehended illegally entering the U.S. have been allowed to remain—both illegally and legally—the UN says the nations of the Americas must do more.
“The violence being perpetrated by organized, transnational criminal groups in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and certain parts of Mexico has become pervasive,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warned Wednesday.
In conjunction with his warning, Guterres released a new UN report titled “Women on the Run” featuring interviews with 160 women said to have fled El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and parts of Mexico due to violence—gender violence in particular. All now reside in the U.S.
“The dramatic refugee crises we are witnessing in the world today are not confined to the Middle East or Africa,” Guterres added. “We are seeing another refugee situation unfolding in the Americas. This report is an early warning to raise awareness of the challenges refugee women face and a call to action to respond regionally to a looming refugee crisis.”
Central in the stories the U.N. highlights in the report is a regional lack of the rule of law and disregard for women in general.
“Everything affects you because there a woman is worthless,” a Mexican women named Lana, interviewed in the report, said. “It is as though your life is not worth anything. They rape. There is no limit. There is no authority. There is no one to stop them.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling on Central and North American nations to make room for these migrants, requesting that countries:
- Recognize the growing refugee situation in the region
- Establish adequate capacity at borders to ensure the identification of persons in need of international protection;
- Move swiftly towards a coordinated regional approach to this problem aimed at enhancing access to protection and solutions for refugees and at addressing the root causes of forced displacement.
“Governments have a duty to manage migration, and must do so using policies that protect human lives and ensure that individuals fleeing persecution can find safety, acknowledging that border security and refugee protection are not mutually exclusive,” the report reads.
Over the past two years more than 108,500 UAC and 108,200 adults with children were apprehended illegally entering the U.S. the majority of who were from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.