UNHCR urges action to stem Central American refugee crisis

15 Jan 16

The United Nations has called for coordinated regional action to address a growing refugee crisis in Central America.

 

More and more people are fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as surging crime and drug violence threaten lives and livelihoods.

The US announced on Wednesday it would be expanding its refugee resettlement programme to help more people find safe harbour. While UNHCR called this a welcome step to addressing the crisis, the agency also noted that it underscores the need for urgent, coordinated regional action.

UNHCR said it was working closely with governments in the region and civil society partners to enhance the screening capacity to identify people forced to flee violence.

The agency is also encouraging governments to find legal avenues for refugees to find safety, which would prevent them from becoming easy prey for traffickers and smugglers.

While it said it is the prerogative of the US to manage the security of its borders, returning those deemed not to need international protection should take place only after due process and in a manner that is orderly, safe and dignified, it said.

Democrats in the US Congress have called on President Barack Obama to halt deportations of families fleeing violence and crime in the three countries.

The president has previously said the US will take in more than 3,000 refugees from Central America this year. The country’s Department of Homeland Security has received over 6,000 applications from minors alone, some of whom have already started arriving in the US as refugees. 

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